Les critères de benchmarking d’ISS eu égard aux guides de saine gouvernance


Les auteurs* de cet article, paru dans le Forum du Harvard Law School, présentent les résultats d’un survey sur quatre grandes dimensions de la gouvernance des sociétés cotées.

Les sujets touchent :

(1) board composition/accountability, including gender diversity, mitigating factors for zero women on boards and overboarding;

(2) board/capital structure, including sunsets on multi-class shares and the combined CEO/chair role;

(3) compensation ; and

(4) climate change risk oversight and disclosure.

Les points importants à retenir de cet article sont indiqués en bleu dans le sommaire.

Bonne lecture !

ISS 2019 Benchmarking Policy Survey—Key Findings

 

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[On Sept. 11, 2019], Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) announced the results of its 2019 Global Policy Survey (a.k.a. ISS 2019 Benchmark Policy Survey) based on respondents including investors, public company executives and company advisors. ISS will use these results to inform its policies for shareholder meetings occurring on or after February 1, 2020. ISS expects to solicit comments in the latter half of October 2019 on its draft policy updates and release its final policies in mid-November 2019.

While the survey included questions targeting both global and designated geographic markets, the key questions affecting the U.S. markets fell into the following categories: (1) board composition/accountability, including gender diversity, mitigating factors for zero women on boards and overboarding; (2) board/capital structure, including sunsets on multi-class shares and the combined CEO/chair role; (3) compensation; and (4) climate change risk oversight and disclosure. We previously provided an overview of the survey questions.

The ISS report distinguishes responses from investors versus non-investors. Investors primarily include asset managers, asset owners, and institutional investor advisors. In contrast, non-investors mainly comprise public company executives, public company board members, and public company advisors.

Key Takeaways

Only 128 investors and 268 non-investors (85% were corporate executives) participated in the survey. While the results overall are not surprising for the survey questions relating to board diversity, overboarding, inclusion of GAAP metrics for comparison in compensation-related reports and climate change matters, the level of support for multi-class structures with sunsets was surprisingly high.

Summary

1. Board Composition/Accountability

a. Board Gender Diversity Including Mitigating Factors for Zero Women on Boards: Both investors (61%) and non-investors (55%) indicated that board gender diversity is an essential attribute of effective board governance regardless of the company or its market. Among respondents who do not believe diversity is essential, investors tended to favor a market-by-market approach and non-investors tended to favor an analysis conducted at the company level.

Another question elicited views on ISS’s diversity policy that will be effective in 2020. Under the new policy, ISS will recommend voting against the nominating committee chair (or other members as appropriate) at Russell 3000 and/or S&P 1500 companies that do not have at least one female director. Before ISS issues a negative recommendation on this basis, ISS intends to consider mitigating factors.

The survey questioned what other mitigating factors a respondent would consider besides a company’s providing a firm commitment to appointing a woman in the near-term and having recently had a female on the board. The survey provided the following three choices and invited respondents to check all that apply: (1) the Rooney Rule, which involves a commitment to including females in the pool of new director candidates; (2) a commitment to actively searching for a female director; and (3) other.

Results show that investors were more likely than non-investors to answer that no other mitigating factors should be considered (46% of the investors compared to 28% of the non-investors) besides a recent former female director or a firm commitment to appoint a woman. With regard to willingness to consider mitigating factors, 57 investors and 141 non-investors checked at least one answer. More non-investors found a company’s observance of the Rooney Rule to be a mitigating factor worth considering (selected by 113 non-investors) than the company’s commitment to conduct an active search (selected by 85 non-investors). These two factors were each selected by 34 investors.

b. Director Overboarding: The survey responses show investors and non-investors appear to hold diverging positions on director overboarding. On a plurality basis, investors (42%) preferred a maximum of four total board seats for non-executive directors while they (45%) preferred a maximum of two board seats (including the “home” board) for CEOs. In comparison, on a plurality basis, about one third of non-investors preferred to leave the determination to the board’s discretion for both non-executive directors and CEOs.

2. Board/Capital Structure

a. Multi-Class Structures and Sunset Provisions: Results reveal that 55% of investors and 47% of non-investors found a seven-year maximum sunset provision appropriate for a multi-class structure. Among respondents who indicated that a maximum seven-year sunset provision was inappropriate, 36% of non-investors replied that a longer sunset (10 years or more) was appropriate and 35% of investors objected to any form of multi-class structure.

b. Independent Chair: Currently, ISS generally supports shareholder proposals that request an independent board chair after taking into consideration a wide variety of factors such as the company’s financial practices, governance structure and governance practices. ISS asked participants to indicate which factors the respondent considers and listed factors for respondents to choose from, such as a weak or poorly defined lead director role, governance practices that weaken or reduce board accountability to shareholders, lack of board refreshment or board diversity, and poor responsiveness to shareholder concerns. Respondents were instructed to check all that applied.

The results unsurprisingly suggest that investors prefer an independent board chair more than non-investors. Investors chose poor responsiveness to shareholder concerns most often whereas non-investors selected the factor relating to a weak or poorly defined lead director role.

Investors’ second highest selection was governance practices that weaken or reduce board accountability to shareholders (such as a classified board, plurality vote standard, lack of ability to call special meetings and lack of a proxy access right). For non-investors, poor responsiveness to shareholder concerns was the second highest selection.

3. Compensation

a. Economic Value Added (EVA) and GAAP Metrics: Beginning in 2019, ISS research reports for the U.S. and Canadian markets started to include additional information on company performance using an EVA-based framework. Survey results showed that a strong majority of respondents still want GAAP metrics to be provided in the research reports as a means of comparison.

4. Climate Change Risk Oversight & Disclosure

a. Disclosures and Actions Relating to Climate Change Risk: The ISS survey asked respondents whether climate change should be given a high priority in companies’ risk assessments. ISS questioned whether all companies should be assessing and disclosing their climate-related risks and taking actions to mitigate them where possible.

Results show that 60% of investors answered that all companies should be assessing and disclosing climate-related risks and taking mitigating actions where possible. Roughly one third of investors indicated that “each company’s appropriate level of disclosure and action will depend on a variety of factors including its own business model, its industry sector, where and how it operates, and other company-specific factors and board members.” In addition, 5% of investors thought the possible risks related to climate change are often too uncertain to incorporate into a company-specific risk assessment model.

b. Shareholder Action in Response to a Company’s Failure to Report or Mitigate Climate Change Risk: Investors and non-investors indicated that the most appropriate actions to consider when a company fails to effectively report or address its climate change risk are (a) engaging with the company, and (b) voting for a shareholder proposal seeking increased climate-related disclosure.

 


*Betty Moy Huber is counsel and Paula H. Simpkins is an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.

Changement de perspective en gouvernance de sociétés !


Yvan Allaire*, président exécutif du conseil de l’Institut sur la gouvernance (IGOPP) vient de me faire parvenir un nouvel article intitulé « The Business Roundtable on “The Purpose of a Corporation” Back to the future! ».

Cet article, qui doit bientôt paraître dans le Financial Post, intéressera assurément tous les administrateurs siégeant à des conseils d’administration, et qui sont à l’affût des nouveautés dans le domaine de la gouvernance.

Le document discute des changements de paradigmes proposés par les CEO des grandes corporations américaines. Les administrateurs selon ce groupe de dirigeants doivent tenir compte de l’ensemble des parties prenantes (stakeholders) dans la gouverne des organisations, et non plus accorder la priorité aux actionnaires.

Cet article discute des retombées de cette approche et des difficultés eu égard à la mise en œuvre dans le système corporatif américain.

Le texte est en anglais. Une version française devrait être produite bientôt sur le site de l’IGOPP.

Bonne lecture !

 

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CEOs in Business Roundtable ‘Redefine’ Corporate Purpose To Stretch Beyond Shareholders

The Business Roundtable on “The Purpose of a Corporation” Back to the future!

Yvan Allaire, PhD (MIT), FRSC

 

In September 2019, CEOs of large U.S. corporations have embraced with suspect enthusiasm the notion that a corporation’s purpose is broader than merely“ creating shareholder value”. Why now after 30 years of obedience to the dogma of shareholder primacy and servile (but highly paid) attendance to the whims and wants of investment funds?


Simply put, the answer rests with the recent conversion of these very funds, in particular index funds, to the church of ecological sanctity and social responsibility. This conversion was long acoming but inevitable as the threat to the whole system became more pressing and proximate.

The indictment of the “capitalist” system for the wealth inequality it produced and the environmental havoc it wreaked had to be taken seriously as it crept into the political agenda in the U.S. Fair or not, there is a widespread belief that the root cause of this dystopia lies in the exclusive focus of corporations on maximizing shareholder value. That had to be addressed in the least damaging way to the whole system.

Thus, at the urging of traditional investment funds, CEOs of large corporations, assembled under the banner of the Business Roundtable, signed a ringing statement about sharing “a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders”.

That commitment included:

Delivering value to our customers

Investing in our employees

Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers.

Supporting the communities in which we work.

Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate.

It is remarkable (at least for the U.S.) that the commitment to shareholders now ranks in fifth place, a good indication of how much the key economic players have come to fear the goings-on in American politics. That statement of “corporate purpose” was a great public relations coup as it received wide media coverage and provides cover for large corporations and investment funds against attacks on their behavior and on their very existence.


In some way, that statement of corporate purpose merely retrieves what used to be the norm for large corporations. Take, for instance, IBM’s seven management principles which guided this company’s most successful run from the 1960’s to 1992:

Seven Management Principles at IBM 1960-1992

  1. Respect for the individual
  2. Service to the customer
  3. Excellence must be way of life
  4. Managers must lead effectively
  5. Obligation to stockholders
  6. Fair deal for the supplier
  7. IBM should be a good corporate citizen

The similarity with the five “commitments” recently discovered at the Business Roundtable is striking. Of course, in IBM’s heydays, there were no rogue funds, no “activist” hedge funds or private equity funds to pressure corporate management into delivering maximum value creation for shareholders. How will these funds whose very existence depends on their success at fostering shareholder primacy cope with this “heretical nonsense” of equal treatment for all stakeholders?

As this statement of purpose is supported, was even ushered in, by large institutional investors, it may well shield corporations against attacks by hedge funds and other agitators. To be successful, these funds have to rely on the overt or tacit support of large investors. As these investors now endorse a stakeholder view of the corporation, how can they condone and back these financial players whose only goal is to push up the stock price often at the painful expense of other stakeholders?

This re-discovery in the US of a stakeholder model of the corporation should align it with Canada and the UK where a while back the stakeholder concept of the corporation was adopted in their legal framework.

Thus in Canada, two judgments of the Supreme Court are peremptory: the board must not grant any preferential treatment in its decision-making process to the interests of the shareholders or any other stakeholder, but must act exclusively in the interests of the corporation of which they are the directors.

In the UK, Section 172 of the Companies Act of 2006 states: “A director of a company must act in the way he considers, in good faith, would be most likely to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole, among which the interests of the company’s employees, the need to foster the company’s business relationships with suppliers, customers and others, the impact of the company’s operations on the community and the environment,…”

So, belatedly, U.S. corporations will, it seems, self-regulate and self-impose a sort of stakeholder model in their decision-making.

Alas, as in Canada and the UK, they will quickly find out that there is little or no guidance on how to manage the difficult trade-offs among the interests of various stakeholders, say between shareholders and workers when considering outsourcing operations to a low-cost country.

But that may be the appeal of this “purpose of the corporation”: it sounds enlightened but does not call for any tangible changes in the way corporations are managed.

 

La gouvernance de sociétés au Canada | Au delà de la théorie de l’agence


Les auteurs Imen Latrousa, Marc-André Morencyb, Salmata Ouedraogoc et Jeanne Simard, professeurs à l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, ont réalisé une publication d’une grande valeur pour les théoriciens de la gouvernance.

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, un résumé de l’article paru dans la Revue Organisations et Territoires

Résumé

De nombreux chercheurs ont mis en évidence les aspects et conséquences discutables de certaines conceptions financières ou théories de l’organisation. C’est le cas de la théorie de l’agence, conception particulièrement influente depuis une quarantaine d’années, qui a pour effet de justifier une gouvernance de l’entreprise vouée à maximiser la valeur aux actionnaires au détriment des autres parties prenantes.

Cette idéologie de gouvernance justifie de rémunérer les managers, présumés négliger ordinairement les détenteurs d’actions, avec des stock-options, des salaires démesurés. Ce primat accordé à la valeur à court terme des actions relève d’une vision dans laquelle les raisons financières se voient attribuer un rôle prééminent dans la détermination des objectifs et des moyens d’action, de régulation et de dérégulation des entreprises. Cet article se propose de rappeler les éléments centraux de ce modèle de gouvernance et de voir quelles critiques lui sont adressées par des disciplines aussi diverses que l’économie, la finance, le droit et la sociologie.

 

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Voir l’article ci-dessous :

La gouvernance d’entreprise au Canada : un domaine en transition

Répertoire des articles en gouvernance publiés sur LinkedIn


L’un des moyens utilisés pour mieux faire connaître les grandes tendances en gouvernance de sociétés est la publication d’articles choisis sur ma page LinkedIn.

Ces articles sont issus des parutions sur mon blogue Gouvernance | Jacques Grisé

Depuis janvier 2016, j’ai publié un total de 43 articles sur ma page LinkedIn.

Aujourd’hui, je vous propose la liste des 10 articles que j’ai publiés à ce jour en 2019 :

 

Liste des 10 articles publiés à ce jour en 2019

 

Image associée

 

 

1, Les grandes firmes d’audit sont plus sélectives dans le choix de leurs mandats

2. Gouvernance fiduciaire et rôles des parties prenantes (stakeholders)

3. Problématiques de gouvernance communes lors d’interventions auprès de diverses organisations – Partie I Relations entre président du CA et DG

4. L’âge des administrateurs de sociétés représente-t-il un facteur déterminant dans leur efficacité comme membres indépendants de CA ?

5. On constate une évolution progressive dans la composition des conseils d’administration

6. Doit-on limiter le nombre d’années qu’un administrateur siège à un conseil afin de préserver son indépendance ?

7. Manuel de saine gouvernance au Canada

8. Étude sur le mix des compétences dans la composition des conseils d’administration

9. Indice de diversité de genre | Equilar

10. Le conseil d’administration est garant de la bonne conduite éthique de l’organisation !

 

Si vous souhaitez voir l’ensemble des parutions, je vous invite à vous rendre sur le Lien vers les 43 articles publiés sur LinkedIn depuis 2016

 

Bonne lecture !

Les grandes firmes d’audit sont plus sélectives dans le choix de leurs mandats


Voici un article publié par GAVIN HINKS pour le compte de Board Agenda qui montre que les grandes firmes d’audit sont de plus en plus susceptibles de démissionner lorsque les risques leur apparaissent trop élevés.

Les recherches indiquent que c’est particulièrement le cas au Royaume-Uni où l’on assiste à des poursuites plus fréquentes des Big Four. Ces firmes d’audit sont maintenant plus sélectives dans le choix de leurs clients.

Compte tenu de la situation oligopolistique des grandes firmes d’audit, devons-nous nous surprendre de ces décisions de retrait dans la nouvelle conjoncture de risque financier des entreprises britanniques ?

The answer is not really. Over recent years auditors, especially the Big Four (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY) have faced consistent criticism for their work—complaints that they control too much of the market for big company audit and that audit quality is not what it should be.

Le comité d’audit des entreprises est interpellé publiquement lorsque l’auditeur soumet sa résignation. L’entreprise doit souvent gérer une crise médiatique afin de sauvegarder sa réputation.

Pour certains experts de la gouvernance, ces situations requirent des exigences de divulgation plus sévères. Les parties prenantes veulent connaître la nature des problèmes et des risques qui y sont associés.

Également, les administrateurs souhaitent connaître le plan d’action des dirigeants eu égard au travail et aux recommandations du comité d’audit

L’auteur donne beaucoup d’exemples sur les nouveaux comportements des Big Four.

Bonne lecture !

 

Auditor resignations indicate new attitude to client selection

 

 

auditor
Image: Shutterstock

 

The audit profession in Britain is at a turning point as Westminster—Brexit permitting—considers new regulation.

It seems firms may be responding by clearing the decks: the press has spotted a spate of high-profile auditor resignations with audit firms bidding farewell to a clutch of major clients. This includes firms outside the Big Four, such as Grant Thornton, which recently said sayonara to Sports Direct, the retail chain, embroiled in running arguments over its governance.

But Grant Thornton is not alone. KPMG has parted ways with Eddie Stobart, a haulage firm, and Lycamobile, a telecommunications company. PwC meanwhile has said goodbye to Staffline, a recruitment business.

Should we be surprised?

The answer is not really. Over recent years auditors, especially the Big Four (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY) have faced consistent criticism for their work—complaints that they control too much of the market for big company audit and that audit quality is not what it should be.

This came to a head in December 2017 with the collapse of construction and contracting giant Carillion, audited by KPMG. The event prompted a parliamentary inquiry followed by government-ordered reviews of the audit market and regulation.

An examination of the watchdog for audit and financial reporting, the Financial Reporting Council, has resulted in the creation of a brand new regulatory body; a look at the audit market resulted in recommendations that firms separate their audit businesses from other services they provide. A current look at the quality and scope of audit, the Brydon review, will doubtless come up with its own recommendations when it reports later this year.

 

Client selection

 

While it is hard to obtain statistics, the press reports, as well as industry talk, indicate that auditors are becoming more picky about who they choose to work for.

According to Jonathan Hayward, a governance and audit expert with the consultancy Independent Audit, the first step in any risk management for an audit firm is client selection. He says the current environment in which auditors have become “tired of being beaten up” has caused a new “sensitivity” in which auditors may be choosing to be more assiduous in applying client filtering policies.

Application of these policies may have been soft in the past, as firms raced for market share, but perhaps also as they applied what Hayward calls the auditor’s “God complex”: the idea that their judgement must be definitive.

Psychological dispositions are arguable. What may be observed for certain is that the potential downsides are becoming clearer to audit chiefs. Fines meted out in recent times by a newly energised regulator facing replacement include the £5m (discounted to £3.5m) for KPMG for the firm’s work with the London branch of BNY Mellon. Deloitte faced a £6.5m fine (discounted to £4.2m) for its audit of Serco Geografix, an outsourcing business. Last year PwC faced a record breaking £10m penalty for its work on the audit of collapsed retailer BHS.

What those fines have brought home is the thin line auditors tread between profit and and huge costs if it goes wrong. That undermines the attractiveness of being in the audit market.

One expert to draw attention to the economics is Jim Peterson, a US lawyer who blogs on corporate law and has represented accountancy firms.

Highlighting Sports Direct’s need to find a replacement audit firm, Peterson notes Grant Thornton’s fee was £1.4m with an estimated profit of £200,000-£250,000.

“A projection from that figure would be hostage, however, to the doubtful assumption of no further developments,” Peterson writes.

