Top 10 des billets publiés sur Harvard Law School Forum au 21 mai 2021


Voici, comme à l’habitude, le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 21 mai 2021.

Cette semaine, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

Top Ten Reasons to Work With A Neal Estate Team Buyer Specialist

  1. Cybersecurity Oversight and Defense — A Board and Management Imperative
  2. Materiality: The Word that Launched a Thousand Debates
  3. Do ESG Funds Make Stakeholder-Friendly Investments?
  4. Which Corporate ESG News Does the Market React To?
  5. The Lipton Archive
  6. Mitigating SPAC Enforcement and Litigation Risks
  7. Human Capital Disclosure: What Do Companies Say About Their “Most Important Asset”?
  8. Is Public Equity Deadly? Evidence from Workplace Safety and Productivity Tradeoffs in the Coal Industry
  9. The Case for a Best Execution Principle in Cross-Border Payments
  10. 2021 Proxy Season Issues and Early Voting Trends

L’évaluation du CA, des comités et des administrateurs | en rappel


Les conseils d’administration sont de plus en plus confrontés à l’exigence d’évaluer l’efficacité de leur fonctionnement par le biais d’une évaluation annuelle du CA, des comités et des administrateurs.

En fait, le NYSE exige depuis dix ans que les conseils procèdent à leur évaluation et que les résultats du processus soient divulgués aux actionnaires. Également, les investisseurs institutionnels et les activistes demandent de plus en plus d’informations au sujet du processus d’évaluation.

Les résultats de l’évaluation peuvent être divulgués de plusieurs façons, notamment dans les circulaires de procuration et sur le site de l’entreprise.

L’article publié par John Olson, associé fondateur de la firme Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, professeur invité à Georgetown Law Center, et paru sur le forum du Harvard Law School, présente certaines approches fréquemment utilisées pour l’évaluation du CA, des comités et des administrateurs.

On recommande de modifier les méthodes et les paramètres de l’évaluation à chaque trois ans afin d’éviter la routine susceptible de s’installer si les administrateurs remplissent les mêmes questionnaires, gérés par le président du conseil. De plus, l’objectif de l’évaluation est sujet à changement (par exemple, depuis une décennie, on accorde une grande place à la cybersécurité).

C’est au comité de gouvernance que revient la supervision du processus d’évaluation du conseil d’administration. L’article décrit quatre méthodes fréquemment utilisées.

(1) Les questionnaires gérés par le comité de gouvernance ou une personne externe

(2) les discussions entre administrateurs sur des sujets déterminés à l’avance

(3) les entretiens individuels avec les administrateurs sur des thèmes précis par le président du conseil, le président du comité de gouvernance ou un expert externe.

(4) L’évaluation des contributions de chaque administrateur par la méthode d’auto-évaluation et par l’évaluation des pairs.

Chaque approche a ses particularités et la clé est de varier les façons de faire périodiquement. On constate également que beaucoup de sociétés cotées utilisent les services de spécialistes pour les aider dans leurs démarches.

Évaluer le conseil d'administration

La quasi-totalité des entreprises du S&P 500 divulgue le processus d’évaluation utilisé pour améliorer leur efficacité. L’article présente deux manières de diffuser les résultats du processus d’évaluation.

(1) Structuré, c’est-à-dire un format qui précise — qui évalue quoi ; la fréquence de l’évaluation ; qui supervise les résultats ; comment le CA a-t-il agi eu égard aux résultats de l’opération d’évaluation.

(2) Information axée sur les résultats — les grandes conclusions ; les facteurs positifs et les points à améliorer ; un plan d’action visant à corriger les lacunes observées.

Notons que la firme de services aux actionnaires ISS (Institutional Shareholder Services) utilise la qualité du processus d’évaluation pour évaluer la robustesse de la gouvernance des sociétés. L’article présente des recommandations très utiles pour toute personne intéressée par la mise en place d’un système d’évaluation du CA et par sa gestion.

Voici trois articles parus sur mon blogue qui abordent le sujet de l’évaluation :

L’évaluation des conseils d’administration et des administrateurs | Sept étapes à considérer

Quels sont les devoirs et les responsabilités d’un CA ?  (la section qui traite des questionnaires d’évaluation du rendement et de la performance du conseil)

Évaluation des membres de Conseils

Bonne lecture !

Getting the Most from the Evaluation Process

More than ten years have passed since the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) began requiring annual evaluations for boards of directors and “key” committees (audit, compensation, nominating/governance), and many NASDAQ companies also conduct these evaluations annually as a matter of good governance. [1] With boards now firmly in the routine of doing annual evaluations, one challenge (as with any recurring activity) is to keep the process fresh and productive so that it continues to provide the board with valuable insights. In addition, companies are increasingly providing, and institutional shareholders are increasingly seeking, more information about the board’s evaluation process. Boards that have implemented a substantive, effective evaluation process will want information about their work in this area to be communicated to shareholders and potential investors. This can be done in a variety of ways, including in the annual proxy statement, in the governance or investor information section on the corporate website, and/or as part of shareholder engagement outreach.

To assist companies and their boards in maximizing the effectiveness of the evaluation process and related disclosures, this post provides an overview of several frequently used methods for conducting evaluations of the full board, board committees and individual directors. It is our experience that using a variety of methods, with some variation from year to year, results in more substantive and useful evaluations. This post also discusses trends and considerations relating to disclosures about board evaluations. We close with some practical tips for boards to consider as they look ahead to their next annual evaluation cycle.

Common Methods of Board Evaluation

As a threshold matter, it is important to note that there is no one “right” way to conduct board evaluations. There is room for flexibility, and the boards and committees we work with use a variety of methods. We believe it is good practice to “change up” the board evaluation process every few years by using a different format in order to keep the process fresh. Boards have increasingly found that year-after-year use of a written questionnaire, with the results compiled and summarized by a board leader or the corporate secretary for consideration by the board, becomes a routine exercise that produces few new insights as the years go by. This has been the most common practice, and it does respond to the NYSE requirement, but it may not bring as much useful information to the board as some other methods.

Doing something different from time to time can bring new perspectives and insights, enhancing the effectiveness of the process and the value it provides to the board. The evaluation process should be dynamic, changing from time to time as the board identifies practices that work well and those that it finds less effective, and as the board deals with changing expectations for how to meet its oversight duties. As an example, over the last decade there have been increasing expectations that boards will be proactive in oversight of compliance issues and risk (including cyber risk) identification and management issues.

Three of the most common methods for conducting a board or committee evaluation are: (1) written questionnaires; (2) discussions; and (3) interviews. Some of the approaches outlined below reflect a combination of these methods. A company’s nominating/governance committee typically oversees the evaluation process since it has primary responsibility for overseeing governance matters on behalf of the board.

1. Questionnaires

The most common method for conducting board evaluations has been through written responses to questionnaires that elicit information about the board’s effectiveness. The questionnaires may be prepared with the assistance of outside counsel or an outside advisor with expertise in governance matters. A well-designed questionnaire often will address a combination of substantive topics and topics relating to the board’s operations. For example, the questionnaire could touch on major subject matter areas that fall under the board’s oversight responsibility, such as views on whether the board’s oversight of critical areas like risk, compliance and crisis preparedness are effective, including whether there is appropriate and timely information flow to the board on these issues. Questionnaires typically also inquire about whether board refreshment mechanisms and board succession planning are effective, and whether the board is comfortable with the senior management succession plan. With respect to board operations, a questionnaire could inquire about matters such as the number and frequency of meetings, quality and timeliness of meeting materials, and allocation of meeting time between presentation and discussion. Some boards also consider their efforts to increase board diversity as part of the annual evaluation process.

Many boards review their questionnaires annually and update them as appropriate to address new, relevant topics or to emphasize particular areas. For example, if the board recently changed its leadership structure or reallocated responsibility for a major subject matter area among its committees, or the company acquired or started a new line of business or experienced recent issues related to operations, legal compliance or a breach of security, the questionnaire should be updated to request feedback on how the board has handled these developments. Generally, each director completes the questionnaire, the results of the questionnaires are consolidated, and a written or verbal summary of the results is then shared with the board.

Written questionnaires offer the advantage of anonymity because responses generally are summarized or reported back to the full board without attribution. As a result, directors may be more candid in their responses than they would be using another evaluation format, such as a face-to-face discussion. A potential disadvantage of written questionnaires is that they may become rote, particularly after several years of using the same or substantially similar questionnaires. Further, the final product the board receives may be a summary that does not pick up the nuances or tone of the views of individual directors.

In our experience, increasingly, at least once every few years, boards that use questionnaires are retaining a third party, such as outside counsel or another experienced facilitator, to compile the questionnaire responses, prepare a summary and moderate a discussion based on the questionnaire responses. The desirability of using an outside party for this purpose depends on a number of factors. These include the culture of the board and, specifically, whether the boardroom environment is one in which directors are comfortable expressing their views candidly. In addition, using counsel (inside or outside) may help preserve any argument that the evaluation process and related materials are privileged communications if, during the process, counsel is providing legal advice to the board.

In lieu of asking directors to complete written questionnaires, a questionnaire could be distributed to stimulate and guide discussion at an interactive full board evaluation discussion.

2. Group Discussions

Setting aside board time for a structured, in-person conversation is another common method for conducting board evaluations. The discussion can be led by one of several individuals, including: (a) the chairman of the board; (b) an independent director, such as the lead director or the chair of the nominating/governance committee; or (c) an outside facilitator, such as a lawyer or consultant with expertise in governance matters. Using a discussion format can help to “change up” the evaluation process in situations where written questionnaires are no longer providing useful, new information. It may also work well if there are particular concerns about creating a written record.

Boards that use a discussion format often circulate a list of discussion items or topics for directors to consider in advance of the meeting at which the discussion will occur. This helps to focus the conversation and make the best use of the time available. It also provides an opportunity to develop a set of topics that is tailored to the company, its business and issues it has faced and is facing. Another approach to determining discussion topics is to elicit directors’ views on what should be covered as part of the annual evaluation. For example, the nominating/governance could ask that each director select a handful of possible topics for discussion at the board evaluation session and then place the most commonly cited topics on the agenda for the evaluation.

A discussion format can be a useful tool for facilitating a candid exchange of views among directors and promoting meaningful dialogue, which can be valuable in assessing effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement. Discussions allow directors to elaborate on their views in ways that may not be feasible with a written questionnaire and to respond in real time to views expressed by their colleagues on the board. On the other hand, they do not provide an opportunity for anonymity. In our experience, this approach works best in boards with a high degree of collegiality and a tradition of candor.

3. Interviews

Another method of conducting board evaluations that is becoming more common is interviews with individual directors, done in-person or over the phone. A set of questions is often distributed in advance to help guide the discussion. Interviews can be done by: (a) an outside party such as a lawyer or consultant; (b) an independent director, such as the lead director or the chair of the nominating/governance committee; or (c) the corporate secretary or inside counsel, if directors are comfortable with that. The party conducting the interviews generally summarizes the information obtained in the interview process and may facilitate a discussion of the information obtained with the board.

In our experience, boards that have used interviews to conduct their annual evaluation process generally have found them very productive. Directors have observed that the interviews yielded rich feedback about the board’s performance and effectiveness. Relative to other types of evaluations, interviews are more labor-intensive because they can be time-consuming, particularly for larger boards. They also can be expensive, particularly if the board retains an outside party to conduct the interviews. For these reasons, the interview format generally is not one that is used every year. However, we do see a growing number of boards taking this path as a “refresher”—every three to five years—after periods of using a written questionnaire, or after a major event, such as a corporate crisis of some kind, when the board wants to do an in-depth “lessons learned” analysis as part of its self-evaluation. Interviews also offer an opportunity to develop a targeted list of questions that focuses on issues and themes that are specific to the board and company in question, which can contribute further to the value derived from the interview process.