“That is, the cost to address even a modest extension of necessary extra audit work, or a lawsuit or investigative inquiry—legal fees and diverted management time alone—would swamp any engagement profit within weeks.”

He adds: “And that’s without thinking of the potential fines or judgements. Could the revenue justify that risk? No fee can be set and charged that would protect an auditor in the fraught context of Sports Direct—simply impossible.”

Media attention

 

Auditor resignations are not without their own risks. Maggie McGhee, executive director, governance at ACCA, a professional body for accountants, points out that parting with a client can bring unpleasant public attention.

“If auditors use resignation more regularly in a bid to extract themselves from high-risk audits,” says McGhee, “then it is probable that there will be some media interest if issues are subsequently identified at the company. Questions arise, such as did the auditor do enough?”

But as, McGhee adds, resignation has to remain part of the auditor’s armoury, not least as part of maintaining their independence.

For non-executives on an audit committee, auditor resignation is a significant moment. With an important role in hiring an audit firm as well as oversight of company directors, their role will be to challenge management.

“The audit committee is critical in these circumstances,” says McGhee, “and it should take action to understand the circumstance and whether action is required.”

ACCA has told the Sir Donald Brydon review [examining audit quality] that greater disclosure is needed of “the communication and judgements” that pass between auditors and audit committees. McGhee says it would be particularly relevant in the case of auditor resignations.

There have been suggestions that Sir Donald is interested in resignations. ShareSoc and UKSA, bodies representing small shareholders, have called on Sir Donald to recommend that an a regulatory news service announcement be triggered by an auditor cutting ties.

A blog on ShareSoc’s website says: “It seems clear that there is a need to tighten the disclosure rules surrounding auditor resignations and dismissals.”

It seems likely Sir Donald will comment on resignations, though what his recommendations will be remains uncertain. What is clear is that recent behaviour has shone a light on auditor departures and questions are being asked. The need for answers is sure to remain.

Deux développements significatifs en gouvernance des sociétés


Aujourd’hui, je veux porter à l’attention de mes lecteurs un article de Assaf Hamdani* et Sharon Hannes* qui aborde deux développements majeurs qui ont pour effet de bouleverser les marchés des capitaux.

D’une part, les auteurs constatent le rôle de plus en plus fondamental que les investisseurs institutionnels jouent sur le marché des capitaux aux É. U., mais aussi au Canada.

En effet, ceux-ci contrôlent environ les trois quarts du marché, et cette situation continue de progresser. Les auteurs notent qu’un petit nombre de fonds détiennent une partie significative du capital de chaque entreprise.

Les investisseurs individuels sont de moins en moins présents sur l’échiquier de l’actionnariat et leur influence est donc à peu près nulle.

Dans quelle mesure les investisseurs institutionnels exercent-ils leur influence sur la gouvernance des entreprises ? Quels sont les changements qui s’opèrent à cet égard ?

Comment leurs actions sont-elles coordonnées avec les actionnaires activistes (hedge funds) ?

La seconde tendance, qui se dessine depuis plus de 10 ans, concerne l’augmentation considérable de l’influence des actionnaires activistes (hedge funds) qui utilisent des moyens de pression de plus en plus grands pour imposer des changements à la gouvernance des organisations, notamment par la nomination d’administrateurs désignés aux CA des entreprises ciblées.

Quelles sont les nouvelles perspectives pour les activistes et comment les autorités réglementaires doivent-elles réagir face à la croissance des pressions pour modifier les conseils d’administration ?

Je vous invite à lire ce court article pour avoir un aperçu des changements à venir eu égard à la gouvernance des sociétés.

Bonne lecture !

 

 

The Future of Shareholder Activism

 

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Two major developments are shaping modern capital markets. The first development is the dramatic increase in the size and influence of institutional investors, mostly mutual funds. Institutional investors today collectively own 70-80% of the entire U.S. capital market, and a small number of fund managers hold significant stakes at each public company. The second development is the rising influence of activist hedge funds, which use proxy fights and other tools to pressure public companies into making business and governance changes.

Our new article, The Future of Shareholder Activism, prepared for Boston University Law Review’s Symposium on Institutional Investor Activism in the 21st Century, focuses on the interaction of these two developments and its implications for the future of shareholder activism. We show that the rise of activist hedge funds and their dramatic impact question the claim that institutional investors have conflicts of interest that are sufficiently pervasive to have a substantial market-wide effect. We further argue that the rise of money managers’ power has already changed and will continue to change the nature of shareholder activism. Specifically, large money managers’ clout means that they can influence companies’ management without resorting to the aggressive tactics used by activist hedge funds. Finally, we argue that some activist interventions—those that require the appointment of activist directors to implement complex business changes—cannot be pursued by money managers without dramatic changes to their respective business models and regulatory landscapes.

We first address the overlooked implications of the rise of activist hedge funds for the debate on institutional investors’ stewardship incentives. The success of activist hedge funds, this Article argues, cannot be reconciled with the claim that institutional investors have conflicts of interest that are sufficiently pervasive to have a substantial market-wide effect. Activist hedge funds do not hold a sufficiently large number of shares to win proxy battles, and their success to drive corporate change therefore relies on the willingness of large fund managers to support their cause. Thus, one cannot celebrate—or express concern over—the achievements of activist hedge funds and at the same time argue that institutional investors systemically desire to appease managers.

But if money managers are the real power brokers, why do institutional investors not play a more proactive role in policing management? One set of answers to this question focuses on the shortcomings of fund managers—their suboptimal incentives to oversee companies in their portfolio and conflicts of interest. Another answer focuses on the regulatory regime that governs institutional investors and the impediments that it creates for shareholder activism.

We offer a more nuanced account of the interaction of activists and institutional investors. We argue that the rising influence of fund managers is shaping and is likely to shape the relationships among corporate insiders, institutional investors, and activist hedge funds. Institutional investors’ increasing clout allows them to influence companies without resorting to the aggressive tactics that are typical of activist hedge funds. With institutional investors holding the key to their continued service at the company, corporate insiders today are likely to be more attentive to the wishes of their institutional investors, especially the largest ones.

In fact, in today’s marketplace, management is encouraged to “think like an activist” and initiate contact with large fund managers to learn about any concerns that could trigger an activist attack. Institutional investors—especially the large ones—can thus affect corporations simply by sharing their views with management. This sheds new light on what is labeled today as “engagement.” Moreover, the line between institutional investors’ engagement and hedge fund activism could increasingly become blurred. To be sure, we do not expect institutional investors to develop deeply researched and detailed plans for companies’ operational improvement. Yet, institutional investors’ engagement is increasingly likely to focus not only on governance, but also on business and strategy issues.

The rising influence of institutional investors, however, is unlikely to displace at least some forms of activism. Specifically, we argue that institutional investors are unlikely to be effective in leading complex business interventions that require director appointments. Activists often appoint directors to target boards. Such appointments may be necessary to implement an activist campaign when the corporate change underlying the intervention does not lend itself to quick fixes, such as selling a subsidiary or buying back shares. In complex cases, activist directors are required not only in order to continuously monitor management, but also to further refine the activist business plan for the company.

This insight, however, only serves to reframe our Article’s basic question. Given the rising power of institutional investors, why can they not appoint such directors to companies’ boards? The answer lies in the need of such directors to share nonpublic information with the fund that appointed them. Sharing such information with institutional investors would create significant insider trading concerns and would critically change the role of institutional investors as relatively passive investors with a limited say over company affairs.

The complete article is available here.

________________________________________________________________

*Assaf Hamdani is Professor of Law and Sharon Hannes is Professor of Law and Dean of the Faculty at Tel Aviv University Buchmann Faculty of Law. This post is based on their recent article, forthcoming in the Boston University Law Review. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Dancing with Activists by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, Wei Jiang, and Thomas Keusch (discussed on the Forum here); The Agency Problems of Institutional Investors by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forumhere); and Index Funds and the Future of Corporate Governance: Theory, Evidence, and Policy by Lucian Bebchuk and Scott Hirst (discussed on the forum here).

Quelles sont les responsabilités dévolues à un conseil d’administration ?


En gouvernance des sociétés, il existe un certain nombre de responsabilités qui relèvent impérativement d’un conseil d’administration.

À la suite d’une décision rendue par la Cour Suprême du Delaware dans l’interprétation de la doctrine Caremark (voir ici),il est indiqué que pour satisfaire leur devoir de loyauté, les administrateurs de sociétés doivent faire des efforts raisonnables (de bonne foi) pour mettre en œuvre un système de surveillance et en faire le suivi.

Without more, the existence of management-level compliance programs is not enough for the directors to avoid Caremark exposure.

L’article de Martin Lipton *, paru sur le Forum de Harvard Law School on Corporate Governance, fait le point sur ce qui constitue les meilleures pratiques de gouvernance à ce jour.

Bonne lecture !

 

Spotlight on Boards

 

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  1. Recognize the heightened focus of investors on “purpose” and “culture” and an expanded notion of stakeholder interests that includes employees, customers, communities, the economy and society as a whole and work with management to develop metrics to enable the corporation to demonstrate their value;
  2. Be aware that ESG and sustainability have become major, mainstream governance topics that encompass a wide range of issues, such as climate change and other environmental risks, systemic financial stability, worker wages, training, retraining, healthcare and retirement, supply chain labor standards and consumer and product safety;
  3. Oversee corporate strategy (including purpose and culture) and the communication of that strategy to investors, keeping in mind that investors want to be assured not just about current risks and problems, but threats to long-term strategy from global, political, social, and technological developments;
  4. Work with management to review the corporation’s strategy, and related disclosures, in light of the annual letters to CEOs and directors, or other communications, from BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard, and other investors, describing the investors’ expectations with respect to corporate strategy and how it is communicated;
  5. Set the “tone at the top” to create a corporate culture that gives priority to ethical standards, professionalism, integrity and compliance in setting and implementing both operating and strategic goals;
  6. Oversee and understand the corporation’s risk management, and compliance plans and efforts and how risk is taken into account in the corporation’s business decision-making; monitor risk management ; respond to red flags if and when they arise;
  7. Choose the CEO, monitor the CEO’s and management’s performance and develop and keep current a succession plan;
  8. Have a lead independent director or a non-executive chair of the board who can facilitate the functioning of the board and assist management in engaging with investors;
  9. Together with the lead independent director or the non-executive chair, determine the agendas for board and committee meetings and work with management to ensure that appropriate information and sufficient time are available for full consideration of all matters;
  10. Determine the appropriate level of executive compensation and incentive structures, with awareness of the potential impact of compensation structures on business priorities and risk-taking, as well as investor and proxy advisor views on compensation;
  11. Develop a working partnership with the CEO and management and serve as a resource for management in charting the appropriate course for the corporation;
  12. Monitor and participate, as appropriate, in shareholder engagement efforts, evaluate corporate governance proposals, and work with management to anticipate possible takeover attempts and activist attacks in order to be able to address them more effectively, if they should occur;
  13. Meet at least annually with the team of company executives and outside advisors that will advise the corporation in the event of a takeover proposal or an activist attack;
  14. Be open to management inviting an activist to meet with the board to present the activist’s opinion of the strategy and management of the corporation;
  15. Evaluate the individual director’s, board’s and committees’ performance on a regular basis and consider the optimal board and committee composition and structure, including board refreshment, expertise and skill sets, independence and diversity, as well as the best way to communicate with investors regarding these issues;
  16. Review corporate governance guidelines and committee workloads and charters and tailor them to promote effective board and committee functioning;
  17. Be prepared to deal with crises; and
  18. Be prepared to take an active role in matters where the CEO may have a real or perceived conflict, including takeovers and attacks by activist hedge funds focused on the CEO.

 

Afin de satisfaire ces attentes, les entreprises publiques doivent :

 

  1. Have a sufficient number of directors to staff the requisite standing and special committees and to meet investor expectations for experience, expertise, diversity, and periodic refreshment;
  2. Compensate directors commensurate with the time and effort that they are required to devote and the responsibility that they assume;
  3. Have directors who have knowledge of, and experience with, the corporation’s businesses and with the geopolitical developments that affect it, even if this results in the board having more than one director who is not “independent”;
  4. Have directors who are able to devote sufficient time to preparing for and attending board and committee meetings and engaging with investors;
  5. Provide the directors with the data that is critical to making sound decisions on strategy, compensation and capital allocation;
  6. Provide the directors with regular tutorials by internal and external experts as part of expanded director education and to assure that in complicated, multi-industry and new-technology corporations, the directors have the information and expertise they need to respond to disruption, evaluate current strategy and strategize beyond the horizon; and
  7. Maintain a truly collegial relationship among and between the company’s senior executives and the members of the board that facilitates frank and vigorous discussion and enhances the board’s role as strategic partner, evaluator, and monitor.

_________________________________________________________

Martin Lipton* is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton and is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Un document incontournable en gouvernance des entreprises cotées : « OECD Corporate Governance Factbook 2019 »


Voici un rapport de recherche exhaustif publié tous les deux ans par l’OCDE.

Vous y retrouverez une mine de renseignements susceptibles de répondre à toute question relative à la gouvernance des plus importantes autorités des marchés financiers au monde.

C’est un document essentiel qui permet de comparer et d’évaluer les progrès en gouvernance dans les 49 plus importants marchés financiers.

Vous pouvez télécharger le rapport à la fin du sommaire exécutif publié ici. Le document est illustré par une multitude de tableaux et de figures qui font image il va sans dire.

Voici l’introduction au document de recherche. Celui-ci vient d’être publié. La version française devrait suivre bientôt.

Bonne lecture !

 

The 2019 edition of the OECD Corporate Governance Factbook (the “Factbook”) contains comparative data and information across 49 different jurisdictions including all G20, OECD and Financial Stability Board members. The information is presented and commented in 40 tables and 51 figures covering a broad range of institutional, legal and regulatory provisions. The Factbook provides an important and unique tool for monitoring the implementation of the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance. Issued every two years, it is actively used by governments, regulators and others for information about implementation practices and developments that may influence their effectiveness.

It is divided into five chapters addressing: 1) the corporate and market landscape; 2) the corporate governance framework; 3) the rights of shareholders and key ownership functions; 4) the corporate boards of directors; and 5) mechanisms for flexibility and proportionality in corporate governance.

 

OECD (2019), OECD Corporate Governance Factbook 2019

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « OECD Corporate Governance Factbook 2019 »

 

The corporate and market landscape

 

Effective design and implementation of corporate governance rules requires a good empirical understanding of the ownership and business landscape to which they will be applied. The first chapter of the Factbook therefore provides an overview of ownership patterns around the world, with respect to both the categories of owners and the degree of concentration of ownership in individual listed companies. Since the G20/OECD Principles also include recommendations with respect to the functioning of stock markets, it also highlights some key structural changes with respect to stock exchanges.

The OECD Equity Market Review of Asia (OECD, 2018a) reported that stock markets have undergone profound changes during the past 20 years. Globally, one of the most important developments has been the rapid growth of Asian stock markets—both in absolute and in relative terms. In 2017, a record number of 1 074 companies listed in Asia, almost twice as many as the annual average for the previous 16 years. Of the five jurisdictions that have had the highest number of non-financial company IPOs in the last decade, three are in Asia. In 2017, Asian non-financial companies accounted for 43% of the global volume of equity raised. The proportion attributable to European and US companies has declined during the same period. In terms of stock exchanges, by total market capitalisation, four Asian exchanges were in the top ten globally (Japan Exchange Group, Shanghai Stock Exchange, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited, and Shenzhen Stock Exchange).

With respect to ownership patterns at the company level in the world’s 50 000 listed companies, a recent OECD study (De la Cruz et al., forthcoming) reports a number of features of importance to policymaking and implementation of the G20/OECD Principles. The report, which contains unique information about ownership in companies from 54 jurisdictions that together represent 95% of global market capitalisation, shows that four main categories of investors dominate ownership of today’s publicly listed companies. These are: institutional investors, public sector owners, private corporations, and strategic individual investors. The largest category is institutional investors, holding 41% of global market capitalisation. The second largest category is the public sector, which has significant ownership stakes in 20% of the world’s listed companies and hold shares representing 13% of global market capitalisation. With respect to ownership in individual companies, in half of the world’s publicly listed companies, the three largest shareholders hold more than 50% of the capital, and in three-quarters of the world’s public listed companies, the three largest owners hold more than 30%. This is to a large extent attributable to the growth of stock markets in Asian emerging markets.

Stock exchanges have also undergone important structural changes in recent years, such as mergers and acquisitions and demutualisations. Out of 52 major stock exchanges in 49 jurisdictions, 18 now belong to one of four international groups. Thirty-three (63%) of these exchanges are either self-listed or have an ultimate parent company that is listed on one or more of its own exchanges. More than 62% of market capitalisation is concentrated in the five largest stock exchanges, while more than 95% is concentrated in the largest 25. The top 25 highest valued exchanges include 11 non-OECD jurisdictions.

 

The corporate governance framework

 

An important bedrock for implementing the Principles is the quality of the legal and regulatory framework, which is consistent with the rule of law in supporting effective supervision and enforcement.

Against this background, the Factbook monitors who serves as the lead regulatory institution for corporate governance of listed companies in each jurisdiction, as well as issues related to their independence. Securities regulators, financial regulators or a combination of the two play the key role in 82% of all jurisdictions, while the Central Bank plays the key role in 12%. The issue of the independence of regulators is commonly addressed (among 86% of regulatory institutions) through the creation of a formal governing body such as a board, council or commission, usually appointed to fixed terms ranging from two to eight years. In a majority of cases, independence from the government is also promoted by establishing a separate budget funded by fees assessed on regulated entities or a mix of fees and fines. On the other hand, 25% of the regulatory institutions surveyed are funded by the national budget.

Since 2015 when the G20/OECD Principles were issued, 84% of the 49 surveyed jurisdictions have amended either their company law or securities law, or both. Nearly all jurisdictions also have national codes or principles that complement laws, securities regulation and listing requirements. Nearly half of all jurisdictions have revised their national corporate governance codes in the past two years and 83% of them follow a “comply or explain” compliance practice. A growing percentage of jurisdictions—67%—now issue national reports on company implementation of corporate governance codes, up from 58% in 2015. In 29% of the jurisdictions it is the national authorities that serve as custodians of the national corporate governance code.

 

The rights and equitable treatment of shareholders and key ownership functions

 

The G20/OECD Principles state that the corporate governance framework shall protect and facilitate the exercise of shareholders’ rights and ensure equitable treatment of all shareholders, including minority and foreign shareholders.

Chapter 3 of the Factbook therefore provides detailed information related to rights to obtain information on shareholder meetings, to request meetings and to place items on the agenda, and voting rights. The chapter also provides detailed coverage of frameworks for review of related party transactions, triggers and mechanisms related to corporate takeover bids, and the roles and responsibilities of institutional investors.

All jurisdictions require companies to provide advance notice of general shareholder meetings. A majority establish a minimum notice period of between 15 and 21 days, while another third of the jurisdictions provide for longer notice periods. Nearly two-thirds of jurisdictions require such notices to be sent directly to shareholders, while all but four jurisdictions require multiple methods of notification, which may include use of a stock exchange or regulator’s electronic platform, publication on the company’s web site or in a newspaper.

Approximately 80% of jurisdictions establish deadlines of up to 60 days for convening special meetings at the request of shareholders, subject to specific ownership thresholds. This is an increase from 73% in 2015. Most jurisdictions (61%) set the ownership threshold for requesting a special shareholder meeting at 5%, while another 32% set the threshold at 10%. Compared to the threshold for requesting a shareholder meeting, many jurisdictions set lower thresholds for placing items on the agenda of the general meeting. With respect to the outcome of the shareholder meeting, approximately 80% of jurisdictions require the disclosure of voting decisions on each agenda item, including 59% that require such disclosure immediately or within 5 days.

The G20/OECD Principles state that the optimal capital structure of the company is best decided by the management and the board, subject to approval of the shareholders. This may include the issuing of different classes of shares with different rights attached to them. In practice, all but three of the 49 jurisdictions covered by the Factbook allow listed companies to issue shares with limited voting rights. In many cases, such shares come with a preference with respect to the receipt of the firm’s profits.

Related party transactions are typically addressed through a combination of measures, including board approval, shareholder approval, and mandatory disclosure. Provisions for board approval are common; two-thirds of jurisdictions surveyed require or recommend board approval of certain types of related party transactions. Shareholder approval requirements are applied in 55% of jurisdictions, but are often limited to large transactions and those that are not carried out on market terms. Nearly all jurisdictions require disclosure of related party transactions, with 82% requiring use of International Accounting Standards (IAS24), while an additional 8% allow flexibility to follow IAS 24 or the local standard.

The Factbook provides extensive data on frameworks for corporate takeovers. Among the 46 jurisdictions that have introduced a mandatory bid rule, 80% take an ex-post approach, where a bidder is required to initiate the bid after acquiring shares exceeding the threshold. Nine jurisdictions take an ex-ante approach, where a bidder is required to initiate a takeover bid for acquiring shares which would exceed the threshold. More than 80% of jurisdictions with mandatory takeover bid rules establish a mechanism to determine the minimum bidding price.

Considering the important role played by institutional investors as shareholders of listed companies, nearly all jurisdictions have established provisions for at least one category of institutional investors (such as pension, investment or insurance funds) to address conflicts of interest, either by prohibiting specific acts or requiring them to establish policies to manage conflicts of interest. Three-fourths of all jurisdictions have established requirements or recommendations for institutional investors to disclose their voting policies, while almost half require or recommend disclosure of actual voting records. Some jurisdictions establish regulatory requirements or may rely on voluntary stewardship codes to encourage various forms of ownership engagement, such as monitoring and constructive engagement with investee companies and maintaining the effectiveness of monitoring when outsourcing the exercise of voting rights.

 

The corporate board of directors

 

The G20/OECD Principles require that the corporate governance framework ensures the strategic guidance of the company by the board and its accountability to the company and its shareholders. The most common board format is the one-tier board system, which is favoured in twice as many jurisdictions as those that apply two-tier boards (supervisory and management boards). A growing number of jurisdictions allow both one and two-tier structures.

Almost all jurisdictions require or recommend a minimum number or ratio of independent directors. Definitions of independent directors have also been evolving during this period: 80% of jurisdictions now require directors to be independent of significant shareholders in order to be classified as independent, up from 64% in 2015. The shareholding threshold determining whether a shareholder is significant ranges from 2% to 50%, with 10% to 15% being the most common.

Recommendations or requirements for the separation of the board chair and CEO have doubled in the last four years to 70%, including 30% required. The 2015 edition of the Factbook reported a binding requirement in only 11% of the jurisdictions, with another 25% recommending it in codes.

Nearly all jurisdictions require an independent audit committee. Nomination and remuneration committees are not mandatory in most jurisdictions, although more than 80% of jurisdictions at least recommend these committees to be established and often to be comprised wholly or largely of independent directors.

Requirements or recommendations for companies to assign a risk management role to board level committees have sharply increased since 2015, from 62% to 87% of surveyed jurisdictions. Requirements or recommendations to implement internal control and risk management systems have also increased significantly, from 62% to 90%.

While recruitment and remuneration of management is a key board function, a majority of jurisdictions have a requirement or recommendation for a binding or advisory shareholder vote on remuneration policy for board members and key executives. And nearly all jurisdictions surveyed now require or recommend the disclosure of the remuneration policy and the level/amount of remuneration at least at aggregate levels. Disclosure of individual levels is required or recommended in 76% of jurisdictions.

The 2019 Factbook provides data for the first time on measures to promote gender balance on corporate boards and in senior management, most often via disclosure requirements and measures such as mandated quotas and/or voluntary targets. Nearly half of surveyed jurisdictions (49%) have established requirements to disclose gender composition of boards, compared to 22% with regards to senior management. Nine jurisdictions have mandatory quotas requiring a certain percentage of board seats to be filled by either gender. Eight rely on more flexible mechanisms such as voluntary goals or targets, while three resort to a combination of both. The proportion of senior management positions held by women is reported to be significantly higher than the proportion of board seats held by women.

 

Mechanisms for flexibility and proportionality in corporate governance

 

It has already been pointed out that effective implementation of the G20/OECD Principles requires a good empirical understanding of economic realities and adaption to changes in corporate and market developments over time. The G20/OECD Principles therefore state that policy makers have a responsibility to put in place a framework that is flexible enough to meet the needs of corporations that are operating in widely different circumstances, facilitating their development of new opportunities and the most efficient deployment of resources. The 2019 Factbook provides a special chapter that presents the main findings of a complementary OECD review of how 39 jurisdictions apply the concepts of flexibility and proportionality across seven different corporate governance regulatory areas. The chapter builds on the 2018 OECD report Flexibility and Proportionality in Corporate Governance (OECD, 2018b). The report finds that a vast majority of countries have criteria that allow for flexibility and proportionality at company level in each of the seven areas of regulation that were reviewed: 1) board composition, board committees and board qualifications; 2) remuneration; 3) related party transactions; 4), disclosure of periodic financial information and ad hoc information; 5) disclosure of major shareholdings; 6) takeovers; and 7) pre-emptive rights. The report also contains case studies of six countries, which provide a more detailed picture of how flexibility and proportionality is being used in practice.

The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

On assiste à une grande résistance aux changements dans la composition des CA en 2018 !


Aujourd’hui, je vous invite à faire un bref tour d’horizon des pratiques des conseils d’administration dans les compagnies publiques américaines (S&P 500 and Russell 3000) au cours de la dernière année.

Cet article publié par Matteo Tonello, Directeur de la recherche  ESG du Conference Board, a été publié sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

Il est notable que les pratiques des conseils d’administration n’aient pas évolué au même rythme que les changements dans les processus de gouvernance.

L’étude montre que la composition des conseils d’administration reste inchangée pour environ la moitié des entreprises cotées.

Cela laisse donc peu de place aux jeunes administrateurs de la relève puisque, lorsqu’il y a un poste vacant au sein d’un conseil, celui-ci est comblé par l’ajout d’un administrateur qui a déjà une longue expérience sur des conseils d’administration.

Parmi les résultats les plus concluants, je retiens les suivants :

  1. Directors are in for a long ride: their average tenure exceeds 10 years.
  2. Despite demand for more inclusiveness and a diverse array of skills, in their director selection companies continue to value prior board experience.
  3. Corporate boards remain quite inaccessible to younger generations of business leaders, with the highest number of directors under age 60 seen in new-economy sectors such as information technology and communications. 
  4. While progress on gender diversity of corporate directors is being reported, a staggering 20 percent of firms in the Russell 3000 index still have no female representatives on their board.
  5. Periodically evaluating director performance is critical to a more meritocratic and dynamic boardroom.
  6. Among smaller companies, staggered board structures also stand in the way of change

Pour plus d’information, je vous incite à lire le bref article qui suit.

Bonne lecture !

 

Corporate Board Practices in the S&P 500 and Russell 3000 | 2019 Edition

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « conseils d'administration »

 

According to a new report by The Conference Board and ESG data analytics firm ESGAUGE, in their 2018 SEC filings 50 percent of Russell 3000 companies and 43 percent of S&P 500 companies disclosed no change in the composition of their board of directors. More specifically, they neither added a new member to the board nor did they replace an existing member. In those cases where a replacement or addition did happen, it rarely affected more than one board seat. Only one-quarter of boards elected a first-time director who had never served on a public company board before.

These findings provide some important context to the current debate on gender diversity and board refreshment, underscoring the main reasons why progress remains slow: average director tenure continues to be quite extensive (at 10 years or longer), board seats rarely become vacant and, when a spot is available, it is often taken by a seasoned director rather than a newcomer with no prior board experience.

The study, Corporate Board Practices in the Russell 3000 and S&P 500: 2019 Edition, documents corporate governance trends and developments at 2,854 companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that filed their proxy statement in the January 1 to November 1, 2018 period and, as of January 2018, were included in the Russell 3000 Index. Data are based on disclosure included by companies in proxy statements and other periodic SEC reports as well as on other organizational and policy documents (charters, bylaws, board committee charters, and corporate governance principles) accessible through the EDGAR database and the investor relations section of corporate websites. For comparative purposes, data are compared with the S&P 500 index and segmented by 11 business sectors under the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS), five annual revenue groups, and three asset value groups.

The project was developed in collaboration with the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance (successor of the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi)), Debevoise & Plimpton and Russell Reynolds Associates. Part of The Conference Board ESG Intelligence suite of benchmarking products, the study continues the long-standing tradition of The Conference Board as a provider of comparative information on organizational policies and practices. The suite is available at www.conference-board.org/ESGintelligence

Corporate governance has undergone a profound transformation in the last two decades, as a result of the legislative and regulatory changes that have expanded director responsibilities as well as the rise of more vocal shareholders. Yet the composition of the board of directors has not changed as rapidly as other governance practices. To this day, many public company boards do not see any turnover that is not the result of retirement at the end of a fairly long tenure.

Other findings from the report illustrate the state of board practices, which may vary markedly depending on the size of the organization or its business industry:

Directors are in for a long ride: their average tenure exceeds 10 years. About one-fourth of Russell 3000 directors who step down do so after more than 15 years of service. The longest average board member tenures are seen in the financial (13.2 years), consumer staples (11.1 years), and real estate (11 years) industries.

Despite demand for more inclusiveness and a diverse array of skills, in their director selection companies continue to value prior board experience. Only a quarter of organizations elect a director who has never served on a public company board before. Companies with annual revenue of $20 billion or higher are twice as likely to elect two first-time directors as those with an annual turnover of $1 billion or less (7.3 percent versus 3.2 percent).

Corporate boards remain quite inaccessible to younger generations of business leaders, with the highest number of directors under age 60 seen in new-economy sectors such as information technology and communications. Only 10 percent of Russell 3000 directors and 6.3 percent of S&P 500 directors are aged 50 or younger, and in both indexes about one-fifth of board members are more than 70 years of age. These numbers show no change from those registered two years ago. Regarding data on the adoption of retirement policies based on age, only about one-fourth of Russell 3000 companies choose to use such policies to foster director turnover.

While progress on gender diversity of corporate directors is being reported, a staggering 20 percent of firms in the Russell 3000 index still have no female representatives on their board. Albeit still slow, progress has been steady in the last few years—a reflection of the increasing demand for diversity made by multiple stakeholders and policy groups: For example, the Every Other One initiative by the Committee for Economic Development (CED) of The Conference Board advocates for a system where every other corporate board seat vacated by a retiring board member should be filled by a woman, while retaining existing female directors. [1] However, even though women are elected as corporate directors in larger numbers than before, almost all board chair positions remain held by men (only 4.1 percent of Russell 3000 companies have a female board chair).

Periodically evaluating director performance is critical to a more meritocratic and dynamic boardroom. However, even though many board members consider the performance of at least one fellow director as suboptimal, in the Russell 3000 index, only 14.2 percent of companies disclose that the contribution of individual directors is reviewed annually.

Among smaller companies, staggered board structures also stand in the way of change. Almost 60 percent of firms with revenue under $1 billion continue to retain a classified board and hold annual elections only for one class of their directors, not all. And while just 9.5 percent of financial institutions with asset value of $100 billion or higher have director classes, the percentage rises to 44.1 for those with asset value under $10 billion.

Though declining in popularity, a simple plurality voting standard remains prevalent. This voting standard allows incumbents in uncontested elections to be re-elected to the board even if a majority of the shares were voted against them. In the Russell 3000, 51.5 percent of directors retain plurality voting.

Only 15.5 percent of the Russell 3000 companies have adopted some type of proxy access bylaws. Such bylaws allow qualified shareholders to include their own director nominees on the proxy ballot, alongside candidates proposed by management. In all other companies, shareholders that want to bring forward a different slate of nominees need to incur the expense of circulating their own proxy materials.

Endnotes

1Every Other One: A Status Update on Women on Boards, Policy Brief, The Conference Board, Committee for Economic Development (CED), November 14, 2016, https://www.ced.org/reports/every-other-one-more-women-on-corporate-boards(go back)

L’âge des administrateurs de sociétés représente-t-il un facteur déterminant dans leur efficacité comme membres indépendants de conseils d’administration ? En reprise


Voici une question que beaucoup de personnes expertes avec les notions de bonne gouvernance se posent : « L’âge des administrateurs de sociétés représente-t-il un facteur déterminant dans leur efficacité comme membres indépendants de conseils d’administration ? »

En d’autres termes, les administrateurs indépendants (AI) de 65 ans et plus sont-ils plus avisés, ou sont-ils carrément trop âgés ?

L’étude menée par Ronald Masulis* de l’Université de New South Wales Australian School of Business et de ses collègues est très originale dans sa conception et elle montre que malgré toutes les réformes réglementaires des dernières années, l’âge des administrateurs indépendants est plus élevé au lieu d’être plus bas, comme on le souhaitait.

L’étude montre que pendant la période allant de 1998 à 2014, l’âge médian des administrateurs indépendants (AI) des grandes entreprises américaines est passé de 60 à 64 ans. De plus, le pourcentage de firmes ayant une majorité de AI de plus de 65 ans est passé de 26 % à 50 % !

L’étude montre que le choix d’administrateurs indépendants de plus de 65 ans se fait au détriment d’une nouvelle classe de jeunes administrateurs dynamiques et compétents. Cela a pour effet de réduire le bassin des nouveaux administrateurs requis pour des postes d’administrateurs de la relève, ainsi que pour les besoins criants d’une plus grande diversité.

In our new study Directors: Older and Wiser, or Too Old to Govern?, we investigate this boardroom aging phenomenon and examine how it affects board effectiveness in terms of firm decision making and shareholder value creation. On the one hand, older independent directors can be valuable resources to firms given their wealth of business experience and professional connections accumulated over the course of their long careers. Moreover, since they are most likely to have retired from their full-time jobs, they should have more time available to devote to their board responsibilities. On the other hand, older independent directors can face declining energy, physical strength, and mental acumen, which can undermine their monitoring and advisory functions. They can also have less incentive to build and maintain their reputation in the director labor market, given their dwindling future directorship opportunities and shorter expected board tenure as they approach normal retirement age.

Dans la foulée des mouvements activistes, plusieurs entreprises semblent faire le choix d’AI plus âgés. Cependant, l’analyse coût/bénéfice de l’efficacité des AI plus âgés montre que leurs rendements est possiblement surfait et que la tendance à éliminer ou à retarder l’âge limite de retraite doit faire l’objet d’une bonne réflexion !

Si le sujet vous intéresse, je vous invite à lire l’article original. Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

Bonne lecture !

 

Directors: Older and Wiser, or Too Old to Govern?

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « age of board member »

 

The past two decades have witnessed dramatic changes to the boards of directors of U.S. public corporations. Several recent governance reforms (the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the revised 2003 NYSE/Nasdaq listing rules, and the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act) combined with a rise in shareholder activism have enhanced director qualifications and independence and made boards more accountable. These regulatory changes have significantly increased the responsibilities and liabilities of outside directors. Many firms have also placed limits on how many boards a director can sit on. This changing environment has reduced the ability and incentives of active senior corporate executives to serve on outside boards. Faced with this reduced supply of qualified independent directors and the increased demand for them, firms are increasingly relying on older director candidates. As a result, in recent years the boards of U.S. public corporations have become notably older in age. For example, over the period of 1998 to 2014, the median age of independent directors at large U.S. firms rose from 60 to 64, and the percentage of firms with a majority of independent directors age 65 or above nearly doubled from 26% to 50%.

In our new study Directors: Older and Wiser, or Too Old to Govern?, we investigate this boardroom aging phenomenon and examine how it affects board effectiveness in terms of firm decision making and shareholder value creation. On the one hand, older independent directors can be valuable resources to firms given their wealth of business experience and professional connections accumulated over the course of their long careers. Moreover, since they are most likely to have retired from their full-time jobs, they should have more time available to devote to their board responsibilities. On the other hand, older independent directors can face declining energy, physical strength, and mental acumen, which can undermine their monitoring and advisory functions. They can also have less incentive to build and maintain their reputation in the director labor market, given their dwindling future directorship opportunities and shorter expected board tenure as they approach normal retirement age.

We analyze a sample of S&P 1500 firms over the 1998-2014 period and define an independent director as an “older independent director” (OID) if he or she is at least 65 years old. We begin by evaluating individual director performance by comparing board meeting attendance records and major board committee responsibilities of older versus younger directors. Controlling for a battery of director and firm characteristics as well as director, year, and industry fixed effects, we find that OIDs exhibit poorer board attendance records and are less likely to serve as the chair or a member of an important board committee. These results suggest that OIDs either are less able or have weaker incentives to fulfill their board duties.

We next examine major corporate policies and find a large body of evidence consistently pointing to monitoring deficiencies of OIDs. To measure the extent of boardroom aging, we construct a variable, OID %, as the fraction of all independent directors who are categorized as OIDs. As the percentage of OIDs on corporate boards rises, excess CEO compensation increases. This relationship is mainly driven by the cash component of CEO compensation. A greater OID presence on corporate boards is also associated with firms having lower financial reporting quality, poorer acquisition profitability measured by announcement returns, less generous payout polices, and lower CEO turnover-to-performance sensitivity. Moreover, we find that firm performance, measured either by a firm’s return on assets or its Tobin’s Q, is significantly lower when firms have a greater fraction of OIDs on their boards. These results collectively support the conclusion that OIDs suffer from monitoring deficiencies that impair the board’s effectiveness in providing management oversight.