For nominating/governance committees considering the use of an interview format, one key question is who will conduct the interviews. In our experience, the most common approach is to retain an outside party (such as a lawyer or consultant) to conduct and summarize interviews. An outside party can enhance the effectiveness of the process because directors may be more forthcoming in their responses than they would if another director or a member of management were involved.

Individual Director Evaluations

Another practice that some boards have incorporated into their evaluation process is formal evaluations of individual directors. In our experience, these are not yet widespread but are becoming more common. At companies where the nominating/governance committee has a robust process for assessing the contributions of individual directors each year in deciding whether to recommend them for renomination to the board, the committee and the board may conclude that a formal evaluation every year is unnecessary. Historically, some boards have been hesitant to conduct individual director evaluations because of concerns about the impact on board collegiality and dynamics. However, if done thoughtfully, a structured process for evaluating the performance of each director can result in valuable insights that can strengthen the performance of individual directors and the board as a whole.

As with board and committee evaluations, no single “best practice” has emerged for conducting individual director evaluations, and the methods described above can be adapted for this purpose. In addition, these evaluations may involve directors either evaluating their own performance (self-evaluations), or evaluating their fellow directors individually and as a group (peer evaluations). Directors may be more willing to evaluate their own performance than that of their colleagues, and the utility of self-evaluations can be enhanced by having an independent director, such as the chairman of the board or lead director, or the chair of the nominating/governance committee, provide feedback to each director after the director evaluates his or her own performance. On the other hand, peer evaluations can provide directors with valuable, constructive comments. Here, too, each director’s evaluation results typically would be presented only to that director by the chairman of the board or lead director, or the chair of the nominating/governance committee. Ultimately, whether and how to conduct individual director evaluations will depend on a variety of factors, including board culture.

Disclosures about Board Evaluations

Many companies discuss the board evaluation process in their corporate governance guidelines. [2] In addition, many companies now provide disclosure about the evaluation process in the proxy statement, as one element of increasingly robust proxy disclosures about their corporate governance practices. According to the 2015 Spencer Stuart Board Index, all but 2% of S&P 500 companies disclose in their proxy statements, at a minimum, that they conduct some form of annual board evaluation.

In addition, institutional shareholders increasingly are expressing an interest in knowing more about the evaluation process at companies where they invest. In particular, they want to understand whether the board’s process is a meaningful one, with actionable items emerging from the evaluation process, and not a “check the box” exercise. In the United Kingdom, companies must report annually on their processes for evaluating the performance of the board, its committees and individual directors under the UK Corporate Governance Code. As part of the code’s “comply or explain approach,” the largest companies are expected to use an external facilitator at least every three years (or explain why they have not done so) and to disclose the identity of the facilitator and whether he or she has any other connection to the company.

In September 2014, the Council of Institutional Investors issued a report entitled Best Disclosure: Board Evaluation (available here), as part of a series of reports aimed at providing investors and companies with approaches to and examples of disclosures that CII considers exemplary. The report recommended two possible approaches to enhanced disclosure about board evaluations, identified through an informal survey of CII members, and included examples of disclosures illustrating each approach. As a threshold matter, CII acknowledged in the report that shareholders generally do not expect details about evaluations of individual directors. Rather, shareholders “want to understand the process by which the board goes about regularly improving itself.” According to CII, detailed disclosure about the board evaluation process can give shareholders a “window” into the boardroom and the board’s capacity for change.

The first approach in the CII report focuses on the “nuts and bolts” of how the board conducts the evaluation process and analyzes the results. Under this approach, a company’s disclosures would address: (1) who evaluates whom; (2) how often the evaluations are done; (3) who reviews the results; and (4) how the board decides to address the results. Disclosures under this approach do not address feedback from specific evaluations, either individually or more generally, or conclusions that the board has drawn from recent self-evaluations. As a result, according to CII, this approach can take the form of “evergreen” proxy disclosure that remains similar from year to year, unless the evaluation process itself changes.

The second approach focuses more on the board’s most recent evaluation. Under this approach, in addition to addressing the evaluation process, a company’s disclosures would provide information about “big-picture, board-wide findings and any steps for tackling areas identified for improvement” during the board’s last evaluation. The disclosures would identify: (1) key takeaways from the board’s review of its own performance, including both areas where the board believes it functions effectively and where it could improve; and (2) a “plan of action” to address areas for improvement over the coming year. According to CII, this type of disclosure is more common in the United Kingdom and other non-U.S. jurisdictions.

Also reflecting a greater emphasis on disclosure about board evaluations, proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”) added this subject to the factors it uses in evaluating companies’ governance practices when it released an updated version of “QuickScore,” its corporate governance benchmarking tool, in Fall 2014. QuickScore views a company as having a “robust” board evaluation policy where the board discloses that it conducts an annual performance evaluation, including evaluations of individual directors, and that it uses an external evaluator at least every three years (consistent with the approach taken in the UK Corporate Governance Code). For individual director evaluations, it appears that companies can receive QuickScore “credit” in this regard where the nominating/governance committee assesses director performance in connection with the renomination process.

What Companies Should Do Now

As noted above, there is no “one size fits all” approach to board evaluations, but the process should be viewed as an opportunity to enhance board, committee and director performance. In this regard, a company’s nominating/governance committee and board should periodically assess the evaluation process itself to determine whether it is resulting in meaningful takeaways, and whether changes are appropriate. This includes considering whether the board would benefit from trying new approaches to the evaluation process every few years.

Factors to consider in deciding what evaluation format to use include any specific objectives the board seeks to achieve through the evaluation process, aspects of the current evaluation process that have worked well, the board’s culture, and any concerns directors may have about confidentiality. And, we believe that every board should carefully consider “changing up” the evaluation process used from time to time so that the exercise does not become rote. What will be the most beneficial in any given year will depend on a variety of factors specific to the board and the company. For the board, this includes considerations of board refreshment and tenure, and developments the board may be facing, such as changes in board or committee leadership.  Factors relevant to the company include where the company is in its lifecycle, whether the company is in a period of relative stability, challenge or transformation, whether there has been a significant change in the company’s business or a senior management change, whether there is activist interest in the company and whether the company has recently gone through or is going through a crisis of some kind. Specific items that nominating/governance committees could consider as part of maintaining an effective evaluation process include:

  1. Revisit the content and focus of written questionnaires. Evaluation questionnaires should be updated each time they are used in order to reflect significant new developments, both in the external environment and internal to the board.
  2. “Change it up.”  If the board has been using the same written questionnaire, or the same evaluation format, for several years, consider trying something new for an upcoming annual evaluation. This can bring renewed vigor to the process, reengage the participants, and result in more meaningful feedback.
  3. Consider whether to bring in an external facilitator. Boards that have not previously used an outside party to assist in their evaluations should consider whether this would enhance the candor and overall effectiveness of the process.
  4. Engage in a meaningful discussion of the evaluation results. Unless the board does its evaluation using a discussion format, there should be time on the board’s agenda to discuss the evaluation results so that all directors have an opportunity to hear and discuss the feedback from the evaluation.
  5. Incorporate follow-up into the process. Regardless of the evaluation method used, it is critical to follow up on issues and concerns that emerge from the evaluation process. The process should include identifying concrete takeaways and formulating action items to address any concerns or areas for improvement that emerge from the evaluation. Senior management can be a valuable partner in this endeavor, and should be briefed as appropriate on conclusions reached as a result of the evaluation and related action items. The board also should consider its progress in addressing these items.
  6. Revisit disclosures.  Working with management, the nominating/governance committee and the board should discuss whether the company’s proxy disclosures, investor and governance website information and other communications to shareholders and potential investors contain meaningful, current information about the board evaluation process.

Endnotes:

[1] See NYSE Rule 303A.09, which requires listed companies to adopt and disclose a set of corporate governance guidelines that must address an annual performance evaluation of the board. The rule goes on to state that “[t]he board should conduct a self-evaluation at least annually to determine whether it and its committees are functioning effectively.” See also NYSE Rules 303A.07(b)(ii), 303A.05(b)(ii) and 303A.04(b)(ii) (requiring annual evaluations of the audit, compensation, and nominating/governance committees, respectively).
(go back)

[2] In addition, as discussed in the previous note, NYSE companies are required to address an annual evaluation of the board in their corporate governance guidelines.
(go back)

______________________________

*John Olson is a founding partner of the Washington, D.C. office at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and a visiting professor at the Georgetown Law Center.

Top 10 des billets publiés sur Harvard Law School Forum au 22 avril 2021


Voici, comme à l’habitude, le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 22 avril 2021.

Cette semaine, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

AHLA - Top Ten Issues in Health Law 2021

  1. Interest in SPACs is Booming…and So is the Risk of Litigation
  2. Statement by Commissioner Peirce on Rethinking Global ESG Metrics
  3. Integrating Sustainability and Long Term Planning for the Biopharma Sector
  4. When Disclosure Is The Better Part of Valor: Lessons From The AT&T Regulation FD Enforcement Action
  5. How Boards Can Get Human Capital Management Right in Five (Not So) Easy Steps
  6. SEC Approves NYSE’s Amended “Related Party” and “20%” Stockholder Approval Rules
  7. The Activism Vulnerability Report Q4 2020
  8. The Giant Shadow of Corporate Gadflies
  9. Was Milton Friedman Right about Shareholder Capitalism?
  10. A New Theory of Material Adverse Effects

Qui s’intéresse au nombre de CA auxquels les administrateurs siègent ?


Voici un article, auquel j’ai collaboré, qui a été publié sur le blogue Gouvernail de Joanne Desjardins dans le journal les affaires.

L’auteure aborde un sujet sensible dans le monde de la gouvernance. Elle pose de vraies questions sur les responsabilités des acteurs de la gouvernance, qui ont une réelle incidence sur le renouvellement des CA.

Comment assurer une plus grande diversité dans les conseils d’administration, si les systèmes de gouvernance en vigueur dans les entreprises autorisent leurs PDG à siéger à plusieurs conseils d’administration ?

Quelle attention les comités de recrutement accordent-ils aux candidats siégeant à plusieurs conseils d’administration ?

En quoi le fait de siéger à plusieurs CA, souvent avec les mêmes administrateurs, et pour de longues périodes, porte-t-il atteinte à l’indépendance requise de fiduciaire ?

Je vous invite à lire cet article ; vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

Bonne lecture !

Quand siéger à trop de CA, c’est trop !

 

Responsabilités des administrateurs : organismes de bienfaisance enregistrés non incorporés | Éducaloi

 

Qui, concrètement, s’intéresse au nombre de CA auxquels les administrateurs siègent ?

D’abord, les comités de gouvernance et les présidents des conseils qui ont la responsabilité de s’assurer de l’efficacité de la conduite des affaires du CA, dans l’exécution de leur rôle de fiduciaire. C’est donc souvent le CA lui-même qui doit avoir ces préoccupations, et qui peut imposer ses propres règles.

Ensuite, les investisseurs institutionnels sont de plus en plus préoccupés par la participation d’administrateurs à un trop grand nombre de CA. En effet, ils sont d’avis que la capacité des administrateurs à s’acquitter efficacement de leurs fonctions s’en trouve affectée si ceux-ci siègent à plusieurs CA. En plus des autres engagements professionnels, la fonction d’administrateur est très accaparante, notamment pour les PDG. La disponibilité est un critère essentiel pour un administrateur qui exerce son rôle de fiduciaire avec sérieux.

Enfin, les firmes de conseil en votation telles que Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) et Glass Lewis recommandent aux actionnaires de s’abstenir de voter en faveur des administrateurs siégeant à un trop grand nombre de CA de sociétés inscrites en bourse.

Qu’entend-on par un trop grand nombre de CA ? On constate, depuis plusieurs années, que les organisations imposent des limites aux nombres et aux durées des mandats d’administrateurs, l’objectif étant de refléter le lien direct entre l’engagement en termes de temps et la performance.

Plusieurs CA et investisseurs institutionnels, soucieux de prendre les mesures raisonnables pour que les administrateurs puissent consacrer suffisamment de temps à leurs fonctions, appliquent les principes directeurs suivants lorsqu’ils analysent les candidatures d’administrateurs :

  • Pour ce qui est des candidats occupant un poste de chef de la direction (PDG) ou un autre poste de haute direction dans une société́ ouverte, on privilégie généralement des candidats siégeant à un maximum de deux (2) conseils d’administration de sociétés ouvertes (y compris celui du candidat) ;
  • Pour ce qui est des autres candidats, on privilégie les candidats siégeant à un maximum de cinq (5) conseils d’administration de sociétés ouvertes (y compris celui de l’entreprise visée).

 

Dans cette optique, le nombre de CA auxquels un administrateur siège devrait-il être davantage limité afin d’éviter le phénomène du « Director overboarding » ? Les autorités des marchés financiers au Canada ne fournissent pas de directives précises sur le nombre maximum de CA auxquels un administrateur devrait siéger. On note qu’il y a encore beaucoup de latitude laissée aux administrateurs. Tout au plus, les autorités réglementaires recommandent-elles la divulgation dans les rapports aux actionnaires.

Mentionnons que les CA de sociétés ouvertes affiliées ou autrement reliées entre elles sont souvent considérés comme un seul CA. Certains CA imposent une limite aux membres de comité. Par exemple, certaines entreprises prescrivent qu’un administrateur siégeant au comité d’audit ne devrait pas siéger à plus de trois autres comités d’audit de sociétés publiques.

Évidemment, les limites précitées ne tiennent pas compte de l’implication des administrateurs au sein des CA d’organisations à but non lucratif (OBNL). Les administrateurs bénévoles qui sont très engagés dans la mission de ces organisations n’ont souvent pas la disponibilité nécessaire pour participer efficacement aux travaux requis.

Certaines entreprises demandent à ce que les administrateurs les informent avant d’accepter un poste d’administrateur. Le CA, sous la loupe du comité de gouvernance, évalue alors, de concert avec le président du CA, si l’engagement sollicité par l’administrateur risque de nuire à l’exercice d’un jugement indépendant en le plaçant en situation de conflit d’intérêts, et s’il demeure apte à remplir ses fonctions d’administrateur.

À l’heure où nous assistons à la professionnalisation de la fonction d’administrateur, il n’est pas rare de constater qu’un administrateur cumule plusieurs CA. Certains administrateurs monopolisent le peu de sièges disponibles limitant ainsi la capacité de diversifier les CA. En effet, on constate une propension des administrateurs à se nommer entre eux. Cette pratique a tendance à créer un cercle fermé d’initiés limitant ainsi la capacité des CA à se renouveler et à se diversifier. Or, les attentes envers les administrateurs ne font que s’accroître ainsi que les responsabilités liées au travail sur les comités du conseil.

Siéger à un CA est un privilège et non un droit. Un privilège duquel découle un devoir de fiduciaire ainsi qu’un engagement appréciable en termes de temps. Ce privilège doit être exercé avec circonspection. Un CA performant adopte des pratiques de gouvernance exemplaires et il s’assure de la pleine disponibilité des administrateurs, ainsi que de la diversité de profil de ceux-ci.

_________________________________

Cet article a été rédigé en collaboration avec Marie-France Veilleux, conseillère exécutive et Jacques Grisé, aviseur chez Brio, boutique de management.

 

Top 10 des billets publiés sur Harvard Law School Forum au 26 mars 2021


Voici, comme à l’habitude, le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 26 mars 2021.

Cette semaine, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

Le Classement Doré Isolé Main écrit Le Mot TOP TEN Classement Clip Art Libres De Droits , Vecteurs Et Illustration. Image 84666394.

  1. Equality Metrics
  2. SEC Announces It Will Aggressively Scrutinize Issuers’ Climate Change Disclosure
  3. Gensler and SEC’s 2021 Examination Priorities Highlight ESG and Climate Risk
  4. Corporate Officers Face Personal Liability for Steering Sale of the Company to a Favored Buyer
  5. BlackRock’s 2021 Engagement Priorities
  6. Are Women Underpriced? Board Diversity and IPO Performance
  7. Activist Shareholder Proposals and HCM Disclosures in 2021
  8. Protests from Within: Engaging with Employee Activists
  9. Behavioral Psychology Might Explain What’s Holding Boards Back
  10. The Distribution of Voting Rights to Shareholders

L’audit interne en période de pandémie


Dans le cadre de son quinzième anniversaire, le Collège des administrateurs de sociétés (CAS) publiera quinze articles originaux sur des thèmes recoupant des problématiques de gouvernance dans les organisations.

Voici donc une introduction à la publication du quatrième article qui porte sur la place de l’audit interne dans le contexte de la pandémie, et son rôle dans la gouvernance des sociétés.

Dans son article, Mélanie Roussy* aborde trois paramètres-clés afin de cerner la marge de manœuvre d’un comité d’audit en période de grands bouleversements. L’auteure propose les activités suivantes : (1) envisager le ralentissement ou l’arrêt des activités et revoir la planification des travaux de l’audit interne (2) mettre les connaissances et les compétences de l’équipe d’audit interne au service des besoins essentiels, et (3) veiller au retour à la normale, après la période de mouvance.

« Un contexte turbulent comme celui de la pandémie offre au comité d’audit l’occasion de consolider la qualité des travaux futurs de l’audit interne et son utilité comme mécanisme de gouvernance. Pour ce faire, le comité doit s’assurer que les interventions de l’audit interne demeurent pertinentes en période de turbulence ».

Je vous invite à lire l’article de Mélanie.

Bonne lecture !

Audit interne et gouvernance

 

 

L’audit interne est considéré comme un mécanisme de gouvernance au service du comité d’audit et de la haute direction. Ses travaux apportent notamment du confort aux administrateurs quant à l’efficacité de la gestion des risques (financiers ou non) et du contrôle, contribuent à l’amélioration de la reddition de comptes, tout en stimulant l’apprentissage organisationnel. Toutefois, pour que l’audit interne génère les bénéfices escomptés, encore faut-il que ses interventions soient arrimées aux principales préoccupations du comité d’audit et de la haute direction. De plus, il est impératif que l’audit interne soit perçu comme un aidant au sein de l’organisation, sans quoi son efficacité se trouvera limitée.

La crise sanitaire de 2020 provoquée par la pandémie de la COVID-19 a fortement ébranlé la société canadienne, comme plusieurs autres à l’échelle mondiale. Cela a poussé les organisations, tous secteurs confondus, dans une période d’intenses turbulences. Or, en période de turbulences, les préoccupations des administrateurs et de la direction changent face à l’urgence de la situation. Ainsi, peu importe ce qui a causé lesdites turbulences, qu’elles n’affectent qu’une seule organisation, un secteur d’affaires en particulier ou l’économie en général, il est de la responsabilité du comité d’audit de s’assurer que les interventions de l’audit interne demeurent pertinentes dans ces circonstances exceptionnelles. Ces questions se posent alors : (1) que fait-on avec l’audit interne en période de turbulences ? Et (2) quelle est la marge de manœuvre dont dispose le comité d’audit pour ajuster les responsabilités de l’audit interne sans contrevenir au Cadre de référence internationale des pratiques professionnelles de l’audit interne (ci-après : Cadre de référence) de l’Institut des auditeurs internes (The IIA, IPPF 2017) ? La suite de ce texte aborde trois paramètres à considérer en réponse à ces deux questions.

ENVISAGER LE RALENTISSEMENT OU L’ARRÊT DES ACTIVITÉS ET REVOIR LA PLANIFICATION DES TRAVAUX DE L’AUDIT INTERNE

 

La réalisation des travaux de l’audit interne nécessite obligatoirement la collaboration des gestionnaires responsables du processus audité et de leurs équipes. En période de turbulences, ces derniers sont occupés à gérer les services essentiels et à pallier diverses urgences qui surviennent, souvent en cascade. Ainsi, à moins que le comité d’audit estime qu’un mandat en cours est absolument essentiel, et ce malgré la situation qui prévaut, les travaux en cours de l’audit interne devraient être considérablement ralentis ou carrément mis sur la glace le temps que la situation se résorbe et que le cours « normal » des activités de l’organisation ait repris. Cela évitera de surcharger encore davantage les gestionnaires et leurs équipes tout en limitant les irritants.

Une fois les turbulences passées, il serait d’ailleurs approprié de revoir l’ensemble de la planification des travaux de l’audit interne. En effet, il se peut que les priorités de l’organisation et les risques auxquels elle est exposée aient évolué ; rendant ainsi plus ou moins pertinente la planification datant d’avant les évènements.

METTRE LES CONNAISSANCES ET LES COMPÉTENCES DE L’ÉQUIPE D’AUDIT INTERNE AU SERVICE DES BESOINS ESSENTIELS

 

Durant le ralentissement ou l’arrêt des travaux initialement prévus, le comité d’audit peut autoriser le redéploiement des effectifs de l’audit interne à d’autres fins sans contrevenir au Cadre de référence (The IIA, IPPF 2017), et ce, même si cela peut sembler compromettre l’indépendance de la fonction d’audit interne et l’objectivité des auditeurs internes. En effet, le Cadre de référence (The IIA, IPPF 2017, par. 1112) permet au comité d’audit d’autoriser le responsable de l’audit interne, et donc les membres de son équipe, à assumer des responsabilités en dehors du spectre habituel de l’audit interne. Le comité est alors responsable d’autoriser ces interventions particulières et de superviser leur réalisation. Le comité devra également établir les mesures de sauvegarde de l’indépendance de la fonction et de l’objectivité des auditeurs internes. Il est donc possible de mettre l’audit interne au service des besoins essentiels en temps de crise et de redéployer les effectifs en conséquence, à la condition que le comité d’audit l’autorise et en balise les conditions. Par exemple, on peut notamment envisager de miser sur ces forces de l’équipe d’audit interne :

Connaissance fine de l’organisation

Au cours de la planification et de la réalisation des travaux (ex. audit de performance, audit de conformité, services-conseils en tout genre, participation à des comités de travail, etc.), les auditeurs internes développent une connaissance fine de l’organisation. Le président du comité d’audit ne devrait pas hésiter à se servir de ce vecteur de connaissances qu’est l’audit interne pour obtenir rapidement des réponses aux questions qui préoccupent le comité en période de turbulences. Cette connaissance fine peut être également mise à profit par l’équipe de direction en intégrant par exemple le responsable de l’audit interne à la cellule de crise de la haute direction. Cela permet de supporter l’équipe de direction tout en facilitant la circulation rapide de l’information jusqu’au comité d’audit.

Versatilité et agilité des auditeurs internes

De plus, les auditeurs internes sont habitués à passer d’un mandat à l’autre, d’une division à l’autre pour réaliser leurs travaux. Cela fait d’eux des professionnels versatiles et agiles qui peuvent être déployés rapidement comme personnes-ressources dans plusieurs secteurs névralgiques de l’organisation. Il ne s’agit pas de prétendre qu’ils peuvent tout faire, mais simplement de garder en tête qu’ils sont en mesure d’appuyer les gestionnaires là où les besoins se feront le plus sentir ; de prêter main-forte à leurs collègues.