We employ a number of approaches to address the endogeneity issue. First, we include firm-fixed effects wherever applicable to control for unobservable time-invariant firm-specific factors that may correlate with both the presence of OIDs and the firm outcome variables that we study. Second, we employ an instrumental variable regression approach where we instrument for the presence of OIDs on a firm’s board with a measure capturing the local supply of older director candidates in the firm’s headquarters state. We find that all of our firm-level results continue to hold under a two-stage IV regression framework. Third, we exploit a regulatory shock to firms’ board composition. The NYSE and Nasdaq issued new listing standards in 2003 following the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), which required listed firms to have a majority of independent directors on the board. We show that firms non-compliant with the new rule experienced a significantly larger increase in the percentage of OIDs over the 2000-2005 period compared to compliant firms. A major reason for this difference is that noncompliant firms needed to hire more OIDs to comply with the new listing standards. Using a firm’s noncompliance status as an instrument for the change in the board’s OID percentage, we find that firm performance deteriorates as noncompliant firms increase OIDs on their boards. We also conduct two event studies, one on OID appointment announcements and the other on the announcements of firm policy changes that increase the mandatory retirement age of outside directors. We find that shareholders react negatively to both announcements.

In our final set of analysis, we explore cross-sectional variations in the relation between OIDs and firm performance and policies. We find that the negative relation between OIDs and firm performance is more pronounced when OIDs hold multiple outside board seats. This evidence suggests that “busyness” exacerbates the monitoring deficiency of OIDs. We also find that for firms with high advisory needs, the relation between OIDs and firm performance is no longer significantly negative and in some cases, becomes positive. These results are consistent with OIDs using their experience and resources to provide valuable counsel to senior managers in need of board advice. Also consistent with OIDs performing a valuable advisory function, our analysis of acquirer returns shows that the negative relation between OIDs and acquirer returns is limited to OIDs who have neither prior acquisition experience, nor experience in the target industry. For OIDs with either type of experience, their marginal effect on acquirer returns is non-negative, and sometimes significantly positive.

Our research is the first investigation of the pervasive and growing phenomenon of boardroom aging at large U.S. corporations and its impact on board effectiveness and firm performance. As the debate over director age limits continues in the news media and among activist shareholders and regulators, our findings on the costs and benefits associated with OIDs can provide important and timely policy guidance. For companies considering lifting or waiving mandatory director retirement age requirements, so as to lower the burden of recruiting and retaining experienced independent directors, our evidence should give them pause. Similarly, while recent corporate governance reforms and the rise in shareholder activism have made boards, and especially independent directors, more accountable for managerial decisions and firm performance, they may also have created the unintended consequence of shrinking the supply of potential independent directors who are younger active executives. This result has led firms to tap deeper into the pool of older director candidates, which our analysis shows can undermine the very objectives that corporate governance reforms seek to accomplish.

The complete paper is available for download here.

___________________________________________________________________________________

*Ronald Masulis is Scientia Professor of Finance at University of New South Wales Australian School of Business; Cong Wang is Professor of Finance at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen and the associate director of Shenzhen Finance Institute; Fei Xie is Associate Professor of Finance at the University of Delaware; and Shuran Zhang is Associate Professor of Finance at Jinan University. This post is based on their recent paper.

Les actions multivotantes sont populaires aux États-Unis. Les entreprises canadiennes devraient-elles emboîter le pas ?


Je vous recommande la lecture de cet article d’Yvan Allaire*, président exécutif du conseil d’administration de l’IGOPP, paru dans le Financial Post le 6 mars 2019.

Comme je l’indiquais dans un précédent billet, Les avantages d’une structure de capital composée d’actions multivotantes, celles-ci « n’ont pas la cote au Canada ! Bien que certains arguments en faveur de l’exclusion de ce type de structure de capital soient, de prime abord, assez convaincants, il existe plusieurs autres considérations qui doivent être prises en compte avant de les interdire et de les fustiger ».

Cependant, comme l’auteur le mentionne dans son article, cette structure de capital est de plus en plus populaire dans le cas d’entreprises entrepreneuriales américaines.

Il y a de nombreux avantages de se prévaloir de la formule d’actions multivotantes. Selon Allaire, les entreprises canadiennes, plus particulièrement les entreprises québécoises, devraient en profiter pour se joindre au mouvement.

J’ai reproduit, ci-dessous, l’article publié dans le Financial Post. Quelle est votre opinion sur ce sujet controversé ?

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

 

Dual-class shares are hot in the U.S. again. Canada should join in

 

 

Image associée
Some 69 dual-class companies are now listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, down from 100 in 2005. Peter J. Thompson/National Post 

American fund managers are freaking out about the popularity of multiple voting shares among entrepreneurs going for an initial public offering (IPO). In recent years, some 20 per cent of American IPOs (and up to a third among tech entrepreneurs) have adopted a dual-class structure. Fund managers are working overtime to squelch this trend.

In Canada, this form of capital structure has been the subject of unrelenting attacks by some fund managers, proxy-advisory firms and, to a surprising degree, by academics. Some 69 dual-class companies are now listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, down from 100 in 2005. Since 2005, only 23 Canadian companies went public with dual-class shares and 16 have since converted to a single-class.

A dual class of shares provides some measure of protection from unwanted takeovers as well as from the bullying that has become a feature of current financial markets. (The benefits of homegrown champions, controlled by citizens of the country and headquartered in that country need no elaboration. Not even the U.S. tolerates a free-for-all takeover regime, but Canada does!)

These 69 dual-class companies have provided 19 of Canada’s industrial champions as well as 12 of the 50 largest Canadian employers. The 54 companies (out of the 69 that were listed on the TSX 10 years ago) provided investors with a mean annual compounded return of 8.98 per cent (median 9.62 per cent) as compared to 5.06 per cent for the S&P/TSX Index and 6.0 per cent for the TSX 60 index (as per calculations by the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations).

As for the quality of their governance, by the standards set by The Globe and Mail for its annual governance scoring of TSX-listed companies, the average governance score of companies without a dual-class of shares is 66.15 while the score of companies with multiple voting shares, once the penalty (up to 10 points) imposed on dual-class companies is removed, is 60.1, a barely significant difference.

 


*Cet article a été et rédigé par Yvan Allaire, Ph. D. (MIT), MSRC, président exécutif du conseil d’administration de l’IGOPP.

ÉTAT DE LA GOUVERNANCE DE SOCIÉTÉS COTÉES DU QUÉBEC EN 2018


Je vous invite à prendre connaissance d’un document incontournable sur l’état de la gouvernance de sociétés cotées du Québec en 2018.

Le rapport publié par la Chaire de recherche en gouvernance de sociétés de l’Université Laval fait suite à l’étude de Jean Bédard, Ph. D., FCPA, professeur et titulaire de la Chaire et de Jérôme Deschênes, Ph. D., MBA, professionnel de recherche.

Le rapport présente « l’état actuel de la gouvernance des sociétés québécoises dont les actions sont inscrites à la Bourse de Toronto (TSX) et à la Bourse de croissance TSX (TSXV) en 2018 et son évolution par rapport à l’année 2013 ».

Vous trouverez ci-dessous le sommaire de l’étude.

Le rapport complet est accessible en cliquant sur ce lien suivant : ÉTAT DE LA GOUVERNANCE DE SOCIÉTÉS COTÉES DU QUÉBEC EN 2018

Bonne lecture !

ÉTAT DE LA GOUVERNANCE DE SOCIÉTÉS COTÉES DU QUÉBEC EN 2018

 

 

chaireGouvernance

 

 

Ce rapport présente notre analyse de l’état actuel de la gouvernance des sociétés québécoises dont les actions sont inscrites à la Bourse de Toronto (TSX) et à la Bourse de croissance TSX (TSXV). Notre intérêt est centré sur la documentation se rapportant au dernier cycle d’assemblée générale des actionnaires (2018). Néanmoins, afin d’obtenir un point de comparaison historique, nous faisons également état de la situation au cours du cycle de 2013. Cet écart de cinq années nous permet un regard plus approfondi sur l’évolution de la situation au cours de cette période.

 

CONSEIL TYPE

 

En 2018, le conseil d’administration typique des 87 sociétés québécoises inscrites à la TSX est composé de neuf administrateurs. De ceux-ci, sept sont indépendants, un est lié et l’autre est PDG de la société. Ce conseil se réunit huit fois par année et a mis en place trois comités : un comité d’audit prescrit par la loi, un comité de gouvernance (82%) et un comité de ressources humaines (62%). Pour les 88 sociétés inscrites à la TSXV, le conseil d’administration typique est composé de six administrateurs, dont quatre indépendants, moins d’un administrateur lié et deux hauts dirigeants de la société. Le conseil se réunit six fois par année et comprend deux comités. En plus du comité d’audit, 43% des sociétés inscrites à la TSXV ont un comité de gouvernance et 34% ont un comité de ressources humaines. Dans plusieurs cas, les fonctions de ces deux comités sont regroupées sous un seul comité. Le conseil d’administration type de 2018 est similaire à celui de 2013, tant pour les sociétés de la TSX que celles de la TSXV.

 

ADMINISTRATEUR TYPE

 

L’administrateur type d’une société de la TSX est un homme résidant au Québec et âgé de 63 ans. Il est en poste depuis huit ans et n’est administrateur d’aucune autre société inscrite en bourse. Il assiste à 97% des réunions du conseil. Malgré le fait que l’administrateur type a peu changé entre 2013 et 2018, on note une plus grande proportion de femmes en 2018 ainsi qu’une plus grande proportion d’administrateurs issus d’autres pays. L’administrateur type reçoit une rémunération totale de 141 000 $, principalement sous forme d’honoraires (58%) et d’actions (32%). Sa rémunération totale a augmenté de 18% depuis 2013. De plus, sa rémunération sous forme d’options a diminué de plus de la moitié par rapport à 2013 et ne représente plus que 5% de la rémunération totale. Bien entendu, plus la société a une grande valeur boursière, plus la rémunération est élevée. L’administrateur type d’une société de la TSXV est aussi un homme résidant au Québec, mais il est plus jeune que celui de la TSX, étant âgé de 59 ans. Il est en poste depuis six ans et n’est administrateur d’aucune autre société inscrite en bourse. Il assiste à 98% des réunions du conseil. Il reçoit une rémunération de 10 000 $ sous forme d’honoraires. Il reçoit une rémunération équivalente ou supérieure sous forme d’options.

 

RENOUVELLEMENT DES CONSEILS

 

En 2018, 11% des administrateurs des sociétés de la TSX et 16% de celles de la TSXV sont de nouveaux membres du conseil. Conséquemment, un conseil type est entièrement renouvelé tous les 8 ou 9 ans. Les nouveaux membres de conseils des sociétés de la TSX (TSXV) sont, comme leurs collègues déjà en poste, à 84% (92%) des hommes résidant au Québec et indépendants. Ils sont en moyenne cinq ans plus jeunes que la population d’administrateurs de ces deux bourses.

 

INFORMATION RELATIVE À LA GOUVERNANCE

 

En vertu de la réglementation de l’Autorité des marchés financiers, les sociétés inscrites en bourse doivent communiquer des informations à propos du conseil et de ses membres pour permettre aux investisseurs et autres parties prenantes d’évaluer la qualité de la gouvernance de la société et leur permettre de prendre une décision éclairée quant à leur vote à l’assemblée annuelle. Notre collecte d’information a mis en lumière divers éléments qui limitent la capacité des parties prenantes à obtenir une bonne compréhension de la gouvernance d’une société. Pour les sociétés de la TSX, il faut consulter deux documents (la circulaire de sollicitation de procurations et la notice annuelle) pour obtenir toutes les informations relatives aux administrateurs et au conseil. De plus, dans la circulaire, la section où se retrouvent certaines informations varie d’une société à l’autre. Finalement, les allègements consentis aux sociétés de la TSXV quant à la communication de certaines informations limitent la capacité à évaluer la gouvernance sur ces dimensions.

Dix erreurs que les conseils peuvent éviter sur les droits de l’homme


Voici un article publié par MAZAR* sur les erreurs les plus fréquentes que commettent les conseils eu égard aux risques associés aux droits de la personne.

Selon les auteurs, la plus grande erreur est de ne pas reconnaître la gravité des risques, mais ce n’est pas le seul danger !

L’article a été publié en anglais. J’ai utilisé le traducteur de Chrome pour produire le texte français ci-dessous. La qualité de la traduction est très bonne et cela facilitera la vie des francophones !

Voici dix erreurs que les conseils peuvent éviter.

Bonne lecture !

Dix erreurs que les conseils peuvent éviter sur les droits de l’homme

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « conditions de travail abusives »

 

  1. Identifier et comprendre les risques

Les conseils échouent souvent à identifier et à comprendre les risques graves pour les droits de la personne, tels que les conditions de travail abusives liées aux salaires, aux contrats, à la sécurité, à la santé et au recours au travail des enfants, au travail forcé et à la traite des personnes. Ces pratiques abusives peuvent entraîner des dommages juridiques, financiers et de réputation.

  1. Soyez prêt

Attendre que quelque chose se passe mal avant de s’attaquer aux responsabilités en matière de droits de l’homme sur le lieu de travail et dans les chaînes d’approvisionnement est une voie sûre pour les gros problèmes. Il est essentiel d’établir un plan clair sur la manière de relever les défis et de fournir suffisamment de ressources pour le faire.

  1. Chercher de l’aide par le haut

Essayer de mettre en place de bonnes normes en matière de droits de l’homme dans la culture et la prise de décision de l’entreprise dans toutes les opérations et dans tous les lieux géographiques sans obtenir le soutien des plus grands directeurs échouera.

  1. Réaliser des audits réguliers

Ne présumez pas que les droits de la personne sont respectés dans vos chaînes d’approvisionnement, chez vous ou à l’étranger. Les conseils doivent veiller à ce que des audits et des revues des chaînes soient régulièrement effectués afin de garantir le respect des bonnes pratiques en matière de droits de l’homme. L’exposition tragique des conditions épouvantables des travailleurs de l’industrie textile au Bangladesh et dans d’autres pays a trop souvent fait les gros titres ces dernières années.

  1. Obtenez un expert à bord

Évitez toute attitude arrogante en matière de droits de l’homme et nommez au conseil une personne possédant une solide expertise, notamment en ce qui concerne le respect des exigences réglementaires nationales et internationales, ou formez un membre du conseil à diriger.

  1. Établir des canaux appropriés

Le fait de ne pas mettre en place les canaux adéquats pour permettre aux personnes internes ou externes à l’entreprise de faire part de leurs préoccupations concernant les droits de l’homme et leurs conséquences pour atteindre le conseil d’administration et la haute direction est une erreur courante.

  1. S’attaquer aux fautes professionnelles

Ne soyez pas tenté de nier ou de cacher toute malversation révélée, mais résolvez-le et apportez le changement de manière efficace grâce aux meilleures pratiques.

  1. Assurer l’engagement des parties prenantes

Il faut éviter un faible engagement avec les parties prenantes, car il est important de communiquer clairement sur la manière dont le conseil d’administration traite ses problèmes de droits de l’homme, en particulier si des problèmes se sont posés. Les actionnaires, en particulier, se posent davantage de questions sur les processus de gestion des risques liés aux droits de l’homme et sur la manière dont l’entreprise relève les défis et mesure les progrès.

  1. Ne prenez pas de raccourcis

Il est préférable de ne pas prendre de raccourcis pour remplir les exigences en matière de rapports réglementaires, telles que donner une réponse rapide ou répéter le contenu du rapport de l’année dernière. Les Principes directeurs des Nations Unies indiquent clairement comment rendre compte des questions relatives aux droits de l’homme dans un rapport annuel ou un rapport sur le développement durable.

  1. Évitez la complaisance

Devenir complaisant face au bilan de votre entreprise en matière de droits de l’homme n’est pas une option. De nouveaux systèmes tels que la Workforce Disclosure Initiative dirigée par des investisseurs, qui appelle à davantage de transparence sur la manière dont les entreprises gèrent leurs employés et les employés de la chaîne d’approvisionnement, se développent et mettent les entreprises à la loupe.


*Cet article a été produit par Board Agenda en collaboration avec Mazars, un partenaire de Board Agenda.

Vague de déréglementation des sociétés américaines sous l’administration Trump | Est-ce judicieux ?


Aujourd’hui, un article publié par Mark Lebovitch et Jacob Spaid de la firme Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, paru dans HLS Forum, a attiré mon attention.

En effet, l’article décrit les gestes posés par l’administration Trump qui sont susceptibles d’avoir un impact significatif sur les marchés financiers en réduisant la transparence et la reddition de compte des grandes entreprises publiques soumises à la réglementation de la SEC.

Les auteurs brossent un portrait plutôt sombre des attaques portées à la SEC par l’administration en place.

« Several administration priorities are endangering financial markets by reducing corporate accountability and transparency.

Nearly two years into the Trump presidency, extensive deregulation is raising risks for investors. Several of the administration’s priorities are endangering financial markets by reducing corporate accountability and transparency. SEC enforcement actions under the Administration continue to lag previous years. The Trump administration has also instructed the SEC to study reducing companies’ reporting obligations to investors, including by abandoning a hallmark of corporate disclosure: the quarterly earnings report. Meanwhile, President Trump and Congress have passed new legislation loosening regulations on the same banks that played a central role in the Great Recession. It is important for institutional investors to stay abreast of these emerging developments as they contemplate the risk of their investments amid stark changes in the regulatory landscape ».

L’article s’intitule « In Corporations We Trust : Ongoing Deregulation and Government Protections ». Les auteurs mettent en lumière les actions menées par les autorités réglementaires américaines pour réaffirmer les prérogatives des entreprises.

La SEC fait-elle fausse route en amoindrissant la réglementation des entreprises ? Quel est votre point de vue ?

 

In Corporations We Trust: Ongoing Deregulation and Government Protections

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « SEC »

 

The number of SEC actions against public companies is plummeting

 

The number of SEC actions enforcing the federal securities laws is now lower than in previous administrations. In 2016, before President Trump took office, the SEC filed 868 enforcement actions and recovered $4.08 billion in settlements. These figures declined to 754 enforcement actions and $3.78 billion in settlements in 2017. Enforcement actions against public companies in particular dropped by a third, from 92 actions in 2016 to just 62 in 2017. The first half of 2018 witnessed an even more precipitous decline in SEC enforcement actions. Compared to the same six-month period in 2017, enforcement actions against public companies have dropped by 66 percent, from 45 such actions to just 15. More importantly, recoveries against public companies over the same time period were down a stunning 93.5 percent.

The most recently released data confirms the SEC’s retreat from enforcement. On November 2, 2018, the SEC released its fiscal year 2018 Annual Report: Division of Enforcement, which shows that the SEC’s enforcement efforts and results during the first 20 months under the Trump administration pale in comparison to those of the same period under the Obama administration, with the SEC (1) charging far fewer high-profile defendants, including less than half as many banks and approximately 40 percent fewer public companies; (2) shifting its focus from complex, market-manipulation cases involving large numbers of investors, to simpler, less time-intensive cases involving fewer investors, such as actions against investment advisors accused of lying and stealing; (3) recovering nearly $1 billion less; and (4) returning approximately 62 percent less to investors ($1.7 billion compared to $5 billion).