Savoir-faire associé à la pratique de l’audit

Les auditeurs internes développent un savoir-faire particulier associé à la pratique de l’audit ; savoir-faire qui peut s’avérer utile en période de turbulences. Notamment, les auditeurs internes réalisent fréquemment des analyses comparatives sectorielles afin d’identifier les meilleures pratiques associées à la maîtrise d’un risque en particulier. Par exemple, dans le contexte des turbulences induites par la pandémie de la COVID-19, ce savoir-faire aurait pu contribuer à alimenter le comité de travail chargé de concevoir de nouveaux protocoles de santé et sécurité au travail plutôt que d’attendre après-coup pour envoyer les auditeurs internes auditer ce nouveau protocole.

VEILLER AU « RETOUR À LA NORMALE » APRÈS LA PÉRIODE DE TURBULENCES

 

En pleines turbulences, la pertinence des interventions et la solidarité avec l’ensemble de l’organisation prennent le pas sur l’application pure et dure des principes d’indépendance de la fonction d’audit interne et d’objectivité des auditeurs internes. Il est donc important, dans le respect du Cadre de référence (The IIA, 2017), que le comité d’audit prévoie des lignes directrices visant à circonscrire les conditions de retour la normale des travaux de l’audit interne. Ces lignes directrices devraient d’ailleurs être déterminées en collaboration avec la haute direction et le responsable de l’audit interne, afin de s’assurer que les principaux intéressés soient sur la même longueur d’onde.

En conclusion, l’audit interne devrait faire partie de la solution au côté de la direction et des gens de l’organisation lorsque survient une période de turbulences. Ainsi, même si nous souhaiterions l’éviter, un contexte turbulent peut représenter une opportunité de consolider la perception (voire de la transformer si nécessaire) de l’audit interne comme un joueur à part entière de l’équipe, solidaire dans l’adversité. Non seulement les activités de l’audit interne seront contributoires durant la période de turbulences, mais cela pourrait aussi faciliter ses interventions futures en le positionnant comme un aidant des gestionnaires, sans pour autant compromettre son indépendance et sa pertinence pour le comité d’audit. La qualité globale des travaux futurs de l’audit interne et, conséquemment, son utilité comme mécanisme de gouvernance s’en trouveront ainsi renforcées.

_________________________________________

*Mélanie Roussy, PhD, CPA, CA, ASC, professeure titulaire, École de comptabilité, FSA ULaval

 

Top 10 des billets publiés sur Harvard Law School Forum au 4 mars 2021


Voici, comme à l’habitude, le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 4 mars 2021.

Cette semaine, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2020 | Research World

 

  1. The Capital Markets Tug-of-War Between US and China
  2. How Boards Can Prepare for Activism’s Next Wave
  3. An Introduction to Activist Stewardship
  4. Biden’s “Money Cop” to Shine a Light on ESG Disclosure
  5. Climate Risk and the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy
  6. Gender Quotas and Support for Women in Board Elections
  7. 2021 Global and Regional Trends in Corporate Governance
  8. 2021 Compensation Committee
  9. Proxy Advisory Firms Release First Reports on Latest Best Practices
  10. Duty and Diversity

Top 15 des billets publiés sur Harvard Law School Forum au 18 février 2021


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 18 février 2021.

Cette semaine. j’ai relevé les quinze principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "top 15"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Spencer Stuart S&P MidCap 400 Board Report
  2. A New Whistleblower Environment Emerges
  3. Stakeholder Capitalism: From Balance Sheet to Value Sheet
  4. BlackRock’s 2021 CEO Letter
  5. CFO Signals
  6. 2021 Proxy Season: Executive Compensation Considerations
  7. How We Evaluate Shareholder Proposals
  8. Advisers by Another Name
  9. COVID-19 and Comparative Corporate Governance
  10. A Conversation with Bill Ackman
  11. Troubling Signs from Recent M&A Case Law
  12. Shareholderism Versus Stakeholderism—A Misconceived Contradiction: A Comment on “The Illusory Promise of Stakeholder Governance” by Lucian Bebchuk and Roberto Tallarita
  13. Risk Factor Disclosures for the Recovery Era
  14. Corporate Transparency Act: What Companies Need to Know
  15. Executive Compensation in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Comment procéder à l’évaluation du CA, des comités et des administrateurs | Un sujet d’actualité !


Les conseils d’administration sont de plus en plus confrontés à l’exigence d’évaluer l’efficacité de leur fonctionnement par le biais d’une évaluation annuelle du CA, des comités et des administrateurs.

En fait, le NYSE exige depuis dix ans que les conseils procèdent à leur évaluation et que les résultats du processus soient divulgués aux actionnaires. Également, les investisseurs institutionnels et les activistes demandent de plus en plus d’informations au sujet du processus d’évaluation.

Les résultats de l’évaluation peuvent être divulgués de plusieurs façons, notamment dans les circulaires de procuration et sur le site de l’entreprise.

L’article publié par John Olson, associé fondateur de la firme Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, professeur invité à Georgetown Law Center, et paru sur le forum du Harvard Law School, présente certaines approches fréquemment utilisées pour l’évaluation du CA, des comités et des administrateurs.

On recommande de modifier les méthodes et les paramètres de l’évaluation à chaque trois ans afin d’éviter la routine susceptible de s’installer si les administrateurs remplissent les mêmes questionnaires, gérés par le président du conseil. De plus, l’objectif de l’évaluation est sujet à changement (par exemple, depuis une décennie, on accorde une grande place à la cybersécurité).

C’est au comité de gouvernance que revient la supervision du processus d’évaluation du conseil d’administration. L’article décrit quatre méthodes fréquemment utilisées.

(1) Les questionnaires gérés par le comité de gouvernance ou une personne externe

(2) les discussions entre administrateurs sur des sujets déterminés à l’avance

(3) les entretiens individuels avec les administrateurs sur des thèmes précis par le président du conseil, le président du comité de gouvernance ou un expert externe.

(4) L’évaluation des contributions de chaque administrateur par la méthode d’auto-évaluation et par l’évaluation des pairs.

Chaque approche a ses particularités et la clé est de varier les façons de faire périodiquement. On constate également que beaucoup de sociétés cotées utilisent les services de spécialistes pour les aider dans leurs démarches.

Evaluer-et-faire-évoluer-©-Jingling-Water-Fotolia

 

La quasi-totalité des entreprises du S&P 500 divulgue le processus d’évaluation utilisé pour améliorer leur efficacité. L’article présente deux manières de diffuser les résultats du processus d’évaluation.

(1) Structuré, c’est-à-dire un format qui précise — qui évalue quoi ; la fréquence de l’évaluation ; qui supervise les résultats ; comment le CA a-t-il agi eu égard aux résultats de l’opération d’évaluation.

(2) Information axée sur les résultats — les grandes conclusions ; les facteurs positifs et les points à améliorer ; un plan d’action visant à corriger les lacunes observées.

Notons que la firme de services aux actionnaires ISS (Institutional Shareholder Services) utilise la qualité du processus d’évaluation pour évaluer la robustesse de la gouvernance des sociétés. L’article présente des recommandations très utiles pour toute personne intéressée par la mise en place d’un système d’évaluation du CA et par sa gestion.

Voici trois articles parus sur mon blogue qui abordent le sujet de l’évaluation :

L’évaluation des conseils d’administration et des administrateurs | Sept étapes à considérer

Quels sont les devoirs et les responsabilités d’un CA ?  (la section qui traite des questionnaires d’évaluation du rendement et de la performance du conseil)

Évaluation des membres de Conseils

Bonne lecture !

Getting the Most from the Evaluation Process

 

More than ten years have passed since the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) began requiring annual evaluations for boards of directors and “key” committees (audit, compensation, nominating/governance), and many NASDAQ companies also conduct these evaluations annually as a matter of good governance. [1] With boards now firmly in the routine of doing annual evaluations, one challenge (as with any recurring activity) is to keep the process fresh and productive so that it continues to provide the board with valuable insights. In addition, companies are increasingly providing, and institutional shareholders are increasingly seeking, more information about the board’s evaluation process. Boards that have implemented a substantive, effective evaluation process will want information about their work in this area to be communicated to shareholders and potential investors. This can be done in a variety of ways, including in the annual proxy statement, in the governance or investor information section on the corporate website, and/or as part of shareholder engagement outreach.

To assist companies and their boards in maximizing the effectiveness of the evaluation process and related disclosures, this post provides an overview of several frequently used methods for conducting evaluations of the full board, board committees and individual directors. It is our experience that using a variety of methods, with some variation from year to year, results in more substantive and useful evaluations. This post also discusses trends and considerations relating to disclosures about board evaluations. We close with some practical tips for boards to consider as they look ahead to their next annual evaluation cycle.

Common Methods of Board Evaluation

As a threshold matter, it is important to note that there is no one “right” way to conduct board evaluations. There is room for flexibility, and the boards and committees we work with use a variety of methods. We believe it is good practice to “change up” the board evaluation process every few years by using a different format in order to keep the process fresh. Boards have increasingly found that year-after-year use of a written questionnaire, with the results compiled and summarized by a board leader or the corporate secretary for consideration by the board, becomes a routine exercise that produces few new insights as the years go by. This has been the most common practice, and it does respond to the NYSE requirement, but it may not bring as much useful information to the board as some other methods.

Doing something different from time to time can bring new perspectives and insights, enhancing the effectiveness of the process and the value it provides to the board. The evaluation process should be dynamic, changing from time to time as the board identifies practices that work well and those that it finds less effective, and as the board deals with changing expectations for how to meet its oversight duties. As an example, over the last decade there have been increasing expectations that boards will be proactive in oversight of compliance issues and risk (including cyber risk) identification and management issues.

Three of the most common methods for conducting a board or committee evaluation are: (1) written questionnaires; (2) discussions; and (3) interviews. Some of the approaches outlined below reflect a combination of these methods. A company’s nominating/governance committee typically oversees the evaluation process since it has primary responsibility for overseeing governance matters on behalf of the board.

1. Questionnaires

The most common method for conducting board evaluations has been through written responses to questionnaires that elicit information about the board’s effectiveness. The questionnaires may be prepared with the assistance of outside counsel or an outside advisor with expertise in governance matters. A well-designed questionnaire often will address a combination of substantive topics and topics relating to the board’s operations. For example, the questionnaire could touch on major subject matter areas that fall under the board’s oversight responsibility, such as views on whether the board’s oversight of critical areas like risk, compliance and crisis preparedness are effective, including whether there is appropriate and timely information flow to the board on these issues. Questionnaires typically also inquire about whether board refreshment mechanisms and board succession planning are effective, and whether the board is comfortable with the senior management succession plan. With respect to board operations, a questionnaire could inquire about matters such as the number and frequency of meetings, quality and timeliness of meeting materials, and allocation of meeting time between presentation and discussion. Some boards also consider their efforts to increase board diversity as part of the annual evaluation process.

Many boards review their questionnaires annually and update them as appropriate to address new, relevant topics or to emphasize particular areas. For example, if the board recently changed its leadership structure or reallocated responsibility for a major subject matter area among its committees, or the company acquired or started a new line of business or experienced recent issues related to operations, legal compliance or a breach of security, the questionnaire should be updated to request feedback on how the board has handled these developments. Generally, each director completes the questionnaire, the results of the questionnaires are consolidated, and a written or verbal summary of the results is then shared with the board.

Written questionnaires offer the advantage of anonymity because responses generally are summarized or reported back to the full board without attribution. As a result, directors may be more candid in their responses than they would be using another evaluation format, such as a face-to-face discussion. A potential disadvantage of written questionnaires is that they may become rote, particularly after several years of using the same or substantially similar questionnaires. Further, the final product the board receives may be a summary that does not pick up the nuances or tone of the views of individual directors.

In our experience, increasingly, at least once every few years, boards that use questionnaires are retaining a third party, such as outside counsel or another experienced facilitator, to compile the questionnaire responses, prepare a summary and moderate a discussion based on the questionnaire responses. The desirability of using an outside party for this purpose depends on a number of factors. These include the culture of the board and, specifically, whether the boardroom environment is one in which directors are comfortable expressing their views candidly. In addition, using counsel (inside or outside) may help preserve any argument that the evaluation process and related materials are privileged communications if, during the process, counsel is providing legal advice to the board.

In lieu of asking directors to complete written questionnaires, a questionnaire could be distributed to stimulate and guide discussion at an interactive full board evaluation discussion.

2. Group Discussions

Setting aside board time for a structured, in-person conversation is another common method for conducting board evaluations. The discussion can be led by one of several individuals, including: (a) the chairman of the board; (b) an independent director, such as the lead director or the chair of the nominating/governance committee; or (c) an outside facilitator, such as a lawyer or consultant with expertise in governance matters. Using a discussion format can help to “change up” the evaluation process in situations where written questionnaires are no longer providing useful, new information. It may also work well if there are particular concerns about creating a written record.

Boards that use a discussion format often circulate a list of discussion items or topics for directors to consider in advance of the meeting at which the discussion will occur. This helps to focus the conversation and make the best use of the time available. It also provides an opportunity to develop a set of topics that is tailored to the company, its business and issues it has faced and is facing. Another approach to determining discussion topics is to elicit directors’ views on what should be covered as part of the annual evaluation. For example, the nominating/governance could ask that each director select a handful of possible topics for discussion at the board evaluation session and then place the most commonly cited topics on the agenda for the evaluation.

A discussion format can be a useful tool for facilitating a candid exchange of views among directors and promoting meaningful dialogue, which can be valuable in assessing effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement. Discussions allow directors to elaborate on their views in ways that may not be feasible with a written questionnaire and to respond in real time to views expressed by their colleagues on the board. On the other hand, they do not provide an opportunity for anonymity. In our experience, this approach works best in boards with a high degree of collegiality and a tradition of candor.

3. Interviews

Another method of conducting board evaluations that is becoming more common is interviews with individual directors, done in-person or over the phone. A set of questions is often distributed in advance to help guide the discussion. Interviews can be done by: (a) an outside party such as a lawyer or consultant; (b) an independent director, such as the lead director or the chair of the nominating/governance committee; or (c) the corporate secretary or inside counsel, if directors are comfortable with that. The party conducting the interviews generally summarizes the information obtained in the interview process and may facilitate a discussion of the information obtained with the board.

In our experience, boards that have used interviews to conduct their annual evaluation process generally have found them very productive. Directors have observed that the interviews yielded rich feedback about the board’s performance and effectiveness. Relative to other types of evaluations, interviews are more labor-intensive because they can be time-consuming, particularly for larger boards. They also can be expensive, particularly if the board retains an outside party to conduct the interviews. For these reasons, the interview format generally is not one that is used every year. However, we do see a growing number of boards taking this path as a “refresher”—every three to five years—after periods of using a written questionnaire, or after a major event, such as a corporate crisis of some kind, when the board wants to do an in-depth “lessons learned” analysis as part of its self-evaluation. Interviews also offer an opportunity to develop a targeted list of questions that focuses on issues and themes that are specific to the board and company in question, which can contribute further to the value derived from the interview process.

For nominating/governance committees considering the use of an interview format, one key question is who will conduct the interviews. In our experience, the most common approach is to retain an outside party (such as a lawyer or consultant) to conduct and summarize interviews. An outside party can enhance the effectiveness of the process because directors may be more forthcoming in their responses than they would if another director or a member of management were involved.

Individual Director Evaluations

Another practice that some boards have incorporated into their evaluation process is formal evaluations of individual directors. In our experience, these are not yet widespread but are becoming more common. At companies where the nominating/governance committee has a robust process for assessing the contributions of individual directors each year in deciding whether to recommend them for renomination to the board, the committee and the board may conclude that a formal evaluation every year is unnecessary. Historically, some boards have been hesitant to conduct individual director evaluations because of concerns about the impact on board collegiality and dynamics. However, if done thoughtfully, a structured process for evaluating the performance of each director can result in valuable insights that can strengthen the performance of individual directors and the board as a whole.

As with board and committee evaluations, no single “best practice” has emerged for conducting individual director evaluations, and the methods described above can be adapted for this purpose. In addition, these evaluations may involve directors either evaluating their own performance (self-evaluations), or evaluating their fellow directors individually and as a group (peer evaluations). Directors may be more willing to evaluate their own performance than that of their colleagues, and the utility of self-evaluations can be enhanced by having an independent director, such as the chairman of the board or lead director, or the chair of the nominating/governance committee, provide feedback to each director after the director evaluates his or her own performance. On the other hand, peer evaluations can provide directors with valuable, constructive comments. Here, too, each director’s evaluation results typically would be presented only to that director by the chairman of the board or lead director, or the chair of the nominating/governance committee. Ultimately, whether and how to conduct individual director evaluations will depend on a variety of factors, including board culture.

Disclosures about Board Evaluations

Many companies discuss the board evaluation process in their corporate governance guidelines. [2] In addition, many companies now provide disclosure about the evaluation process in the proxy statement, as one element of increasingly robust proxy disclosures about their corporate governance practices. According to the 2015 Spencer Stuart Board Index, all but 2% of S&P 500 companies disclose in their proxy statements, at a minimum, that they conduct some form of annual board evaluation.

In addition, institutional shareholders increasingly are expressing an interest in knowing more about the evaluation process at companies where they invest. In particular, they want to understand whether the board’s process is a meaningful one, with actionable items emerging from the evaluation process, and not a “check the box” exercise. In the United Kingdom, companies must report annually on their processes for evaluating the performance of the board, its committees and individual directors under the UK Corporate Governance Code. As part of the code’s “comply or explain approach,” the largest companies are expected to use an external facilitator at least every three years (or explain why they have not done so) and to disclose the identity of the facilitator and whether he or she has any other connection to the company.

In September 2014, the Council of Institutional Investors issued a report entitled Best Disclosure: Board Evaluation (available here), as part of a series of reports aimed at providing investors and companies with approaches to and examples of disclosures that CII considers exemplary. The report recommended two possible approaches to enhanced disclosure about board evaluations, identified through an informal survey of CII members, and included examples of disclosures illustrating each approach. As a threshold matter, CII acknowledged in the report that shareholders generally do not expect details about evaluations of individual directors. Rather, shareholders “want to understand the process by which the board goes about regularly improving itself.” According to CII, detailed disclosure about the board evaluation process can give shareholders a “window” into the boardroom and the board’s capacity for change.

The first approach in the CII report focuses on the “nuts and bolts” of how the board conducts the evaluation process and analyzes the results. Under this approach, a company’s disclosures would address: (1) who evaluates whom; (2) how often the evaluations are done; (3) who reviews the results; and (4) how the board decides to address the results. Disclosures under this approach do not address feedback from specific evaluations, either individually or more generally, or conclusions that the board has drawn from recent self-evaluations. As a result, according to CII, this approach can take the form of “evergreen” proxy disclosure that remains similar from year to year, unless the evaluation process itself changes.

The second approach focuses more on the board’s most recent evaluation. Under this approach, in addition to addressing the evaluation process, a company’s disclosures would provide information about “big-picture, board-wide findings and any steps for tackling areas identified for improvement” during the board’s last evaluation. The disclosures would identify: (1) key takeaways from the board’s review of its own performance, including both areas where the board believes it functions effectively and where it could improve; and (2) a “plan of action” to address areas for improvement over the coming year. According to CII, this type of disclosure is more common in the United Kingdom and other non-U.S. jurisdictions.

Also reflecting a greater emphasis on disclosure about board evaluations, proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”) added this subject to the factors it uses in evaluating companies’ governance practices when it released an updated version of “QuickScore,” its corporate governance benchmarking tool, in Fall 2014. QuickScore views a company as having a “robust” board evaluation policy where the board discloses that it conducts an annual performance evaluation, including evaluations of individual directors, and that it uses an external evaluator at least every three years (consistent with the approach taken in the UK Corporate Governance Code). For individual director evaluations, it appears that companies can receive QuickScore “credit” in this regard where the nominating/governance committee assesses director performance in connection with the renomination process.

What Companies Should Do Now

As noted above, there is no “one size fits all” approach to board evaluations, but the process should be viewed as an opportunity to enhance board, committee and director performance. In this regard, a company’s nominating/governance committee and board should periodically assess the evaluation process itself to determine whether it is resulting in meaningful takeaways, and whether changes are appropriate. This includes considering whether the board would benefit from trying new approaches to the evaluation process every few years.

Factors to consider in deciding what evaluation format to use include any specific objectives the board seeks to achieve through the evaluation process, aspects of the current evaluation process that have worked well, the board’s culture, and any concerns directors may have about confidentiality. And, we believe that every board should carefully consider “changing up” the evaluation process used from time to time so that the exercise does not become rote. What will be the most beneficial in any given year will depend on a variety of factors specific to the board and the company. For the board, this includes considerations of board refreshment and tenure, and developments the board may be facing, such as changes in board or committee leadership.  Factors relevant to the company include where the company is in its lifecycle, whether the company is in a period of relative stability, challenge or transformation, whether there has been a significant change in the company’s business or a senior management change, whether there is activist interest in the company and whether the company has recently gone through or is going through a crisis of some kind. Specific items that nominating/governance committees could consider as part of maintaining an effective evaluation process include:

  1. Revisit the content and focus of written questionnaires. Evaluation questionnaires should be updated each time they are used in order to reflect significant new developments, both in the external environment and internal to the board.
  2. “Change it up.”  If the board has been using the same written questionnaire, or the same evaluation format, for several years, consider trying something new for an upcoming annual evaluation. This can bring renewed vigor to the process, reengage the participants, and result in more meaningful feedback.
  3. Consider whether to bring in an external facilitator. Boards that have not previously used an outside party to assist in their evaluations should consider whether this would enhance the candor and overall effectiveness of the process.
  4. Engage in a meaningful discussion of the evaluation results. Unless the board does its evaluation using a discussion format, there should be time on the board’s agenda to discuss the evaluation results so that all directors have an opportunity to hear and discuss the feedback from the evaluation.
  5. Incorporate follow-up into the process. Regardless of the evaluation method used, it is critical to follow up on issues and concerns that emerge from the evaluation process. The process should include identifying concrete takeaways and formulating action items to address any concerns or areas for improvement that emerge from the evaluation. Senior management can be a valuable partner in this endeavor, and should be briefed as appropriate on conclusions reached as a result of the evaluation and related action items. The board also should consider its progress in addressing these items.
  6. Revisit disclosures.  Working with management, the nominating/governance committee and the board should discuss whether the company’s proxy disclosures, investor and governance website information and other communications to shareholders and potential investors contain meaningful, current information about the board evaluation process.

Endnotes:

[1] See NYSE Rule 303A.09, which requires listed companies to adopt and disclose a set of corporate governance guidelines that must address an annual performance evaluation of the board. The rule goes on to state that “[t]he board should conduct a self-evaluation at least annually to determine whether it and its committees are functioning effectively.” See also NYSE Rules 303A.07(b)(ii), 303A.05(b)(ii) and 303A.04(b)(ii) (requiring annual evaluations of the audit, compensation, and nominating/governance committees, respectively).
(go back)

[2] In addition, as discussed in the previous note, NYSE companies are required to address an annual evaluation of the board in their corporate governance guidelines.
(go back)

______________________________

*John Olson is a founding partner of the Washington, D.C. office at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and a visiting professor at the Georgetown Law Center.