The enforcement numbers with regard to public companies are consistent with Chairman Jay Clayton’s stated intention to change the SEC’s focus away from enforcement actions against large companies that commit fraud. During his first speech as SEC Chairman, Clayton expressly rejected the enforcement philosophy of former SEC Chair Mary Jo White, who had pushed the SEC to be “aggressive and creative” in pursuing penalties against all wrongdoers to ensure that the SEC would “have a presence everywhere and be perceived to be everywhere.” Clayton stated that “the SEC cannot be everywhere” and that “increased disclosure and other burdens” on public companies “are, in two words, not good.” Rather than utilizing SEC enforcement powers to protect investors and deter fraud, Clayton’s priority is to provide information to investors so they can protect themselves. As Clayton explained, his “short but important message” for investors is that “the best way to protect yourself is to check out who you are dealing with, and the SEC wants to make that easier.” This comment comes dangerously close to “caveat emptor.”

A recent appointee to the SEC under President Trump, Commissioner Hester M. Peirce, is also an advocate for limiting enforcement. Peirce views civil penalties against corporations not as an effective regulatory tool, but rather as an “area of concern” that justifies her vetoing enforcement actions. Commissioner Peirce has also publicly admitted (perhaps touted) that the current SEC is not inclined to bring any cases that involve novel issues that might “push the bounds of authority,” such as those involving “overly broad interpretations of ‘security’ or extraterritorial impositions of the law.” Far from focusing on the interests of investors whose capital literally keeps our markets at the forefront of the global economy, Peirce has expressed concern for the “psychological toll” that an SEC investigation can take on suspected perpetrators of fraud.

Given the SEC’s stark departure from its previous stance in favor of pursuing enforcement actions to protect investors, investors should take extra measures to stay informed about the companies in which they are invested. Investors should also demand increased transparency in corporate reporting, and evaluate their rights in the face of suspected fraud.

 

President Trump directs the SEC to consider eliminating quarterly reporting requirements

 

For generations, investors in the US stock markets have relied on quarterly reports to apprise them of companies’ financial condition, recent developments, and business prospects. Such quarterly reports have been required by the SEC since 1970, and are now widely considered part of the bedrock of corporate transparency to investors. Even before 1970, more than half of the companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange voluntarily issued quarterly reports.

Consistent with a focus on protecting companies, some of whom may well violate SEC rules and regulations, at the expense of the investing public, in August 2018, President Trump instructed the SEC to study whether eliminating quarterly reporting requirements will “allow greater flexibility and save money” and “make business (jobs) even better.” President Trump stated that he based his instruction on advice from “some of the world’s top business leaders,” but provided no evidence of that assertion.

While eliminating quarterly reporting would certainly “allow greater flexibility” for corporations doing the reporting, investors would suffer from the resulting lack of transparency. Unsurprisingly, some of the world’s most prominent financial leaders, including Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon, have criticized the suggested elimination of quarterly reporting. Buffett and Dimon have explained that such reporting is necessary for corporate transparency and “an essential aspect of US public markets.” This makes sense for numerous reasons, including that without quarterly reports, significant corporate events that took place in between reporting periods could go unreported. Notably, Buffett and Dimon acknowledge that quarterly earnings guidance can over-emphasize short-term profits at the expense of long-term focus and growth. Yet they still favor the transparency and accountability offered by quarterly reporting over a world in which companies can effectively “go dark” for extended periods of time.

It is unclear how quickly the SEC may move to review President Trump’s suggested elimination of quarterly reporting. In October 2018, SEC Chairman Clayton explained that quarterly reporting will remain in effect. But days later, the SEC announced that it may, in fact, draft a notice for public feedback on the proposed change.

Meanwhile, Congress is moving forward with legislation that could lead to the elimination of quarterly reporting. In July 2018, the House of Representatives passed the JOBS and Investor Confidence Act of 2018 (aka “JOBS Act 3.0”). If enacted into law, the Act would require that the SEC provide to Congress a cost-benefit analysis of quarterly reporting requirements, as well as recommendations of ways to decrease corporate reporting costs. The harm to investors from decreased reporting is not necessarily a focus of Congress’s request. The Senate is expected to consider the JOBS 3.0 in the near term.

Congress and regulators weaken banking regulations

 

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) is the landmark legislation passed in response to the high-risk, predatory and fraudulent banking practices that led to the Great Recession, and which has as a primary focus on increasing regulation of the financial services industry. President Trump, however, has referred to Dodd-Frank as a “disaster” that has prevented many “friends of [his], with nice businesses” from borrowing money. President Trump made promises on the campaign trail that he would “kill” Dodd-Frank and repeated the same vow early in his presidency, stating that he would “do a big number on” Dodd-Frank.

Making good on his promises, on May 24, 2018, President Trump signed into law Senator Mike Crapo’s Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (the Crapo Bill). The Crapo Bill removes many mandatory oversight measures put in place to ensure that banks engage in transparent and safe lending, investing, and leverage activities, striking a significant blow to Dodd-Frank protections and placing investors’ assets at risk. As Senator Elizabeth Warren stated, despite the Crapo Bill being sold as one that will relieve “small” banks from “big” bank regulation, it puts “American consumers at greater risk.” The Crapo Bill rolled back certain regulations for banks with less than $250 billion in assets under management and rolled back additional regulations for banks with less than $10 billion in assets under management.

For example, the Crapo Bill raises from $50 to $250 billion the threshold at which a bank is considered a systemically important financial institution (SIFI)—the point at which the Federal Reserve’s heightened prudential standards become mandatory (e.g., mandatory stress tests that measure a bank’s ability to withstand a financial downturn). At the time Dodd-Frank was enacted, approximately 40 banks were considered SIFIs. Only 12 banks would now meet that standard. Moreover, proponents of the bill refer to the $250 billion threshold as an “arbitrary” benchmark to assess a bank’s systemic risk, arguing that over sight should be lessened even for banks with more than $250 billion. In short, the Crapo Bill essentially opens the door for the same type of high-risk, predatory and fraudulent banking practices that led to the financial crisis and threatens the stability and prominence of the United States’ financial markets.

A new direction at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) similarly invites banks to increase their leverage and thus threatens the stability of the financial system. OCC head Joseph Otting, a former CEO of OneWest Bank, recently instructed financial institutions that they should not feel bound by OCC leverage regulations, encouraging them to “do what you want as long as it does not impair safety and soundness. It’s not our position to challenge that.” Far from “challenging” the financial entities that the OCC is tasked with regulating, Otting instead has told bankers that they are the OCC’s “customers” and the Trump administration is “very banker-supportive.”

 

Institutional investors are the last line of defense

 

Congress and federal regulators have taken significant steps to change the regulatory landscape, and new efforts are underway to weaken well-established norms from SEC enforcement to quarterly reporting requirements. The core philosophy of those running the SEC and other critical regulators seems to abandon historic concern for investors in favor of a view that government should exist to protect and benefit corporations (whether or not they comply with the law). The institutional investor community should continue to speak out in favor of corporate transparency and help ensure the continued health and prominence of the United States’ financial

Les avantages d’une structure de capital composée d’actions multivotantes


C’est avec ravissement que je vous recommande la lecture de cette onzième prise de position d’Yvan Allaire* au nom de l’IGOPP.

Au Canada, mais aussi dans plusieurs pays, les actions multivotantes n’ont pas la cote ! Bien que certains arguments en faveur de l’exclusion de ce type de structure de capital soient de prime abord assez convaincantes, il existe plusieurs autres considérations qui doivent être prises en compte avant de les interdire et de les fustiger.

Comme l’auteur le mentionne dans ses recommandations, l’analyse attentive de ce type d’action montre les nombreux avantages à se doter de cet instrument.

J’ai reproduit, ci-dessous, le sommaire exécutif du document ainsi que les recommandations. Pour plus de détails, je vous invite à lire le texte au complet.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus. Ils orienteront les nouvelles exigences en matière de gouvernance.

 

Prise de position en faveur des actions multivotantes

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « action multivotantes »

 

Sommaire exécutif

 

En 2018, 69 sociétés ayant des actions à droit de vote supérieur (ADVS) étaient inscrites à la bourse de Toronto alors qu’elles étaient 100 en 2005. De 2005 à 2018, 38 n’avaient plus d’ADVS suite à des fusions, acquisitions, faillites et autres, 16 sociétés avaient converti leurs ADVS en actions à droit de vote unique et 23 nouvelles sociétés ayant des ADVS s’étaient inscrites à la bourse de Toronto
en émettant des ADVS.

Les arguments pour ou contre ce type de structure de capital-actions sont nombreux et, à certains égards, persuasifs. D’une part, certains fonds « proactifs » (notamment les fonds de couverture « activistes ») insistent auprès de conseils et des directions de sociétés publiques ciblées pour que soient prises des mesures et des décisions, qui selon eux feraient accroître le prix de l’action, quand ce n’est pas carrément de chercher à imposer la vente prématurée de l’entreprise au plus offrant. Évidemment, ce phénomène a renforcé la détermination des entrepreneurs à se protéger contre de telles pressions en adoptant lors de leur premier appel public à l’épargne des actions ayant différents droits de vote (davantage aux USA qu’au Canada).

D’autre part, les fonds indiciels et les fonds négociés en bourse (FNB ou ETF en anglais), désormais des investisseurs importants et en croissance, mais obligés de refléter soigneusement dans leurs placements la composition et la valeur des titres des indices boursiers, ne peuvent donc pas simplement manifester leurs insatisfactions en vendant leurs actions. Ils doivent exercer leur influence sur la direction d’une société par l’exercice de leur droit de vote (lequel est restreint dans les sociétés ayant des ADVS) et en exprimant haut et fort leur frustration et leurs désaccords. C’est sans surprise que ces fonds sont farouchement opposés aux actions à droit de vote supérieur, exhortant avec succès les fournisseurs d’indices (ex. : Dow-Jones, et autres) à exclure toutes nouvelles sociétés ayant des actions à droit de vote supérieur.

Ils font aussi campagne, avec moins de succès à ce jour, auprès de la Securities and Exchange Commission des États-Unis (SEC) afin qu’elle interdise cette structure de capital-actions. Leur dernier stratagème en date, promu par le Council of Institutional Investors (CII), serait d’imposer une clause crépusculaire temporelle obligatoire rentrant en vigueur 7 ans après un PAPE3. Bien entendu, ce terme pourrait être renouvelé par un vote majoritaire de  l’ensemble des actionnaires (quels que soient leurs droits de vote).

La question des « clauses crépusculaires » est ainsi devenue un enjeu névralgique. Certains investisseurs institutionnels, les agences de conseils en vote et autres gendarmes de la gouvernance ainsi qu’un certain nombre de chercheurs académiques proposent de restreindre, de contrôler et d’imposer un temps limite à la liberté relative que procurent aux entrepreneurs et aux entreprises familiales les actions à droits de vote supérieurs.

Au cours des dernières années, un vif débat s’est engagé, particulièrement aux États-Unis, entre les apôtres du dogme « une action, un vote » et les hérétiques qui estiment bénéfiques les actions ayant des droits de vote inégaux.

 

Recommandations

 

Les sociétés ayant des ADVS et les entreprises familiales comportent de grands avantages à la condition que soient bien protégés les porteurs d’actions ayant des droits de vote inférieurs.

La clause d’égalité de traitement (« coattail ») imposée depuis 1987 par la Bourse de Toronto, une caractéristique uniquement canadienne, doit être conservée pour les sociétés qui ont émis ou voudraient émettre des actions ayant différents droits de vote.

Comme l’IGOPP l’a fait en 2006, il recommande à nouveau en 2018 que le ratio des droits de vote des ADVS soit plafonné à 4:1, ce qui signifie qu’il est nécessaire de détenir 20 % de la valeur des capitaux propres de la société pour en détenir le contrôle absolu (50 % des votes et plus).

La bourse TSX de Toronto devrait plafonner le ratio des droits de vote des ADVS à 10:1.

Les actions sans droit de vote devraient être interdites ; en effet, il est impossible d’accorder le droit d’élire un tiers des membres du conseil à des actionnaires qui n’ont aucun droit de vote ; ou encore d’assurer un décompte distinct des votes sur les propositions des actionnaires et pour l’élection des membres du conseil à une classe d’actionnaires sans droit de vote !

Nous recommandons fortement un décompte distinct des voix pour chaque classe d’actions et de rendre les résultats publics, tant pour l’élection des membres du conseil d’administration que pour toute autre proposition soumise au vote des actionnaires.

Les actionnaires disposant de droits de vote inférieurs devraient avoir le droit d’élire un tiers des membres du conseil d’administration, dont les candidatures seraient proposées par le conseil. Jumelée au décompte distinct des voix pour chaque classe d’actions, cette mesure inciterait le conseil et les gestionnaires à sélectionner des candidats susceptibles de s’attirer les faveurs des actionnaires « minoritaires ». Évidemment, tous les membres du conseil d’administration ne doivent agir que dans l’intérêt de la société.

Pour les raisons citées précédemment et expliquées par la suite dans la position, l’IGOPP s’oppose résolument à l’imposition de clauses crépusculaires temporelles pour les sociétés ayant des ADVS. Nous sommes aussi contre les clauses crépusculaires déclenchées par un événement précis ainsi que par celles déclenchées en fonction de l’âge du fondateur, de l’entrepreneur ou de l’actionnaire de contrôle.

Toutefois, l’IGOPP recommande qu’à l’avenir une clause crépusculaire basée sur un seuil de propriété (dilution sunset) soit incluse lors du PAPE d’une société faisant usage d’ADVS.

Dans la suite logique de notre démonstration de la valeur économique et sociale des entreprises familiales, l’IGOPP est favorable à une grande latitude de transférabilité du contrôle aux membres de la famille du fondateur.

Également dans la suite de notre appui aux ADVS comme rempart contre les visées à court terme et l’influence indue de certains types de spéculateurs, nous recommandons que le contrôle de ces sociétés puisse aussi être transmis à une fiducie dirigée par une majorité de fiduciaires indépendants au bénéfice des héritiers du fondateur.

Lorsqu’un parent ou un descendant de l’actionnaire de contrôle est candidat pour le poste de PDG, les administrateurs indépendants, conseillés adéquatement, devraient discuter des mérites des divers candidats avec l’actionnaire de contrôle et faire rapport de la démarche adoptée par le conseil pour arrêter son choix à l’assemblée annuelle des actionnaires suivant l’entrée en fonction d’un nouveau chef de la direction.

L’IGOPP est favorable à l’adoption d’une forme d’ADVS comportant des droits de vote supérieurs que pour l’élection de la majorité (ou la totalité) des membres du conseil.

« L’examen approfondi des arguments et des controverses à propos d’actions multivotantes nous mène à la conclusion que les avantages de cette structure l’emportent haut la main sur ses inconvénients.

Non seulement de plus en plus d’études confortent leur performance économique, mais le fait de combiner la propriété familiale et les actions à droit de vote supérieur résulte en une plus grande longévité de l’entreprise, en une meilleure intégration dans les collectivités hôtes, à moins de vulnérabilité aux pressions des actionnaires de court terme et à moins de susceptibilité aux « modes » stratégiques et financières.

Cette précieuse forme de propriété doit être assortie de mesures assurant le respect et la protection des droits des actionnaires minoritaires. Nous avons formulé un certain nombre de recommandations à cette fin. Nous encourageons les sociétés ayant présentement des ADVS et les entrepreneurs qui souhaiteront demain inscrire une société en bourse et émettre des ADVS à adopter nos recommandations ».

 


*Ce document a été préparé et rédigé par Yvan Allaire, Ph. D. (MIT), MSRC, président exécutif du conseil d’administration de l’IGOPP.

L’âge des administrateurs de sociétés représente-t-il un facteur déterminant dans leur efficacité comme membres indépendants de conseils d’administration ?


Voici une question que beaucoup de personnes expertes avec les notions de bonne gouvernance se posent : « L’âge des administrateurs de sociétés représente-t-il un facteur déterminant dans leur efficacité comme membres indépendants de conseils d’administration ? »

En d’autres termes, les administrateurs indépendants (AI) de 65 ans et plus sont-ils plus avisés, ou sont-ils carrément trop âgés ?

L’étude menée par Ronald Masulis* de l’Université de New South Wales Australian School of Business et de ses collègues est très originale dans sa conception et elle montre que malgré toutes les réformes réglementaires des dernières années, l’âge des administrateurs indépendants est plus élevé au lieu d’être plus bas, comme on le souhaitait.

L’étude montre que pendant la période allant de 1998 à 2014, l’âge médian des administrateurs indépendants (AI) des grandes entreprises américaines est passé de 60 à 64 ans. De plus, le pourcentage de firmes ayant une majorité de AI de plus de 65 ans est passé de 26 % à 50 % !

L’étude montre que le choix d’administrateurs indépendants de plus de 65 ans se fait au détriment d’une nouvelle classe de jeunes administrateurs dynamiques et compétents. Cela a pour effet de réduire le bassin des nouveaux administrateurs requis pour des postes d’administrateurs de la relève, ainsi que pour les besoins criants d’une plus grande diversité.

In our new study Directors: Older and Wiser, or Too Old to Govern?, we investigate this boardroom aging phenomenon and examine how it affects board effectiveness in terms of firm decision making and shareholder value creation. On the one hand, older independent directors can be valuable resources to firms given their wealth of business experience and professional connections accumulated over the course of their long careers. Moreover, since they are most likely to have retired from their full-time jobs, they should have more time available to devote to their board responsibilities. On the other hand, older independent directors can face declining energy, physical strength, and mental acumen, which can undermine their monitoring and advisory functions. They can also have less incentive to build and maintain their reputation in the director labor market, given their dwindling future directorship opportunities and shorter expected board tenure as they approach normal retirement age.

Dans la foulée des mouvements activistes, plusieurs entreprises semblent faire le choix d’AI plus âgés. Cependant, l’analyse coût/bénéfice de l’efficacité des AI plus âgés montre que leurs rendements est possiblement surfait et que la tendance à éliminer ou à retarder l’âge limite de retraite doit faire l’objet d’une bonne réflexion !

Si le sujet vous intéresse, je vous invite à lire l’article original. Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

Bonne lecture !

Directors: Older and Wiser, or Too Old to Govern?

 

 

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The past two decades have witnessed dramatic changes to the boards of directors of U.S. public corporations. Several recent governance reforms (the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the revised 2003 NYSE/Nasdaq listing rules, and the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act) combined with a rise in shareholder activism have enhanced director qualifications and independence and made boards more accountable. These regulatory changes have significantly increased the responsibilities and liabilities of outside directors. Many firms have also placed limits on how many boards a director can sit on. This changing environment has reduced the ability and incentives of active senior corporate executives to serve on outside boards. Faced with this reduced supply of qualified independent directors and the increased demand for them, firms are increasingly relying on older director candidates. As a result, in recent years the boards of U.S. public corporations have become notably older in age. For example, over the period of 1998 to 2014, the median age of independent directors at large U.S. firms rose from 60 to 64, and the percentage of firms with a majority of independent directors age 65 or above nearly doubled from 26% to 50%.