Changements réglementaires eu égard aux concepts ESG


Le billet présenté ici a été publié par David M. Silk, Sabastian V. Niles, et Carmen X. W. Lu de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Les auteurs expliquent les changements réglementaires concernant l’ESG, susceptibles de se produire avec l’arrivée des nominations de Biden à la SEC.

Je vous invite à lire la version française de la publication effectuée par Google, que j’ai corrigée. Ce travail de correction est certainement encore perfectible, mais le résultat est très satisfaisant.

Bonne lecture !

ESG Disclosures (harvard.edu)

 

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "esg disclosure"

 

Plus tôt cette semaine, la Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) des États-Unis a annoncé la nomination de Satyam Khanna au poste de conseiller principal en politiques pour le climat et l’ESG (Environnement, Social et Gouvernance). M. Khanna conseillera l’agence sur les questions environnementales, sociales et de gouvernance, et fera avancer les nouvelles initiatives connexes dans les bureaux et les divisions de la SEC. En plus des postes antérieurs à la SEC, y compris en tant qu’avocat de l’ancien commissaire de la SEC Robert J. Jackson Jr., M. Khanna a précédemment siégé au Conseil de surveillance de la stabilité financière du Département du Trésor des États-Unis. Ce dernier a été conseiller auprès de Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). Cette dernière nomination, ainsi que le décret de l’administration Biden publié la semaine dernière visant à faire face à la crise climatique, indique un changement clair vers une plus grande orientation réglementaire et la surveillance sur le changement climatique et d’autres questions ESG.

Dans le passé, la SEC a refusé les appels à mettre en œuvre des divulgations spécifiques à l’ESG, préférant s’appuyer sur les formulations traditionnelles de matérialité comme point de référence pour les divulgations. En l’absence de directives réglementaires, les investisseurs, les gestionnaires d’actifs et les entreprises ont proposé des cadres volontaires de divulgation ESG dans le but de générer des données comparables et utiles à la décision qui peuvent être utilisées pour mesurer les risques, les progrès et la performance ESG des entreprises.

Il semble maintenant que les régulateurs américains envisageront de jouer un rôle plus central dans les pratiques de divulgation : le décret de l’administration Biden a déclaré que « le gouvernement fédéral doit conduire l’évaluation, la divulgation et l’atténuation de la pollution climatique et des risques liés au climat dans tous les secteurs de notre économie ». De même, Allison Herren Lee, présidente par intérim de la SEC, a appuyé un régime de divulgation qui garantirait que les institutions financières produisent une divulgation normalisée de leur exposition aux risques climatiques, et l’on s’attend généralement à ce que le nouveau président de la SEC, Gary Gensler, appuie l’élaboration de règles liées à l’ESG.

Le Comité consultatif des investisseurs de la SEC (dont certains anciens membres font maintenant partie de l’administration Biden) a également recommandé l’an dernier que la SEC se concentre sur la mise à jour des exigences en matière de rapports afin d’inclure des « facteurs ESG importants et utiles à la décision », soulignant le besoin des investisseurs pour de telles informations eu égard aux décisions d’investissement et de vote, aux avantages de la divulgation directe par les émetteurs, à la nécessité de rendre plus équitable les règles du jeu entre les émetteurs et les possibilités de promouvoir la circulation des capitaux vers les marchés américains et les émetteurs nationaux de toutes tailles. Le Comité consultatif sur la gestion des actifs de la SEC a également examiné des questions liées à l’ESG et des recommandations potentielles.

Outre-Atlantique, les régulateurs du Royaume-Uni et de l’UE ont continué d’accroître leurs exigences en matière de divulgation. La semaine dernière, le département du Travail et des Pensions du Royaume-Uni a annoncé qu’à partir d’octobre 2021, les caisses de retraite de plus de 5 milliards de livres sterling sous gestion devront publier des rapports conformes aux recommandations du Groupe de travail sur les divulgations financières liées au climat (TCFD).

Le règlement de l’UE sur la divulgation des finances durables, qui oblige les banques, les gestionnaires d’actifs et certains autres participants aux marchés financiers à faire des divulgations sur l’intégration des risques de durabilité dans les décisions d’investissement, entrera en vigueur en mars. La Commission européenne examine également le champ d’application de sa directive sur l’information non financière qui oblige certaines grandes entreprises à divulguer leurs politiques en matière d’ESG, y compris la protection de l’environnement, la responsabilité sociale et la diversité des conseils d’administration. L’examen indépendant, mondial et exhaustif du gouvernement du Royaume-Uni sur l’économie de la biodiversité commandé par le

Le Trésor du Royaume-Uni, la Dasgupta Review, a également été publié et accélérera l’accent mis sur les questions liées à la biodiversité, y compris les divulgations financières, la répartition du capital et les théories comptables et économiques.

Bien qu’il reste à voir quelles politiques et stratégies la SEC et d’autres organismes de réglementation fédéraux adopteront à l’égard du ESG — et si les organismes de réglementation américains adopteront les voies suivies par leurs homologues du Royaume-Uni et de l’UE —, il est évident que la nécessité de données normalisées, comparables et assurables, en particulier sur les risques liés au climat, est devenue de plus en plus urgente.

La convergence continue entre les différents cadres de divulgation du GSE continuera probablement de s’accélérer jusqu’en 2021. Entre-temps, nous prévoyons une augmentation continue de la divulgation par les entreprises américaines conformément aux recommandations du Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) et du TCFD, ainsi qu’une adoption rapide des mesures du capitalisme des parties prenantes publiées par le Forum économique mondial.

Top 10 des billets publiés sur Harvard Law School Forum au 20 janvier 2021


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 20 janvier 2021
Cette semaine, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.
Bonne lecture !

Top Ten Article - Home | Facebook

  1. CEO Succession Practices in the Russell 3000 and S&P 500
  2. Financing Year in Review: From Crisis to Comeback
  3. Climate Activism: Status Check and Opportunities for Public Companies
  4. A Look at This Year’s Voting Trends Following the US N-PX Disclosures
  5. Year-End Accounting and Financial Reporting Considerations
  6. Investors Hold Boards Accountable—When Equipped With the Right Reports
  7. Directors Using Their Employer’s Email Account
  8. How Boards Can Promote a New Leadership Model for Companies
  9. Why ESG Can No Longer Be a PR Exercise
  10. Racial Diversity and Investment

Top 10 des billets publiés sur Harvard Law School Forum au 14 janvier 2021


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 14 janvier2021.

Cette semaine, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

Top Dix Bouton D & # 39 ; Or Vecteur Clip Art Libres De Droits , Vecteurs Et Illustration. Image 84625131.

  1. The New Paradigm in the C-Suite and the Boardroom
  2. A Letter to the SEC Chairman
  3. Corporate Governance Survey — 2020 Proxy Season Results
  4. Congress Passes the “Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act”
  5. Where Things Stand at the End of 2020
  6. Report on Practices for Virtual Shareholder Meetings
  7. COVID-19’s Impact on Buyer’s Obligation to Close
  8. BlackRock’s 2021 Proxy Voting Guidelines Prioritize ESG Actions
  9. Allegations of Human Rights Violations and Other Litigation Trends
  10. Compensation Season 2021

La politique de gouvernance de BlackRock en 2021


Each January, BlackRock typically previews its stewardship priorities in CEO Larry Fink’s annual letter to portfolio companies, followed soon thereafter by updated proxy voting guidelines. Given BlackRock’s position as the world’s largest asset manager, with nearly $8 trillion in assets under management, companies are prepared for this typical release of information. But as one more oddity of 2020, BlackRock is front-running its traditional proxy priority roll-out with yesterday’s release of a “2021 Stewardship Expectations” document that signals significant shifts in BlackRock’s priorities and approach, coupled with “Proxy Voting Guidelines” issued yesterday, to be effective January 2021. These holiday season gifts include a number of takeaways for public companies, a few of which we highlight below.

Support for More Shareholder Proposals

Perhaps most eye-catching is BlackRock signaling an increased willingness to vote against companies in the coming year, whether in respect of shareholder proposals or in director elections. This is a significant shift with regard to shareholder proposals. BlackRock writes: “We see voting on shareholder proposals playing an increasingly important role in our stewardship efforts around sustainability. Accordingly, where we agree with the intent of a shareholder proposal addressing a material business risk, and if we determine that management could do better in managing and disclosing that risk, we will support the proposal. We may also support a proposal if management is on track, but we believe that voting in favor might accelerate their progress,” going on to note that supporting shareholder proposals significantly increases the likelihood of a company implementing the requested actions. Later, they write “Where our analysis and engagement indicate a need for improvement in a company’s approach to an issue, we will support shareholder proposals that are reasonable and not unduly constraining to management.”

Efficacy of Votes Against Director

It is also likely BlackRock will be marginally more demanding with other votes against a company, particularly on directors. BlackRock evaluated the “effectiveness” of its votes against and found that voting against directors was an effective way to cause change. They evaluated the effect of votes against directors over compensation concerns in FTSE 350 and found that the underlying concerns were substantively addressed by 83% of companies where they voted against a director the prior year. They also found that votes against U.S. directors for gender diversity concerns led 41% of companies to improve board diversity the following year. The use of these statistics is a clear message from BlackRock: it believes that voting against directors is effective.

Additional Highlights of 2021 Guidelines—The following bullets briefly highlight certain themes reflected in BlackRock’s proxy voting policies.

    • Heightened attention to board ethnic and gender diversity, including disclosure of diversity characteristics, specifically EEO-1 reports;
    • New attention to board tenure, using average tenure to “evaluate processes for board renewal” and potentially opposing boards that “appear to have an insufficient mix of short-, medium-, and long-tenured directors—though not explicitly linked, companies should expect that BlackRock will look for board refreshment that is aimed at meeting BlackRock’s desired diversity standards;
    • Increased focus on management compensation, including a new preference for annual Say-on-Pay votes, with the explicit warning that if a “company has failed to align pay with performance”, BlackRock will vote against the management compensation proposal and consider voting against the compensation committee members;
    • Requirement that companies disclose plans for how “their business model will be compatible with a low-carbon economy,” specifically a scenario (a) in which global warming is limited to well below 2 degrees Celsius and (b) consistent with an aspiration to reach net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 (which may be a difficult lift for some industries);
    • Support of enhanced political activity disclosure, which includes monitoring trade associations in which a company is an active member to ensure consistency with a company’s public statements on key policy issues, including sustainability; and
    • “More holistic commentary on our approach to natural capital,” including expectations on water and energy scarcity, promoting biodiversity, and counteracting deforestation.

BlackRock also provides companies with some flexibility by clarifying that companies should no longer focus exclusively on shareholders; rather to maximize long-term value, BlackRock encourages companies to focus on stakeholders, including employees, business partners, clients, consumers, government and regulators and the communities in which companies operate—how BlackRock will measure this commitment is unclear.

Further, while this early release was unexpected, we urge our public company clients and friends to take advantage of this preview of BlackRock’s priorities to consider how they may be assessed under this new guidance and potentially consider modifications to adapt their approach ahead of proxy season.

La réforme de l’audit professionnel | Problèmes persistants et changements suggérés


Voici un excellent article de Lynn E. Turner, ex-comptable en chef à la Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) des États-Unis, et actuellement conseillère principale chez Hemming Morse LLP.

Dans cet article, l’auteur constate les problèmes persistants de la mauvaise qualité de l’audit. Il identifie de nombreux cas problématiques affectant la crédibilité et la confiance dans la profession d’audit.

Également, l’article présente des avenues de réformes pour rétablir les responsabilités de la profession envers les investisseurs et améliorer la transparence et l’imputabilité.

Il y a toujours des problèmes avec la qualité des audits effectués par les CPA. En octobre 2008, un comité du Trésor américain sur la profession d’audit (ACAP) a publié un rapport contenant de nombreuses recommandations pour la SEC, le PCAOB et la profession d’audit.