In our new study Directors: Older and Wiser, or Too Old to Govern?, we investigate this boardroom aging phenomenon and examine how it affects board effectiveness in terms of firm decision making and shareholder value creation. On the one hand, older independent directors can be valuable resources to firms given their wealth of business experience and professional connections accumulated over the course of their long careers. Moreover, since they are most likely to have retired from their full-time jobs, they should have more time available to devote to their board responsibilities. On the other hand, older independent directors can face declining energy, physical strength, and mental acumen, which can undermine their monitoring and advisory functions. They can also have less incentive to build and maintain their reputation in the director labor market, given their dwindling future directorship opportunities and shorter expected board tenure as they approach normal retirement age.

We analyze a sample of S&P 1500 firms over the 1998-2014 period and define an independent director as an “older independent director” (OID) if he or she is at least 65 years old. We begin by evaluating individual director performance by comparing board meeting attendance records and major board committee responsibilities of older versus younger directors. Controlling for a battery of director and firm characteristics as well as director, year, and industry fixed effects, we find that OIDs exhibit poorer board attendance records and are less likely to serve as the chair or a member of an important board committee. These results suggest that OIDs either are less able or have weaker incentives to fulfill their board duties.

We next examine major corporate policies and find a large body of evidence consistently pointing to monitoring deficiencies of OIDs. To measure the extent of boardroom aging, we construct a variable, OID %, as the fraction of all independent directors who are categorized as OIDs. As the percentage of OIDs on corporate boards rises, excess CEO compensation increases. This relationship is mainly driven by the cash component of CEO compensation. A greater OID presence on corporate boards is also associated with firms having lower financial reporting quality, poorer acquisition profitability measured by announcement returns, less generous payout polices, and lower CEO turnover-to-performance sensitivity. Moreover, we find that firm performance, measured either by a firm’s return on assets or its Tobin’s Q, is significantly lower when firms have a greater fraction of OIDs on their boards. These results collectively support the conclusion that OIDs suffer from monitoring deficiencies that impair the board’s effectiveness in providing management oversight.

We employ a number of approaches to address the endogeneity issue. First, we include firm-fixed effects wherever applicable to control for unobservable time-invariant firm-specific factors that may correlate with both the presence of OIDs and the firm outcome variables that we study. Second, we employ an instrumental variable regression approach where we instrument for the presence of OIDs on a firm’s board with a measure capturing the local supply of older director candidates in the firm’s headquarters state. We find that all of our firm-level results continue to hold under a two-stage IV regression framework. Third, we exploit a regulatory shock to firms’ board composition. The NYSE and Nasdaq issued new listing standards in 2003 following the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), which required listed firms to have a majority of independent directors on the board. We show that firms non-compliant with the new rule experienced a significantly larger increase in the percentage of OIDs over the 2000-2005 period compared to compliant firms. A major reason for this difference is that noncompliant firms needed to hire more OIDs to comply with the new listing standards. Using a firm’s noncompliance status as an instrument for the change in the board’s OID percentage, we find that firm performance deteriorates as noncompliant firms increase OIDs on their boards. We also conduct two event studies, one on OID appointment announcements and the other on the announcements of firm policy changes that increase the mandatory retirement age of outside directors. We find that shareholders react negatively to both announcements.

In our final set of analysis, we explore cross-sectional variations in the relation between OIDs and firm performance and policies. We find that the negative relation between OIDs and firm performance is more pronounced when OIDs hold multiple outside board seats. This evidence suggests that “busyness” exacerbates the monitoring deficiency of OIDs. We also find that for firms with high advisory needs, the relation between OIDs and firm performance is no longer significantly negative and in some cases, becomes positive. These results are consistent with OIDs using their experience and resources to provide valuable counsel to senior managers in need of board advice. Also consistent with OIDs performing a valuable advisory function, our analysis of acquirer returns shows that the negative relation between OIDs and acquirer returns is limited to OIDs who have neither prior acquisition experience, nor experience in the target industry. For OIDs with either type of experience, their marginal effect on acquirer returns is non-negative, and sometimes significantly positive.

Our research is the first investigation of the pervasive and growing phenomenon of boardroom aging at large U.S. corporations and its impact on board effectiveness and firm performance. As the debate over director age limits continues in the news media and among activist shareholders and regulators, our findings on the costs and benefits associated with OIDs can provide important and timely policy guidance. For companies considering lifting or waiving mandatory director retirement age requirements, so as to lower the burden of recruiting and retaining experienced independent directors, our evidence should give them pause. Similarly, while recent corporate governance reforms and the rise in shareholder activism have made boards, and especially independent directors, more accountable for managerial decisions and firm performance, they may also have created the unintended consequence of shrinking the supply of potential independent directors who are younger active executives. This result has led firms to tap deeper into the pool of older director candidates, which our analysis shows can undermine the very objectives that corporate governance reforms seek to accomplish.

The complete paper is available for download here.

___________________________________________________________________________________

*Ronald Masulis is Scientia Professor of Finance at University of New South Wales Australian School of Business; Cong Wang is Professor of Finance at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen and the associate director of Shenzhen Finance Institute; Fei Xie is Associate Professor of Finance at the University of Delaware; and Shuran Zhang is Associate Professor of Finance at Jinan University. This post is based on their recent paper.

Dix sujets « hots » pour les administrateurs en 2019


Voici dix thèmes « chauds » qui devraient préoccuper les administrateurs en 2019.

Ils ont été identifiés par Kerry BerchemChristine LaFollette, et Frank Reddick, associés de la firme Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Le billet est paru aujourd’hui sur le forum du Harvard Law School.

Bonne lecture ! Quels sont vos points de vue à ce sujet ?

 

Top 10 Topics for Directors in 2019

 

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld »

 

1. Corporate Culture

The corporate culture of a company starts at the top, with the board of directors, and directors should be attuned not only to the company’s business, but also to its people and values across the company. Ongoing and thoughtful efforts to understand the company’s culture and address any issues will help the board prepare for possible crises, reduce potential liability and facilitate appropriate responses internally and externally.

2. Board Diversity

As advocates and studies continue to highlight the business case for diversity, public companies are facing increasing pressure from corporate governance groups, investors, regulators and other stakeholders to improve gender and other diversity on the board. As a recent McKinsey report highlights, many successful companies regard inclusion and diversity as a source of competitive advantage and, specifically, as a key enabler of growth.

3. #MeToo Movement

A responsible board should anticipate the possibility that allegations of sexual harassment may arise against a C-suite or other senior executive. The board should set the right tone from the top to create a respectful culture at the company and have a plan in place before these incidents occur. In that way, the board is able to quickly and appropriately respond to any such allegations. Any such response plan should include conducting an investigation, proper communications with the affected parties and the implementation of any necessary remedial steps.

4. Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) concerns remained a hot-button issue in 2018. Social issues were at the forefront this year, ranging from gun violence, to immigration reform, to human trafficking, to calls for greater accountability and action from the private sector on issues such as climate change. This reflects a trend that likely foretells continued and increased focus on environmental, social and governance issues, including from regulatory authorities.

5. Corporate Strategy

Strategic planning should continue to be a high priority for boards in 2019, with a focus on the individual and combined impacts of the U.S. and global economies, geopolitical and regulatory uncertainties, and mergers and acquisitions activity on their industries and companies. Boards should consider maximizing synergies from recent acquisitions or reviewing their companies’ existing portfolios for potential divestitures.

6. Sanctions

During the second year of the Trump administration, U.S. sanctions expanded significantly to include new restrictions that target transactions with Iran, Russia and Venezuela. Additionally, the U.S. government has expanded its use of secondary sanctions to penalize non-U.S. companies that engage in proscribed activities involving sanctioned persons and countries. To avoid sanctions-related risks, boards should understand how these evolving rules apply to the business activities of their companies and management teams.

7. Shareholder Activism

There has been an overall increase in activism campaigns in 2018 regarding both the number of companies targeted and the number of board seats won by these campaigns. This year has also seen an uptick in traditionally passive and institutional investors playing an active role in encouraging company engagement with activists, advocating for change themselves and formulating express policies for handling activist campaigns.

8. Cybersecurity

With threats of nation-states infiltrating supply chains, and landmark laws being passed, cybersecurity and privacy are critical aspects of director oversight. Directors must focus on internal controls to guard against cyber-threats (including accounting, cybersecurity and insider trading) and expand diligence of third-party suppliers. Integrating both privacy and security by design will be critical to minimizing ongoing risk of cybersecurity breaches and state and federal enforcement.

9. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

A year has passed since President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) into law, and there will be plenty of potential actions and new faces on the tax landscape in 2019. Both the Senate Finance Committee and the Ways and Means Committee will have new chairs, and Treasury regulations implementing the TCJA will be finalized. President Trump will continue to make middle-class tax cuts a priority heading into next year. Perennial issues, such as transportation, retirement savings and health care, will likely make an appearance, and legislation improving the tax reform bill could be on the table depending on the outcome of the Treasury regulations.

10. SEC Regulation and Enforcement

To encourage public security ownership, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has adopted and proposed significant revisions to update and simplify disclosure requirements for public companies. It has taken steps to enhance the board’s role in evaluating whether to include shareholder proposals in a company’s proxy statement. It has also solicited comments on the possible reform of proxy advisor regulation, following increasing and competing calls from corporations, investor advocates and congressional leaders to revise these regulations. Boards and companies should monitor developments in this area, as well as possible changes in congressional and administration emphasis following the 2018 midterm elections.

Bonus: Midterm Elections

The 2018 midterm elections are officially over. Americans across the country cast their ballots for candidates for the House of Representatives and the Senate in what was widely perceived to be a referendum on President Trump’s first two years in office. With Democrats taking control of the House, and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate, a return to divided government will bring new challenges for effective governance. Compromise and bipartisanship will be tested by what is expected to be an aggressive oversight push from House Democrats. However, areas where there may be possible compromise include federal data privacy standards, infrastructure development, criminal justice reform and pharmaceutical drug pricing initiatives.

The complete publication is available here.

Éléments susceptibles d’influer sur les décisions relatives à la gouvernance des grandes entreprises en 2019


L’article ci-dessous brosse un portrait de ce qui attend les grandes entreprises en 2019. Le billet de Holly J. Gregory, associé de la firme Sidley Austin, a été publié sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum aujourd’hui.

Quelles sont les variables susceptibles d’influer sur les décisions relatives à la gouvernance ainsi que sur les relations avec les actionnaires ?

L’auteur fait ressortir les éléments critiques suivants :

  1. Le maintien des caractéristiques du rôle du conseil et des devoirs des administrateurs;
  2. L’examen approfondi de la primauté des actionnaires et de leur influence;
  3. La réforme du vote par procuration et la réglementation des conseillers en vote;
  4. La poursuite de la convergence des idées sur les pratiques de gouvernance d’entreprise;
  5. Un accent encore plus affirmé sur les questions environnementales, sociales et de gouvernance (ESG);
  6. Une demande continue d’engagement des actionnaires et d’attention envers les investisseurs activistes.

 

Bonne lecture !

 

Looking Ahead: Key Trends in Corporate Governance

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « trend en gouvernance »

Board’s Role and Director Duties Remain Durable

 

While the corporate governance environment is always changing, board responsibilities and the fiduciary duties of directors under state corporate law have proven remarkably durable. Directors must:

Manage or direct the affairs of the company and cannot abdicate that responsibility by deferring to shareholder pressure.

Act with due care, without conflict, in good faith, and in the company’s best interest.

Delegate and oversee management of the company (for example, by selecting the CEO, monitoring the CEO’s performance, and planning for succession), and oversee strategy and risk management.

Ensuring that the day-to-day management of the company is in the right hands, providing management with forward-looking strategic guidance, and monitoring management’s efforts to identify and manage risk, including risks that pose an existential threat, remain at the heart of the board’s role. To accomplish this, boards need to understand and address disruptive risks. Boards should be mindful that adequate time is reserved on the agenda for these matters, with less focus on formal management presentations and more focus on the problems and concerns management is grappling with.

The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Blue Ribbon Commission recently provided guidance on oversight of risks that pose an existential threat (NACD, Adaptive Governance: Board Oversight of Disruptive Risks (Oct. 2018), available at nacdonline.org). The Commission recommends that boards prioritize certain actions, including:

Understanding and addressing disruptive risks “in the context of the [company’s] specific circumstances, strategic assumptions, and objectives.”

Allocating oversight of disruptive risks between and among the full board and its committees, and clarifying the allocation of responsibilities in committee charters.

Recognizing that enterprise risk management processes may not capture disruptive risks.

Evaluating board culture regularly for “openness to sharing
concerns, potential problems, or bad news; response to mistakes; and acceptance of nontraditional points of view.”

Assessing “leadership abilities in an environment of disruptive risks” in CEO selection and evaluation processes.

Aligning the company’s “talent strategy” with “the skills and structure needed to navigate disruptive risks.”

Refraining from automatically re-nominating directors as a “default decision.”

Treating board diversity as “a strategic imperative, not a compliance issue.”

Requiring continuing learning of all directors, and assessing that factor in the board’s evaluation process.

Ensuring risk reports provide “forward-looking information about changing business conditions and potential risks in a format that enables productive dialogue and decision making.”

Holding a substantive discussion, at least annually, of the company’s vulnerability to disruptive risks, “using approaches such as scenario planning, simulation exercises, and stress testing to inform these discussions.”

Shareholder Primacy and Shareholder Influence Under Scrutiny

 

While it is prudent for directors to listen to and engage with shareholders and understand their interests, directors must apply their own business judgment and determine what course is in the best interests of the company. This means that they cannot merely succumb to pressures from activist investors and other shareholders (see, for example, In re PLX Tech., Inc. Stockholders Litig., 2018 WL 5018535, at *45 (Oct. 16, 2018) (an activist “succeeded in influencing the directors to favor a sale when they otherwise would have decided to remain independent” and the incumbent directors improperly deferred to the activist and allowed him “to take control of the sale process when it mattered most”)).

However, shareholders have gained considerable power relative to boards over the last 20 years, making it difficult to resolve shareholder pressures that conflict with director viewpoints regarding the best course for the company. The forces that have strengthened shareholder influence include:

Concentration of shareholding in the hands of powerful institutional investors (with institutions owning 70% of US public company shares in 2018).

The activation of institutional investors regarding proxy voting (with institutional voting participation at 91% compared to retail shareholder participation at 28%).

The rise of proxy advisory firms that serve to coordinate proxy voting.

The dismantling of classic corporate defenses, such as classified boards and poison pills.

The rise in shareholder engagement and negotiation (or “private ordering”) of governance processes. (Broadridge, 2018 Proxy Season Review (Oct. 2, 2018), available at broadridge.com.)

While there is no sign that shareholder influence will dissipate, recent legislative developments suggest that shareholder primacy (the premise that a company is run for the benefit of its shareholders in the first instance) is under some pressure. For example, in August 2018, US Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed the Accountable Capitalism Act, which among other things would require directors of US companies with $1 billion or more in annual revenues to obtain a charter as a “United States Corporation” and consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders, including employees, customers, and communities, in their decision-making, in addition to the interests of shareholders. (S. 3348, 115th Cong. § 5(c)(1)(B) (2017–2018); for more information, search Looking Ahead: Key Trends in Corporate Governance on Practical Law.)

In addition, there are increasing calls for the responsible use of power by large institutional investors, which have a considerable and growing influence on the companies in which they invest. The underlying concern is the responsible use of significant economic power, given the substantial impact on society that large institutional investors and companies have. For example, in January 2018, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote to the CEOs of BlackRock portfolio companies that “society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges. … To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate” (Annual Letter to CEOs from Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO, BlackRock, available at blackrock.com).

This broader view of a company’s purpose recognizes that, while social interests and shareholder interests are often viewed as in tension, outside of a short-term perspective social interests and shareholder interests tend to align. For pension funds and many other institutional investors, the interests of their beneficiaries are aligned with the successful performance of healthy companies over a period of years.

Given the size of institutional investors’ portfolios, they face challenges in applying their influence on a company-specific basis. While some of the largest institutional investors are investing in the human resources and technology needed to make informed voting decisions on a case-by-case, company-specific basis, with respect to a large number of companies in their portfolios, many institutional investors still apply set policies on a one-size-fits-all basis, without nuanced analysis of the circumstances, in voting their shares. Institutional investors should assess whether they:

Are well positioned to vote their shares on an informed basis.

Have designed screens that consider company performance and other factors that may support a change from standard policy, if relying on the application of pre-set policies.

When institutional investors turn to proxy advisory firms to make voting decisions, they should evaluate how the proxy advisor is positioned to make sophisticated and nuanced case-by-case determinations, and whether resource constraints require the proxy advisor to rely heavily on the use of set policies (see below Convergence of Ideas on Corporate Governance Practices Continues).

In January 2017, a group of institutional investors launched the Investor Stewardship Group (ISG) and issued Stewardship Principles and Corporate Governance Principles that took effect on January 1, 2018 (available at isgframework.org). The Stewardship Principles set forth a stewardship framework for institutional investors that includes the following principles:

Principle A: Institutional investors are accountable to those whose money they invest.

Principle B: Institutional investors should demonstrate how they evaluate corporate governance factors with respect to the companies in which they invest.

Principle C: Institutional investors should disclose, in general terms, how they manage potential conflicts of interest that may arise in their proxy voting and engagement activities.

Principle D: Institutional investors are responsible for proxy voting decisions and should monitor the relevant activities and policies of third parties that advise them on those decisions.

Principle E: Institutional investors should address and attempt to resolve differences with companies in a constructive and pragmatic manner.

Principle F: Institutional investors should work together, where appropriate, to encourage the adoption and implementation of the Corporate Governance Principles and Stewardship Principles.

Reform of Proxy Voting and Regulation of Proxy Advisors Under Consideration

 

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) staff recently held a roundtable to assess whether the SEC should update its rules governing proxy voting mechanics and the shareholder proposal process, and strengthen the regulation of proxy advisory firms. These issues have been under consideration since the SEC solicited public comment on the proxy system in 2010. (SEC, November 15, 2018: Roundtable on the Proxy Process, available at sec.gov; Concept Release on the U.S. Proxy System, 75 Fed. Reg. 42982-01, 2010 WL 2851569 (July 22, 2010).)

Topics discussed at the roundtable included:

Proxy voting mechanics and technology. Panelists agreed that the current proxy voting system needs to be modernized and simplified, for example, by:

implementing a vote confirmation process so that shareholders may verify, before the vote deadline, that voting instructions were followed and their votes were counted;

using technology to encourage wider participation and reduce costs and delays in the voting process;

studying why retail shareholder participation has fallen and whether more direct communication channels would improve information flow and participation; and

mandating use of universal proxy cards in proxy contests.