Ce comité de chefs d’entreprise, d’investisseurs, d’anciens régulateurs de la SEC et de CPA a étudié la profession pendant un an avant de publier son rapport. Pourtant, aujourd’hui, dix ans plus tard, peu de recommandations ont été suivies par les cabinets d’audit ou leurs régulateurs. En conséquence, il semble que les quatre grands cabinets d’audit soient devenus « Too big to fail ».

Plusieurs comptables qui réglementent les cabinets d’audit à la SEC ou au PCAOB ont rejoint les régulateurs de ces « Big 4 »,  puis ils sont revenus en cabinet, comme l’a souligné la récente action du ministère de la Justice contre les auditeurs de KPMG.

Je vous invite à lire le texte au complet.

Bonne lecture !

Reforms of the Auditing Profession: Improving Quality Transparency, Governance and Accountability

 

Is audit fit for purpose? | Financial Times

Continuing issues affecting the credibility and trust in the auditing profession includes:

  • Lack of Independence—Auditors view management of companies they audit as their “client” not the public. It is important to audit partners that they maintain the “annuity” received from the annual audit fees. Losing an annuity from a large company can impact a partner’s career. As a result, the need to maintain a lack of bias and professional scepticism runs head on into, and conflicts with, the need to maintain the annuity for the firm.
  • Management provides them business opportunities to grow their revenues/profits.
  • Management writes their check.
  • Too often, in reality, audit committee’s delegate hiring and oversight of the auditor to management. Management and Audit Committees have often retained the same auditor for decades, even centuries, continuing to pay the annuity, and receiving “clean” audit reports.
  • Auditors have testified under oath in court, that they do not have an obligation to detect material financial statement fraud and serve the public interest.
  • Management provides the independent auditor with the accounting records and financial statements (numbers) to be audited. Then upon request from the independent auditor, management also provides the auditor with the evidence to support the numbers. When auditors talk of using “Big Data” in an audit, it too often is testing data in a data base created and maintained by management. As such, the numbers, and evidence and support the auditor examines, comes from the party that is the subject of the audit. It is doubtful that management is going to provide evidence that does not support the numbers they have created. Unfortunately, Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS) do not specifically address the need for the auditor to consider publicly available information that contradicts the information management has provided. And time and time again, it is this type of information that has resulted in analysts and other outside researchers bringing to light errors in financial statements and disclosures. And it is this information that auditors have failed to address in their audits.
  • The government mandates management and the company MUST buy audits, rather than those who actually own the company. In this respect, auditing of publicly listed companies is like a publicly mandated utility.
  • Lack of Transparency with respect to Audit Firm Performance and Audit Quality. Investors are not provided information necessary to inform them as to the quality of the audit of the financial statements and disclosures of the company they invest in and own. In that regard, investors are being asked to vote and ratify the auditor without information necessary to making an informed decision. Investors are consistently told in the audit report that audits have been done in compliance with GAAS set by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), a misleading statement in light of the very high deficiencies in compliance with GAAS reporting by the PCAOB and other audit regulators around the globe.
  • Lack of Independent Governance of Audit Firms. The large audit firms, which audit the vast majority of publicly listed companies in the US as well as around the globe, all lack meaningful independent governance. This lack of governance, which is required for publicly listed companies, has resulted in a lack of quality, accountability, transparency, and governance when it comes to audit quality and performance.
  • Very poor audits quality based on inspection reports from around the globe—so bad that the International Forum of Independent Audit Regulators (IFIAR) called senior leadership from each of the six largest firms in to discuss the poor audit quality. IFIAR’s Global Audit Quality (GAQ) Working Group and the GPPC networks undertook an initiative aimed to reduce the frequency of inspection findings. In accordance with a target established by the GAQ Working Group, the GPPC networks seek to improve audit performance, reflected in a decrease of at least 25%, on an aggregate basis across the GPPC networks over four years, in the percentage of their inspected listed PIE audits that have at least one finding. (See https://www.ifiar.org/)
  • The 2016 Inspection report of IFIAR stated: Inspected audits of listed public interest entities (PIEs) with at least one finding remained unacceptably high at 42%.” (See here.)
  • Audit firms often state the deficiency rates are high because the regulators are picking “High Risk” audits which in some, but not all instances, is true. However, one would expect the audit firms to assign these audits to their very best auditors, and as a result, there would be fewer deficiencies.
  • And finally, audit reports have failed to convey to investors—as well as audit committees—concerns of the auditor, even when they know management and companies are violating laws and regulations. Such reports are required for auditors of governments that receive federal funds, but are not required in instances such as seen in recent years, for audits of companies such as Wells Fargo.

Reforms to establish accountability to investors as owners of the company, enhance transparency and accountability

Below are ideas to address the issues with poor audit quality on audits of publicly listed companies. Some of these ideas or recommendations were put forward ten years ago by the U.S. Treasury ACAP.

  • Remove the current requirement in the Securities Laws that a Company must have an audit by an independent auditor, thereby eliminating the federal government mandate.
  • Replace it with a market based requirement, that every 5 years, a shareholder proposal be included in the annual proxy, asking if the investors want an independent audit of the financial statements by the independent auditors. Accordingly, it would be made clear that independent auditors work for, and serve the public interest of the owners of the company—the investors. I would expect that investors most often would vote for an independent audit, unless they saw little value in having one.
  • If the stockholders do approve the independent audit requirement (and again, I think they almost always would):
    • The audit committee, not management, would select and nominate the auditor. This responsibility could not be delegated to management;
    • The stockholders would then be asked to vote on and approve the auditor;
    • The audit committee, not management, would then be tasked with and responsible for negotiating the fee to be paid to the auditor;
    • The audit committee would submit a bill for the audit fee to the PCAOB as necessary during the course of the audit.
  • The PCAOB would collect a fee from each public company to cover the bill of the auditor for the audit. The PCAOB already has a mechanism in place for collecting fees it is required to get from public companies
  • The PCAOB could require a company to tender their audit for proposal, if the PCAOB found the auditors had engaged in improper professional conduct as defined in SEC Rule 102(e), or had a material weakness in their own internal audit quality controls; or had significant deficiencies on an audit in which the auditor had failed to comply with GAAS as set by the PCAOB.
  • In no event, could the audit firm serve as auditor for a publicly listed company for a period longer than what is permitted today by the EC which is 20 years.
  • The new auditor report adopted by the PCAOB should be required on all audits of public companies. This new audit report will require the auditor to state and discuss in this new form of audit report, “critical audit matters” (commonly referred to as CAMS). The new audit report also requires the auditor to state: “A statement that PCAOB standards require that the auditor plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud.”
  • However, the PCAOB exempted a wide swath of public entities and did not require communication of critical audit matters for audits of emerging growth companies (“EGCs”), brokers and dealers reporting under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) Rule 17a-5; investment companies (e.g., mutual funds), other than business development companies; and employee stock purchase, savings, and similar plans (“benefit plans”).
  • If auditors through their audit work, become aware of a company or management breaking a law or regulation, that could have a material impact on the financial statements or operations of a company, they should be required to disclose it in their report, just as an auditor of a governmental agency subject to the GAO Yellow Book auditing standards is required to do so.
  • In August, 2000, The Panel on Audit Effectiveness (O’Malley Panel) chaired by the former Chairman of PW recommended that each audit include a forensic segment of the audit. Consideration should once again be given to this recommendation including establishing within GAAS, the need for auditors to consider publicly available information that contradicts the evidence management has provided them.
  • Require disclosure of audit quality indicators for each audit on which an opinion of the auditor is provided to investors in the company. These indicators should be disclosed in the Company’s proxy as part of the Company’s audit committee report to investors. Audit committees should also be required to disclose either in the proxy, or in the Charter of the Committee, the committees procedure for periodically tendering the audit. Audit firms should already be measuring audit quality on individual audits if in fact they are managing audit quality. But the audit inspection results from around the globe provide some evidence, that has not be occurring.
  • Improving the transparency of the PCAOB. The PCAOB inspects a very small percentage of the audits of publicly listed companies each year, and provide a public inspection report for each firm with their findings. For those audits inspected, the PCAOB inspection reports are perhaps the best indicator of audit quality today. Yet the PCAOB has refused to provide the name of companies being audited, stating the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) prohibits this. But that is false as there is not language in SOX that prohibits the disclosure of the name of the companies whose audits are inspected. What SOX does prohibit is disclosure of investigations and enforcement actions taken by the PCAOB with respect to a poor audit. Senator Sarbanes agreed to an amendment of the then draft of SOX (May 2002), to include a prohibition on public disclosure, until the PCAOB enforcement action is final, at the request of the audit firms and Senator Enzi who was negotiating on their behalf. Harvey Goldschmid, who would shortly thereafter become an SEC Commissioner, and I, pleaded with the Senator not to make this change, as enforcement actions taken by the SEC are not private, but are in fact public. Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island and Grassley (R-Iowa) have introduced subsequently introduced legislation, supported by the PCAOB in the past, to reverse this change and make the actions public. Unfortunately, in the meantime, the audit firms have used this provision of SOX to hide and appeal and delay the actions until many years have gone by. Then the audit firm always makes a public statement that in essence says a final PCAOB action is years old and should be ignored.
  • Currently the law requires that an audit partner be rotated off as the lead audit partner for a company, after no longer than five years. This is to provide a “fresh set” of eyes to the audit according to the congressional record. Yet there can be a number of audit partners on an audit, and it is not uncommon, to find the lead partner rotated off, and one who has been on the audit in the past, rotated into the lead audit partner position. As a result, there are incentives for partners not to bring up new problems from the past. Given the reforms cited above, this requirement, which has significant costs associated with it, could be eliminated.
  • Require each auditor of public companies to issue an annual report, just as the companies they are required to audit must, containing its:
    • Financial statements prepared in accordance with generally accepting accounting principles (GAAP). This is important to assessing the financial health of these firms as they have become “too big to fail” as demonstrated by actions of law enforcement agencies and regulators.
    • A discussion of the firms quality controls regarding all aspects of the audit including independence, human resources such as hiring, training and supervision, performance of audits, selection and retention of companies they audit, and testing and enforcement of the quality controls.
    • A discussion of the firm wide, as opposed to individual audit engagement, audit quality indicators.
    • A discussion of the firm’s governance structure, process and procedures.
  • The European Commission already requires each of the large audit firms to provide a report with some of this information. The US audit firms do publish an annual report on their own, but it discloses very limited financial information, and limited information on governing structures, accountability of executives, and performance measurement and improvement.
  • Audit firms that audit more than 100 public companies should be required to have independent directors or members on the firm’s governing board.
  • Audit firms need to abandon the “Pyramid”scheme they use for staffing today, and adopt a paraprofessional model used in law firms. The pyramid structure has resulted in talented, but young and inexperienced staff assigned to perform audit procedures, with respect to business transactions the staff are ill prepared to examine and challenge.
  • All CPA’s should be required to have a master’s degree in accountancy. I believe the master of professional accountancy program is sorely needed. The actions of the large audit firms in which they encourage students to leave school and begin their careers before the student receives their master is disappointing in that it Highlights the lack of commitment to education by those firms. Actions speak louder than words.
  • The SEC should revise its definition of what is a financial expert on the audit committee and adopt its initial proposal. The SEC should clarify the audit committee MAY NOT delegate this responsibility to the management of the Company, which is often done today.

Principes de gouvernance qui guident les investissements de BlackRock


BlackRock vient de publier sa position concernant les principes de gouvernance qui doivent guider ses investissements dans les sociétés de rang mondial.