The shareholder proposal process. Some panelists asserted that the current shareholder proposal process functions well, while others identified areas for reform, including:

revisiting the ownership thresholds and holding period required to submit a shareholder proposal (currently, the lesser of $2,000 or 1%, and one year);

increasing resubmission thresholds to address reappearance of a proposal even though a majority of shareholders voted it down year after year;

providing more SEC guidance on no-action decisions and rationales;

requiring proxy disclosure of the name of the shareholder proponent (and its proxy, if any) and its level of holdings; and

requiring disclosure of preliminary vote tallies.

The role and regulation of proxy advisory firms. While no significant consensus emerged regarding whether proxy advisory firms should be subject to further SEC regulation, areas under discussion included:

improving accuracy of proxy advisor reports and affording all companies opportunities to review and verify information in advance of publication; and

improving procedures to monitor and manage, and enhancing disclosure of, conflicts of interest.

The Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act

 

The Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act, H.R. 4015, would require proxy advisory firms to register with the SEC, which would require:

Sufficient staffing to provide voting recommendations based on current and accurate information.

The establishment of procedures to permit companies reasonable time to review and provide meaningful comment on draft proxy advisory firm recommendations, including the opportunity to present (in person or telephonically) to the person responsible for the recommendation.

The employment of an ombudsman to receive and timely resolve complaints about the accuracy of voting information used in making recommendations.

Policies and procedures to manage conflicts of interest.

Disclosure of procedures and methodologies used in developing proxy recommendations and analyses.

Designation of a compliance officer responsible for administering the required policies and procedures.

Annual reporting to the SEC on the proxy advisory firm’s recommendations, including the number of companies that are also consulting division clients, as well as the number of proxy advisory firm staff who reviewed and made recommendations.

The bill would also direct the SEC staff to withdraw two no-action letters issued by the SEC in 2004, which the fact sheet suggests “have led to overreliance on proxy advisory firm recommendations.” (The SEC rescinded those two no-action letters in September 2018.)

The bill is supported by both Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange, as well as leading business groups and the Society for Corporate Governance. It is opposed by the Council of Institutional Investors, the Consumer Federation of America, and many public pension fund managers.

(See, for example, Nelson Griggs, Nasdaq, U.S. House of Representatives Passes Proxy Advisory Firm Reform Legislation (Dec. 16, 2017), available at nasdaq.com; Council of Institutional Investors, CII Urges Members to Contact Congressional Reps, Opposing Proxy Advisors Bill (Jan. 13, 2018), available at cii.org.) The bill is unlikely to be passed into law before the current congressional term ends, but may be reintroduced during the following congressional term.

It remains to be seen whether the SEC will incorporate input from the roundtable into future rulemaking or new SEC staff guidance or practice. The SEC is more likely to focus on proxy reform as a priority than on regulation of proxy advisory firms absent pressure from Congress.

Two bills seeking SEC regulation of proxy advisory firms were introduced in the 115th Congress:

The Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act, H.R. 4015. In June 2018, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing on this bill, which was sent by the House of Representatives to the Senate in December 2017 for consideration. (See Box, The Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act.)

The Corporate Governance Fairness Act, S. 3614. In November 2018, this bill was introduced in the Senate to amend the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act) to expressly require proxy advisory firms to register as investment advisers under the Advisers Act, thereby subjecting them to enhanced fiduciary duties and SEC oversight, including regular SEC staff examinations into their conflict of interest policies and programs, and whether they knowingly have made false statements to clients or have omitted to state material facts that would be necessary to make statements to clients not misleading.

Both bills would subject proxy advisory firms to SEC regulation, and focus on policies and procedures regarding conflicts of interest and accuracy. H.R. 4015 goes further by mandating
maintenance of certain staffing levels and annual reporting relating to recommendations. Neither bill is likely to be passed into law by the end of the current session of Congress.

 

Convergence of Ideas on Corporate Governance Practices Continues

 

Proxy advisory firms are often criticized for imposing a one-size-fits-all view of corporate governance on public companies in the US. However, the divide is narrowing between what investors and their proxy advisors, on the one hand, and corporate directors and CEOs, on the other hand, think are good corporate governance practices.

Recently, a high-profile group of senior executives from major public companies and institutional investors issued the Commonsense Principles 2.0 to revise corporate governance principles that the group published in 2016 (available at governanceprinciples.org). The Commonsense Principles 2.0 describe corporate governance practices that have become widely accepted among leading companies and their institutional investors, including in previously controversial areas such as majority voting in uncontested director elections and proxy access. A majority of S&P 500 companies already practice most of the recommendations, and many of the recommendations are requirements for publicly traded companies under SEC regulations or stock exchange listing rules. For example, the Commonsense Principles 2.0 provide that:

One-year terms for directors are generally preferable, but if a board is classified, the reason for that structure should be explained.

The independent directors should decide whether to have combined or separate chair and CEO roles based on the circumstances. If they combine the chair and CEO roles, they should designate a strong lead independent director. In any event, the reasons for combining or separating the roles should be explained clearly.

A director who fails to receive a majority of votes in uncontested elections should resign and the board should accept the resignation or explain to shareholders why it is not accepted.

These recommendations are in line with evolving practices.

The Commonsense Principles 2.0 address some recommendations to institutional investors and asset managers, and call on them to use their influence transparently and responsibly. Among other things, they urge asset managers to disclose their proxy voting guidelines and reliance on proxy advisory firms, and be satisfied that the information that they are relying on is accurate and relevant.

Notably, the Commonsense Principles 2.0 reflect the convergence of viewpoints through agreement among a coalition of high-profile leaders of well-known public companies, institutional investors, and one activist hedge fund. Signatories include Mary Barra of General Motors, Ed Breen of DowDupont, Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Larry Fink of BlackRock, Bill McNabb of Vanguard, Ronald O’Hanley of State Street, and Jeff Ubben of ValueAct Capital. The Council of Institutional Investors and the Business Roundtable have expressed support for or endorsed the Commonsense Principles 2.0.

 

Shifting Focus of Private Ordering to ESG Issues

 

The convergence of views among corporate leaders and large institutional investors on corporate governance practices reflects to a significant degree the success shareholders have had in influencing corporate governance reforms through engagement with boards, or private ordering. Shareholders are continuing to engage companies and press for reforms in the areas of shareholder rights and board composition and quality, but they are also increasing their focus on ESG issues, such as climate change, diversity, and board effectiveness, and the impact of ESG issues on companies’ financial performance. ESG is no longer a fringe issue of interest only to special issue investors. Mainstream institutional investors are recognizing that attention to ESG and corporate social responsibility impacts portfolio company financial performance.

The rising interest in ESG among investors is apparent in the sharp rise in US-domiciled assets under management using ESG strategies ($12.0 trillion at the start of 2018, up 38% since 2016 and an 18-fold increase since 1995, as reported by the US SIF Foundation), increasing support for shareholder proposals relating to ESG issues, as well as in the focus of engagement efforts. According to Broadridge, institutional investor support for social and environmental proposals increased from 19% in 2014 to 29% in 2018 (Broadridge, 2018 Proxy Season Review (Oct. 2, 2018), available at broadridge.com).

 

Continuing Demand for Shareholder Engagement and Attention to Activist Investors

 

In this era of enhanced shareholder influence, directors need to be especially attuned to the interests and concerns of significant shareholders, while continuing to apply their own judgment about the best interests of the company. This requires active outreach and engagement with the company’s core shareholders and, in particular, the persons responsible for voting proxies and setting the governance policies that often drive voting decisions. Caution, balance, and effective communication are also necessary to ensure that director judgment is not replaced with shareholder appeasement.

In the first half of 2018, record numbers of hedge fund activist campaigns were launched, backed by record levels of capital. Activist investors are having greater success in negotiating board seats and in winning seats in contested elections. The general level of vote support for directors is falling. For example, 416 directors failed to receive majority shareholder support in the 2018 proxy season (an 11% increase over 2017) and 1,408 directors failed to attain at least 70% shareholder support (a 14% increase over 2017) (Broadridge, 2018 Proxy Season Review (Oct. 2, 2018), available at broadridge.com).

Understanding key shareholders’ interests and developing relationships with long-term shareholders can help position the company to address calls by activist investors for short-term actions that may impair long-term value. However, boards also should view the input they receive from activist investors as valuable, because it could help identify potential areas of vulnerability. Moreover, establishing an open and positive dialogue with activist investors, and engaging with them in meaningful discussions, can assist boards in avoiding a public shareholder activist campaign in the future. This requires:

Identifying the company’s key shareholders and the issues about which they care the most.

Objectively assessing strategy and performance from the perspective of an activist investor, including proactively identifying areas in which the company may be subject to activism.

Monitoring corporate governance benchmarks and trends in shareholder activism to keep abreast of “hot topic” issues.

Comparing the company’s corporate governance practices to evolving best practice.

Attending to potential vulnerabilities in board composition. Activist investors scrutinize the tenure, age, demographics, and experience of each director. They will target directors whose expertise is arguably outdated, who have poor track records as officers or directors of other companies, or who have served on the board for long tenures. They will also look for gaps in the expertise needed by the board given the current dynamic business environment, and for a lack of gender or ethnic diversity. Boards should monitor developments in these areas (see, for example, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS), 2019 ISS Americas Policy Updates (Nov. 19, 2018), available at issgovernance.com (announcing that, beginning in 2020, ISS will oppose the nominating committee chair at Russell 3000 or S&P 1500 companies when there are no women on the board); 2018 Cal. Legis. Serv. ch. 954 (S.B. 826) (to be codified at Cal. Corp. Code §§ 301.3, 2115.5) (mandating gender quotas for boards of US public companies that are headquartered in California)).

Addressing potential vulnerabilities in CEO compensation, including disparity with respect to peer companies and other named executive officers. Activist investors could claim that this signals a culture in which too much deference is given to the CEO and there is a lack of team emphasis in the compensation of management.

Reviewing structural defenses with the assistance of seasoned proxy fight and corporate governance counsel. Many companies have not reviewed their charter and bylaws recently, and in a proxy contest the language of many bylaw provisions can take on a different meaning. Boards should be aware that proxy advisory firm ISS recently announced that it will generally oppose management proposals to ratify a company’s existing charter or bylaw provisions, unless the provisions align with best practice (2019 ISS Americas Policy Updates, at 11).

Effectively communicating long-term plans with respect to strategy and performance pressures, defending past performance, and addressing calls for an exploration of strategic alternatives.

Preparing a response plan for engaging with activist investors to ensure that the board and management convey a measured and unified position.

La prévalence de l’activisme actionnarial en 2019


Voici une mise à jour de Martin Lipton*, associé fondateur de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, qui se spécialise dans les politiques et stratégies organisationnelles ayant un impact sur la gouvernance des entreprises. L’article a été publié aujourd’hui sur le site de HLS Forum sur la gouvernance.

En 2019, les auteurs prédisent que la menace de l’activisme sera encore plus prévalente.

Bonne lecture !

 

Activism: The State of Play at Year-End 2018

 

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As we noted [in 2018], the threat of activism continues to be high, and has become a global phenomenon. The conclusion of a volatile and dynamic 2018 prompts a brief update of the state of play.

  1. Activist assets under management remain at elevated levels, encouraging continued attacks on large successful companies in the U.S. and abroad. In many cases, activists have been taking advantage of recent stock market declines to achieve attractive entry points for new positions. These trends have been highlighted in several recent media reports, including in The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.
  2. While the robust M&A environment of much of 2018 has recently subsided, deal-related activism remains prevalent, with activists instigating deal activity, challenging announced transactions (e.g., the “bumpitrage” strategy of pressing for a price increase) and/or pressuring the target into a merger or a private equity deal with the activist itself.
  3. “Short” activists, who seek to profit from a decline in the target’s market value, remain highly aggressive in both the equity and corporate debt markets. In debt markets, we have also recently seen a rise in “default activism,” where investors purchase debt on the theory that a borrower is already in default and then actively seek to enforce that default in a manner by which they stand to profit.
  4. Elliott Management was the most active and in many cases aggressive activist of 2018. The Wall Street Journal noted that Elliott has publicly targeted 24 companies in 2018, with Icahn and Starboard runners-up with nine public targets each. The New Yorker published a lengthy profile of Paul Singer and Elliott in August, “Paul Singer, Doomsday Investor”. “Singer has excelled in this field in part because of a canny ability to discern his opponents’ weaknesses and a seeming imperviousness to public disapproval.”
  5. Enhanced ESG disclosure remains a topic of great interest to institutional investors and the corporate governance community. In October, two prominent business law professors, supported by investors and other entities with over $5 trillion in assets under management, filed a petition for rulemaking calling for the SEC to “develop a comprehensive framework requiring issuers to disclose identified environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aspects of each public-reporting company’s operations.” In November, the Embankment Project of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism issued its report outlining proposed ways to measure long-term sustainable value creation beyond financial results. And earlier this month, ESG disclosure was the subject of a lively discussion at a meeting of the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee, with various views expressed regarding the merits of regulatory efforts versus private ordering in this area.

It has become increasingly evident that the activism-driven corporate world is relatively fragile and is proving to be unsustainable, particularly when viewed in the broader context of rapidly changing political and social norms and increasing divisiveness across many planes of the social contract. A number of initiatives have been underway to establish a modern corporate governance framework that is calibrated to the current environment. For our part, at the request of the World Economic Forum, we prepared a paper titled, The New Paradigm: A Roadmap for an Implicit Corporate Governance Partnership Between Corporations and Investors to Achieve Sustainable Long-Term Investment and Growth, which was issued in September 2016 and most recently updated in our memo, Some Thoughts for Boards of Directors in 2019.

In essence, The New Paradigm conceives of corporate governance as a collaboration among corporations, shareholders and other stakeholders working together to achieve long-term value and resist short-termism. While we have seen considerable interest in The New Paradigm and similar initiatives from major institutional investors and other key stakeholders, until such a framework is widely adopted, it is unlikely that absent legislation, there will be any decrease in activism. Accordingly, companies should regularly review and adjust their plans to avoid an activist attack and to successfully deal with an activist attack if one should occur. Effective engagement with major shareholders is the essential element of activist defense.

____________________________________________________________

*Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy, and Zachary S. Podolsky is a corporate associate. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum authored by Mr. Lipton and Mr. Podolsky. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here); Dancing with Activists by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, Wei Jiang, and Thomas Keusch (discussed on the Forum here); and Who Bleeds When the Wolves Bite? A Flesh-and-Blood Perspective on Hedge Fund Activism and Our Strange Corporate Governance System by Leo E. Strine, Jr. (discussed on the Forum here).

Tendances globales en gouvernance et « Trends » régionaux


À l’occasion de la nouvelle année 2019, je partage avec vous une étude de la firme Russell Reynolds Associates sur les tendances en gouvernance selon différentes régions du monde.

L’article a été publié sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum par Jack « Rusty » O’Kelley, III, Anthony Goodman et Melissa Martin.

Ce qu’il y a de particulier dans cette publication ,c’est que l’on identifie cinq (5) grandes tendances globales et que l’on tente de prédire les Trends dans plusieurs régions du monde telles que :

(1) Les États-Unis et le Canada

(2) L’Union européenne

(3) La Grande-Bretagne

(4) Le Brésil

(5) l’Inde

(6) Le Japon

Les grandes tendances observées sont :

(1) la qualité et la composition du CA

(2) le degré d’attention apportée à la surveillance de la culture organisationnelle

(3) les activités des investisseurs qui limitent la primauté des actionnaires en mettant l’accent sur le long terme

(4) la responsabilité sociale des entreprises qui constitue toujours une variable critique et

(5) les investisseurs activistes qui continuent d’exercer une pression sur les CA.

Je vous recommande la lecture intégrale de cette publication pour vous former une opinion réaliste de l’évolution des saines pratiques de gouvernance. Les États-Unis et le Canada semblent mener la marche, mais les autres régions du globe ont également des préoccupations qui rejoignent les tendances globales.

C’est une lecture très instructive pour toute personne intéressée par la gouvernance des sociétés.

Bonne lecture et Bonne Année 2019 !

 

2019 Global & Regional Trends in Corporate Governance

 

 

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Institutional investors (both active managers and index fund giants) spent the last few years raising their expectations of public company boards—a trend we expect to see continue in 2019. The demand for board quality, effectiveness, and accountability to shareholders will continue to accelerate across all global markets. Toward the end of each year, Russell Reynolds Associates interviews a global mix of institutional and activist investors, pension fund managers, proxy advisors, and other corporate governance professionals regarding the trends and challenges that public company boards may face in the coming year. This year we interviewed over 40 experts to develop our insights and identify trends.

Overview of Global Trends

 

In 2019, we expect to see the emergence or continued development of the following key global governance trends:

 

1. Board quality and composition are at the heart of corporate governance.

Since investors cannot see behind the boardroom veil, they have little choice but to rely on various governance criteria as a stand-in for board quality: whether the board is truly independent, whether its composition is deliberate and under regular review, and whether board competencies align with and support the company’s forward-looking strategy. Directors face increased scrutiny around how equipped the board is with industry knowledge, capital allocation skills, and transformation experience. Institutional investors are pushing to further encourage robust, independent, and regular board evaluation processes that may result in board evolution. Boards will need to be vigilant as they consider individual tenure, director overboarding, and gender imbalance—all of which may provoke votes against the nominating committee or its chair. Gender diversity continues to be an area of focus across many countries and investors. Companies can expect increased pressure to disclose their prioritization of board competencies, board succession plans, and how they are building a diverse pipeline of director candidates. Norges Bank Investment Management, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has set a new standard for at least two independent directors with relevant industry experience on each of their 9,000 investee boards.

2. Deeper focus on oversight of corporate culture.

Human capital and intangible assets, including organizational culture and reputation, are important aspects of enterprise value, as they directly impact the ability to attract and retain top talent. Culture risk exists when there is misalignment between the values a company seeks to embody and the behaviors it demonstrates. Investors are keen to learn how boards are engaging with management on this issue and how they go about understanding corporate culture. A few compensation committees are including culture and broader human capital issues as part of their remit.

3. Investors placing limits on shareholder primacy and emphasizing long-termism.

The role of corporations in many countries is evolving to include meeting the needs of a broader set of stakeholders. Global investors are increasingly discussing social value; long-termism; and environment, social, and governance (ESG) changes that are shifting corporations from a pure shareholder primacy model. While BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s 2018 letter to investee companies on the importance of social purpose and a strategy for achieving long-term growth generated discussion in the US, much of the rest of the world viewed this as further confirmation of the focus on broader stakeholder, as well as shareholder, concerns. Institutional investors are more actively focusing on long-termism and partnering with groups to increase the emphasis on long-term, sustainable results.

4. ESG continues to be a critical issue globally and is at the forefront of governance concerns in some countries.

Asset managers and asset owners are integrating ESG into investment decisions, some under the framework of sustainability or integrated reporting. The priority for investors will be linking sustainability to long-term value creation and balancing ESG risks with opportunities. ESG oversight, improved disclosure, relative company performance against peers, and understanding how these issues are built into corporate strategy will become key focus areas. Climate change and sustainability are critical issues to many investors and are at the forefront of governance in many countries. Some investors regard technology disruption and cybersecurity as ESG issues, while others continue to categorize them as a major business risk. Either way, investors want to understand how boards are providing adequate oversight of technology disruption and cyber risk.

5. Activist investors continue to impact boards.

Activist investors are using various strategies to achieve their objectives. The question for boards is no longer if, but when and why an activist gets involved. The characterization of activists as hostile antagonists is waning, as some activists are becoming more constructive with management. Institutional investors are increasingly open to activists’ perspectives and are deploying activist tactics to bring about desired change. Activists continue to pay close attention to individual director performance and oversight failures. We are seeing even more boards becoming “their own activist” or commissioning independent assessments to preemptively identify vulnerabilities. Firms such as Russell Reynolds are conducting more director-vulnerability analysis, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of board composition and proactively identifying where activists may attack director composition. In the following sections, we explore these trends and how they will impact the United States and Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom, Brazil, India, and Japan.

 

The United States and Canada

Investor stewardship.

Eighty-eight percent of the S&P 500 companies have either Vanguard, BlackRock, or State Street as the largest shareholder, and together these investors collectively own 18.7 percent of all the shares in the S&P 500. Because the index funds’ creators are obligated to hold shares for as long as a company is included in a relevant index (e.g., Dow Jones, S&P 500, Russell 3000), the institutional investors view themselves as permanent capital. These investors view governance not as a compliance exercise, but as a key component of value creation and risk mitigation. Passive investors are engaging even more frequently with companies to ensure that their board and management are taking the necessary actions and asking the right questions. Investors want to understand the long-term value creation story and see disclosure showing the right balance between the long term and short term. They take this very seriously and continue to invest in stewardship and governance oversight. Several of the largest institutional investors want greater focus on long-term, sustainable results and are partnering with organizations to drive the dialogue toward the long term.

Board quality.

Investors are pushing for improved board quality and view board composition, diversity, and the refreshment process as key elements. There is similarly a push for richer insight into director skill relevancy. The Boardroom Accountability Project 2.0 has encouraged more companies to disclose a “board matrix,” setting out the skills, experiences, and demographic profile of directors. That practice is fast becoming the norm for proxy disclosure. Many more institutional investors want richer disclosure around director competencies and a clearer, more direct link between each director’s skills and the company’s strategy. As one investor noted, “We want to know why this collection of directors was selected to lead the company and whether they are prepared for change and disruption.” Some of the largest US institutional investors are pushing for better board succession and board evaluation processes and the use of external firms to assess board quality, composition, and effectiveness. Institutional investors are even more concerned about board succession processes and the continued use of automatic refreshment mechanisms (retirement ages and tenure limits) rather than a “foundational assessment process over time with a mix of internal and external reviewers.”

Board diversity.

In 2019, directors should expect more investors to vote against the nominating committee or its chair if there are no women on the board (or fewer than two women in some cases). Investors want to see an increased diversity of thought and experiences to better enable the board to identify risks and improve company performance. In the US, gender diversity has become a proxy for cognitive diversity. Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has updated its policies on gender diversity for Russell 3000 and S&P 1500 companies and may recommend votes against nominating committee chairs or members beginning in 2020. This follows recent California legislation requiring gender diversity for California-headquartered companies. Some very large investors are starting to take a broader approach to diversity, particularly as it relates to ethnicity and race. In Canada, nearly 40 percent of TSX-listed companies have no women on their boards. Proxy advisors have recently established voting guidelines related to the disclosure of formal gender diversity policies and gender diversity by TSX-listed companies.

ESG.

Investors are pushing companies to consider their broader societal impact—both what they do and how they disclose it. ESG has moved from being a discrete topic to a fundamental part of how investors evaluate companies. They will increasingly focus on how companies explain their approach to value creation, the impact of the company on society, and how companies weigh various stakeholder interests. Other investors will continue to look at ESG primarily through a financial lens, screening for risk identification and measurement, incorporation of ESG into strategy and long-term value creation, and executive compensation. There is continued and growing focus in the US on sustainability and climate change across a range of sectors. In Canada, proactive companies will consider developing and disclosing their own ESG policies and upgrading boards—through both changes in director education and, on occasion, board composition—to ensure that directors are equipped to understand ESG risk.

Oversight of corporate culture.

Given many high-profile failures in corporate culture and leadership over the last few years, investors and regulators will expect more disclosure and will ask more questions regarding how a board understands the company’s culture. When engaging with institutional investors, boards should expect questions regarding how they are understanding and assessing the health of a corporation’s culture. Boards need to reflect on whether they really understand the company culture and how they plan to assess hot spots and potential issues.

Activist investing.

Shareholder activism remains part of the US corporate governance landscape and is continuing to grow in Canada. In Canada, the industries with the highest levels of activism include basic materials, energy, banking, and financial institutions, and emerging sectors with high growth potential (e.g., blockchain, cannabis) could be next. Proxy battles are showing no signs of slowing down, but activists are using other methods to promote change, such as constructive engagement. Canadian companies are also seeing an increase in proxy contests launched by former insiders or company founders. Experts in Canada anticipate this trend will continue and, as a result, increased shareholder engagement will be critical.

Executive compensation.

Investors are looking for better-quality disclosure around pay-for-performance metrics, particularly sustainability metrics linked to risk management and strategy. In the US, institutional investors may vote against pay plans where there is misalignment and against compensation committees where there is “excessive” executive pay for two or more consecutive years. Some investors are uncomfortable with stock performance being a primary driver of CEO compensation since it may not reflect real leadership impact. In Canada, investors are urging companies to adopt say-on-pay policies in the absence of a mandatory vote, even though such adoption rates have been sluggish to date. Investors will likely continue to push for this reform.

Governance codes.

Earlier this year, the Corporate Governance Principles of the Investor Stewardship Group (ISG) went into effect with the purpose of setting consistent governance standards for the US market. Version 2.0 of the Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance was also published. US companies will want to consider proactive disclosure of how they comply with these sets of principles.

European Union

Investors more active.

Institutional investors are expanding resources for their engagement and stewardship teams in Europe. In 2019, investors will focus on connecting governance to long-term value creation through board oversight of talent management, ESG, and corporate culture. Additionally, some US activists are setting their sights on Europe and raising funds focused on European companies. Institutional investors are more willing to support activist investors if inadequate oversight by the board has led to poor share price and total shareholder return (TSR) performance.

Company and board diversity.

Though EU boards tend to have more women directors due to legislation and regulation, progress on gender diversity has not carried over into the C-suite. Boards can expect to engage with investors on this topic and will need to explain the root causes and plans to address it through talent management processes and diversity and inclusion initiatives. With gender diversity regulations already widely adopted across Europe, Austria has now also stipulated that public company boards have at least 30 percent women directors. However, since board terms are usually for five years, the full impact likely will not be visible until future election cycles.

ESG.

Many investors are encouraging use of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework for consistent measurement, assessment, and disclosure of ESG risks. Investors are likely to integrate climate-change competency and risk oversight into their voting guidelines in some form, and boards will need to demonstrate that they are thinking strategically about the opportunities, risks, and impact of climate change. A new legislative proposal in France could mandate that companies consider various stakeholders, the social environment, and the nonfinancial outcome of their actions.

Revised governance codes.

A recent study found strong compliance rates for the German Corporate Governance Code, except for the areas of executive remuneration and board composition recommendations. German boards should expect more investor engagement and pressure on these matters, including enhanced disclosure. Next year, the German code may include amendments impacting director independence and executive compensation. The revised governance code in the Netherlands focuses more closely on how long-term value creation and culture are vital elements within the governance framework. Denmark’s code now recommends that remuneration policies be approved at least every four years and bars retiring CEOs from stepping into the chairman or vice chairman role.

Board leadership.

Norges Bank Investment Management (commonly referred to as The Government Pension Fund Global) is pushing globally for the separation of CEO and chairman roles and independent chair appointments. In France, investors are focused on board composition and quality. Boards should expect to see continued pressure on separating the CEO and chairman roles as well as strengthening the role and prevalence of the lead director. Companies without a lead director could see negative votes against the reelection of the CEO/chair.

United Kingdom

Revised code.

Recent legislation and market activity have set the stage for the United Kingdom to implement governance reforms that will continue to influence global markets. The new UK Corporate Governance code will apply to reporting periods starting from January 1, 2019, although many companies have begun to apply it more quickly. The new code was complemented by updated and enhanced Guidance on Board Effectiveness to reemphasize that boards need to focus on improving their effectiveness—not just their compliance. Meanwhile the voluntary principle of “comply or explain” is itself being tested as the Kingman Review reconsiders the Financial Reporting Council’s powers and its twin role as both the government-designated regulator and the custodian of a voluntary code. Proxy advisors, who are growing more powerful, are also frequently voting against firms choosing to “explain” rather than comply. 2019 code changes include guidance around the board’s duty to consider the perspective of key stakeholders and to incorporate their interests into discussion and decisionmaking. Employees can be engaged via designating an existing non-executive director (already on the board), a workforce advisory committee, or a workforce representative on the board.

Board leadership and composition.

Other changes in the code include prioritizing non-executive chair succession planning and capping non-executive chair total tenure at nine years (including any time spent previously as a non-executive director)—a recommendation which could impact over 10 percent of the FTSE 350. Several investors noted that they understand the new tenure rule may cause unintended consequences around board chair succession planning. Investors are likely to focus on skills mix, diversity, and functional and industry experience. While directors can expect negative votes against their reelection if they are currently on more than four boards, better disclosure of director capacity and commitment may help sway investors.

Culture oversight.

The board’s evolving role in overseeing corporate culture—now explicit in the revised code—will be a primary focus for investors in 2019. The Financial Reporting Council has suggested that culture can be measured using several factors, such as turnover and absenteeism rates, reward and promotion decisions, health and safety data, and exit interviews. The code emphasizes that the board is responsible for a healthy culture that should promote delivering long-term sustainable performance. Auditor reform. Given public concern about recent corporate collapses, the role of external auditor and the structure of the audit firm market are under scrutiny. The government is under pressure to improve auditing and increase competition. Audit independence, rigor, and quality are likely to be examined, and boards may face greater pressure to change auditors more regularly. ISS is changing its policies for its UK/Ireland (and Continental European) policies beginning in 2019. ISS will begin tracking significant audit quality issues at the lead engagement partner level and will identify (when possible) any lead audit partners who have been linked to significant audit controversies.

Activist investors.

While institutional investors’ concerns center around the impact of disruption and how companies are responding with an eye toward long-termism and sustainability, activist campaigns continue to act as a potential counterweight. UK companies account for about 55 percent of activist campaigns in Europe, and UK companies will likely continue to be targeted next year.

Company diversity.

Diversity will continue to be a priority for board attention, including gender and ethnic diversity. The revised code broadened the role of the nominating committee to oversee the development of diversity in senior management ranks and to review diversity and inclusion initiatives and outcomes throughout the business.

Brazil

Outlook.

Following the highly polarized presidential election, Brazil is still facing some political uncertainty around the potential business and political agenda the new government will pursue. Despite recent ministry appointments being generally well received, global investors will likely still be cautious about investing in the country given the government’s deep history of entanglement with corporate affairs.

Governance reforms and stewardship.

Governance regulation is still in its early stages in Brazil and continues to be focused on overhauling compliance practices and implementing governance reforms. Securities regulator CVM recently issued guidelines regarding indemnity agreements between companies and board members (and other company stakeholders), which could lead to possible disclosure implications. The guidance serves to warn companies about potential conflicts of interest, and directors are cautioned to pay close attention to these new policies. Brazilian public companies are now required to file a comply-or-explain governance report as part of the original mandate stemming from the 2016 Corporate Governance Code, with an emphasis on the quality of such disclosures. Stewardship continues to be of growing importance, and boards are at the center of that discussion. The Association of Capital Market Investors is focusing on ensuring that the CVM and other market participants are holding companies to the highest governance standards not issuing waivers or failing to hold companies accountable for their actions.

Improved independence.

There is an ongoing push for more independence within the governance framework. More independent directors are being appointed to boards due to wider capital distribution. Brazil is working toward implementing reforms targeting political appointments within state-owned enterprises (SOE), but progress could slow depending upon the new government’s priorities. Recently, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved legislation that would allow politicians to once again be nominated to SOE boards. The Federal Senate will soon decide on the proposal, but its approval could trigger a backlash. Organizations like the Brazilian Institute of Corporate Governance are firmly positioning themselves against the law change, viewing it as a step back from recent governance progress. However, the Novo Mercado rules and Corporate Governance Code are strengthening the definition of independence and using shareholder meetings to confirm the independence of those directors.

Remote voting.

The recent introduction of the remote voting card for shareholders could have a major impact on boards. Public companies required to implement the new system should expect to see more flexibility and inclusion of minority shareholder-backed nominees on the ballot. While Brazil is making year-over-year progress toward minority shareholder protections, they continue to be a challenge.

Board effectiveness.

Experts anticipate increased pressure to upgrade board mechanics and processes, including establishing a nominations policy regarding board director and committee appointments, routine board evaluation processes, succession planning, and onboarding/training programs. CVM, along with B3 (the Brazilian stock exchange), continues to push for higher governance standards and processes. There is an increased focus on board and director assessment (whether internally or externally led) to ensure board effectiveness and the right board composition. Under the Corporate Governance Code, companies will have to comply or explain why they do not have a board assessment process.

Compensation disclosure.

For almost a decade, Brazilian companies used a court injunction (known as the “IBEF Injunction”) to avoid having to disclose the remuneration of their highest-paid executives. Now that this has been overturned, public companies will be expected to start disclosing compensation information for their highest-paid executives and board members. Companies are concerned that the disclosure may trigger a backlash among minority shareholders and negative votes against remuneration.

India

Regulatory reform.

Motivated by a desire to attract global investments, curb corruption, and strengthen corporate governance, India is continuing to push for regulatory reform. In the spring of 2018, much to the surprise of many, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) adopted many of the 81 provisions put forward by the Kotak Committee. The adoption of the recommendations has caused many companies to consider and aspire to meet this new standard. Kotak implementation has triggered a significant wave of governance implications centered around improving transparency and financial reporting. The adoption of these governance reforms is staggered, with most companies striving to reach compliance between April 2019 and April 2020.

Board composition, leadership, and independence.

Boards will face enhanced disclosure rules regarding the skills and experience of directors, which has triggered many companies to engage in board composition assessments. Directors will also be limited in the number of boards they can serve on simultaneously: eight in 2019; seven in 2020. The top 1,000 listed companies in India will need to ensure they have a minimum of six directors on their boards by April 2019, with the next 1,000 having an additional year to comply. Among other changes are new criteria for independence determinations and changes to director compensation. Additionally, the CEO or managing director role and the chair role must be separated and cannot be held by the same person for the top 500 listed companies by market capitalization. This will significantly change board leadership and control in many companies where the role was held by the same person, and it will boost overall independence. To further drive board and director independence, the definition of independence was strengthened, and board interlocks will receive greater scrutiny.

Board diversity.

India continues to make improvements toward gender diversity five years after the Companies Act of 2013 and ongoing pressure from investors and policymakers. Nevertheless, institutional investors and proxy advisors are calling for more progress, as a quarter of women appointments are held by family members of the business owners (and are thus not independent). Starting in 2019, boards of the top 500 listed companies will need to ensure they have at least one independent woman director; by 2020, the top 1,000 listed companies will need to comply.

Board effectiveness.

The reforms also include a requirement for the implementation of an oversight process for succession planning and updating the board evaluation and director review process.

Investor expectations.

Governance stakeholders are eager to see how much progress Indian companies will make during the next 18 months, but many are not overly optimistic given the magnitude of change required in such a short period of time. Investors are setting their expectations accordingly and understand that regional governance norms will not transform overnight. While it is unclear exactly how the government and regulators will respond to noncompliance, companies and their boards are feeling anxious about the potential repercussions and penalties.

Japan

Continued focus on governance.

The Japanese government continues to be a driving force for corporate governance improvements. To make Japan more attractive to global investors, policymakers are increasingly focused on improving board accountability. Despite a trend toward more proactive investor stewardship, regulatory bodies including the Financial Services Agency continue to lead reforms, with several new comply-or-explain guidelines added to the Amended Corporate Governance Code that came into effect in 2018. These guidelines, such as minimum independence requirements, establishing an objective CEO succession and dismissal process, and the unloading of cross-shareholdings, are aimed at enhancing transparency.

Director independence.

Director independence has been a concern for investors, with outside directors taking only about 31 percent of board seats. Though some observers perceive a weakening of language in the code regarding independence, investors are unlikely to lower their expectations and standards. The amended code now calls for at least one-third of the board to be composed of outside directors (up from the quota requirement of two directors that existed previously). The change is intended to encourage transparency and accountability around the board’s decision-making process. Starting next year, ISS will adopt a similar approach to its Japanese governance policies, employing a one-third independence threshold as well.

Executive compensation.

Given recent scandals, institutional investors and regulators will continue to pay close attention to the structure of executive compensation. Performance-based compensation plans will be a major area of focus in 2019. More companies are introducing new types of equity-based compensation schemes, such as restricted stock, and are expected to follow the trend into next year. Board diversity. Over 50 percent of listed companies still have no women on their boards. To upgrade board quality and performance, investors will likely engage more forcefully on gender diversity, board composition and processes, board oversight duties and roles, and the board director evaluation process.

ESG.

In 2019, boards can expect more shareholder interest in sustainability metrics and strategy. Investors are keen to see enhanced disclosure that aids their understanding of value creation and the link to performance targets, as well as explanations concerning board monitoring.

Activist investing.

Activism continues to rise in Japan, and we expect that trend to continue. Activists are showing a willingness to demand a board seat and engage in proxy battles, and institutional investors are increasingly willing to support the activist recommendations.

Governance practices.

Investors also will be paying close attention to several other governance practices, such as the earlier disclosure of proxy materials and delivery in digital format, and protecting the interest of minority shareholders. The code further emphasizes succession planning by requiring companies to implement a fair and transparent process for the CEO’s removal and succession. As a result, more companies are introducing nominating committees and discussing

CEO succession.

Companies are also being urged to unload their cross-shareholdings (when a listed company owns stock of another company in the same listing) and adopt controls that will determine whether the ownership of such equity is appropriate. Such holdings are likely to be policed more by regulators due to the tendency of such holdings to insulate boards from external pressure, including takeover bids.

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*Jack “Rusty” O’Kelley, III is Global Leader of the Board Advisory & Effectiveness Practice, Anthony Goodman is a member of the Board Consulting and Effectiveness Practice, and Melissa Martin is a Board and CEO Advisory Group Specialist at Russell Reynolds Associates.at Russell Reynolds Associates. This post is based on a Russell Reynolds memorandum by Mr. O’Kelley, Mr. Goodman, and Ms. Martin.