BlackRock est une entreprise pionnière dans la divulgation des critères qu’elle prend en compte avant d’investir dans les organisations. C’est pour cette raison que toutes les personnes intéressées par les questions de gouvernance doivent être bien informées sur les grands principes qui soutiennent ses décisions.

Dans cet article publié par Sandra Boss, responsable mondiale de la gestion des investissements, Michelle Edkins, directrice générale du management des investissements et Shinbo Won, directeur du management des investissements chez BlackRock, inc., les auteurs présentent en détail les règles qui gouvernent les investissements de BlackRock.

Celles-ci sont considérées comme le « Gold standard » dans le monde de la gouvernance.

L’article ci-joint présente la philosophie de placement de l’organisation, ainsi que les principes qui recouvrent les sept thèmes suivants :

    • Conseils et administrateurs
    • Auditeurs et problèmes liés à l’audit
    • Structure du capital, fusions, ventes d’actifs et autres transactions spéciales
    • Rémunération et avantages
    • Problèmes environnementaux et sociaux
    • Questions générales de gouvernance d’entreprise et protection des actionnaires
    • Propositions d’actionnaires

Dans ce billet, je fais référence au premier thème, celui portant sur les principes devant guider la gouvernance des entreprises, notamment les questions relatives à la gouvernance et à la composition des conseils d’administration.

Pour en connaître davantage sur les autres principes, je vous invite à lire l’article au complet.

Bonne lecture !

BlackRock Investment Stewardship Global Principles

 

BlackRock assets reach $7.32T as crisis drives record investments | Fox Business

 

The purpose of this post is to provide an overarching explanation of BlackRock’s approach globally to our responsibilities as a shareholder on behalf of our clients, our expectations of companies, and our commitments to clients in terms of our own governance and transparency.

Introduction to BlackRock

BlackRock’s purpose is to help more and more people experience financial well-being. We manage assets on behalf of institutional and individual clients, across a full spectrum of investment strategies, asset classes, and regions. Our client base includes pension plans, endowments, foundations, charities, official institutions, insurers, and other financial institutions, as well as individuals around the world. As part of our fiduciary duty to our clients, we have determined that it is generally in the best long-term interest of our clients to promote sound corporate governance through voting as an informed, engaged shareholder. This is the responsibility of the Investment Stewardship Team.

Philosophy on investment stewardship

Companies are responsible for ensuring they have appropriate governance structures to serve the interests of shareholders and other key stakeholders. We believe that there are certain fundamental rights attached to shareholding. Companies and their boards should be accountable to shareholders and structured with appropriate checks and balances to ensure that they operate in shareholders’ best interests to create sustainable value. Shareholders should have the right to vote to elect, remove, and nominate directors, approve the appointment of the auditor, and amend the corporate charter or by-laws. Shareholders should be able to vote on matters that are material to the protection of their investment, including but not limited to, changes to the purpose of the business, dilution levels and pre-emptive rights, and the distribution of income and capital structure. In order to make informed decisions, we believe that shareholders have the right to sufficient and timely information. In addition, shareholder voting rights should be proportionate to their economic ownership—the principle of “one share, one vote” helps achieve this balance.

Consistent with these shareholder rights, we believe BlackRock has a responsibility to monitor and provide feedback to companies, in our role as stewards of our clients’ investments. BlackRock Investment Stewardship (“BIS”) does this through engagement with management teams and/or board members on material business issues including environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) matters and, for those clients who have given us authority, through voting proxies in the best long-term economic interests of our clients. We also participate in the public debate to shape global norms and industry standards with the goal of a policy framework consistent with our clients’ interests as long-term shareholders.

BlackRock looks to companies to provide timely, accurate, and comprehensive reporting on all material governance and business matters, including ESG issues. This allows shareholders to appropriately understand and assess how relevant risks and opportunities are being effectively identified and managed. Where company reporting and disclosure is inadequate or the approach taken is inconsistent with our view of what supports sustainable long-term value creation, we will engage with a company and/or use our vote to encourage a change in practice.

BlackRock views engagement as an important activity; engagement provides us with the opportunity to improve our understanding of the business and ESG risks and opportunities that are material to the companies in which our clients invest. As long-term investors on behalf of clients, we seek to have regular and continuing dialogue with executives and board directors to advance sound governance and sustainable business practices, as well as to understand the effectiveness of the company’s management and oversight of material issues. Engagement is an important mechanism for providing feedback on company practices and disclosures, particularly where we believe they could be enhanced. We primarily engage through direct dialogue but may use other tools such as written correspondence to share our perspectives. Engagement also informs our voting decisions.

We vote in support of management and boards where and to the extent they demonstrate an approach consistent with creating sustainable long-term value. If we have concerns about a company’s approach, we may choose to engage to explain our expectations. Where we consider that a company has failed to address one or more material issues within an appropriate timeframe, we may hold directors accountable or take other voting actions to signal our concerns. We apply our voting guidelines to achieve the outcome we believe is most aligned with our clients’ long-term economic interests.

Key themes

We recognize that accepted standards and norms of corporate governance differ between markets; however, there are sufficient common threads globally to identify this overarching set of principles (the “Principles”) which are anchored in transparency and accountability. At a minimum, we expect companies to observe the accepted corporate governance standards in their domestic market or to explain why not doing so supports sustainable long-term value creation.

Our regional and market-specific voting guidelines explain how these Principles inform our voting decisions in relation to specific ballot items for shareholder meetings.

These Principles cover seven key themes:

  • Boards and directors
  • Auditors and audit-related issues
  • Capital structure, mergers, asset sales, and other special transactions
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Environmental and social issues
  • General corporate governance matters and shareholder protections
  • Shareholder proposals

Boards and directors

The performance of the board is critical to the economic success of the company and the protection of shareholders’ interests. As part of their responsibilities, board members owe fiduciary duties to shareholders in overseeing the strategic direction and operation of the company. For this reason, BlackRock focuses on directors in many of our engagements and sees the election of directors as one of our most important responsibilities in the proxy voting context.

We support boards whose approach is consistent with creating sustainable long-term value. This includes the effective management of strategic, operational, and material ESG factors and the consideration of key stakeholder interests. Our primary focus is on the performance of the board of directors. The board should establish and maintain a framework of robust and effective governance mechanisms to support its oversight of the company’s strategic aims. We look to the board to articulate the effectiveness of these mechanisms in overseeing the management of business risks and opportunities and the fulfillment of the company’s purpose. Disclosure of material issues that affect the company’s long-term strategy and value creation, including material ESG factors, is essential for shareholders to be able to appropriately understand and assess how the board is effectively identifying, managing, and mitigating risks.

Where a company has not adequately disclosed and demonstrated these responsibilities, we will consider withholding our support for the re-election of directors whom we hold accountable. We assess director performance on a case-by-case basis and in light of each company’s particular circumstances, taking into consideration our assessment of their governance, sustainable business practices, and performance. In serving the interests of shareholders, the responsibility of the board of directors includes, but is not limited to, the following:

– Establishing an appropriate corporate governance structure

– Supporting and overseeing management in setting long-term strategic goals, applicable measures of value-creation and milestones that will demonstrate progress, and steps taken if any obstacles are anticipated or incurred

– Providing oversight on the identification and management of material, business operational and sustainability-related risks

– Overseeing the financial resilience of the company, the integrity of financial statements, and the robustness of a company’s Enterprise Risk Management [1] frameworks

– Making decisions on matters that require independent evaluation which may include mergers, acquisitions and disposals, activist situations or other similar cases

– Establishing appropriate executive compensation structures

– Addressing business issues, including environmental and social issues, when they have the potential to materially impact the company’s long-term value

There should be clear definitions of the role of the board, the committees of the board and senior management. We set out below ways in which boards and directors can demonstrate a commitment to acting in the best interests of long-term shareholders. We will seek to engage with the appropriate directors where we have concerns about the performance of the company, board, or individual directors. As noted above, we believe that when a company is not effectively addressing a material issue, its directors should be held accountable.

Regular accountability

BlackRock believes that directors should stand for re-election on a regular basis, ideally annually. In our experience, annual re-elections allow shareholders to reaffirm their support for board members or hold them accountable for their decisions in a timely manner. When board members are not re-elected annually, we believe it is good practice for boards to have a rotation policy to ensure that, through a board cycle, all directors have had their appointment re-confirmed, with a proportion of directors being put forward for re-election at each annual general meeting.

Effective board composition

Regular director elections also give boards the opportunity to adjust their composition in an orderly way to reflect the evolution of the company’s strategy and the market environment. BlackRock believes it is beneficial for new directors to be brought onto the board periodically to refresh the group’s thinking and in a manner that supports both continuity and appropriate succession planning. We expect companies to keep under regular review the effectiveness of its board (including its size), and assess directors nominated for election or re-election in the context of the composition of the board as a whole. This assessment should consider a number of factors, including the potential need to address gaps in skills or experience, the diversity of the board, and the balance of independent and non-independent directors. We also consider the average tenure of the overall board, where we are seeking a balance between the knowledge and experience of longer-serving members and the fresh perspectives of newer members.

When nominating new directors to the board, there should be detailed information on the individual candidates in order for shareholders to assess the suitability of an individual nominee and the overall board composition. These disclosures should give a clear sense of how the collective experience and expertise of the board aligns with the company’s long-term strategy and business model. We also expect disclosures to demonstrate how diversity is accounted for within the proposed board composition, including demographic factors such as gender, ethnicity, and age; as well as professional characteristics, such as a director’s industry experience, specialist areas of expertise, and geographic location.

We expect there to be a sufficient number of independent directors, free from conflicts of interest or undue influence from connected parties, to ensure objectivity in the decision-making of the board and its ability to oversee management.

Common impediments to independence may include but are not limited to:

  • Current or recent employment at the company or a subsidiary
  • Being, or representing, a shareholder with a substantial shareholding in the company
  • Interlocking directorships
  • Having any other interest, business, or other relationship which could, or could reasonably be perceived to, materially interfere with a director’s ability to act in the best interests of the company

BlackRock believes that the board is able to fulfill its fiduciary duty when there is a clearly independent, senior non-executive director to chair it or, where the chairman is also the CEO (or is otherwise not independent), a lead independent l director. The role of this director is to enhance the effectiveness of the independent members of the board through shaping the agenda, ensuring adequate information is provided to the board and encouraging independent participation in board deliberations. The lead independent director or another appropriate director should be available to shareholders in those situations where an independent director is best placed to explain and justify a company’s approach.

There are matters for which the board has responsibility that may involve a conflict of interest for executives or for affiliated directors. BlackRock believes that objective oversight of such matters is best achieved when the board forms committees comprised entirely of independent directors. In many markets, these committees of the board specialize in audit, director nominations and compensation matters. An ad hoc committee might also be formed to decide on a special transaction, particularly one involving a related party, or to investigate a significant adverse event.

Sufficient capacity

As the role of a director is demanding, directors must be able to commit an appropriate amount of time to board and committee matters. It is important that every director has the capacity to meet all of his/her responsibilities—including when there are unforeseen events—and therefore, he/she should not take on an excessive number of roles that would impair his/her ability to fulfill his/her duties.

L’accès aux décideurs politiques américains | facteur de valorisation des entreprises


Aujourd’hui, je partage avec vous le compte rendu d’une recherche portant sur les relations entre les accès des entreprises aux décideurs politiques américains et l’augmentation de la valeur des firmes en termes d’avantages compétitifs.

L’article montre clairement toute l’importance de l’influence politique sur la valeur des organisations. Peu de recherches scientifiques à ce jour s’étaient penchées sur ce phénomène !

Cet article remarquable a été publié par Jeffrey R. Brown, professeur  et doyen du College of Business,  Jiekun Huang, professeur agrégé de finance et Vernon Zimmerman professeur à l’Université de l’Illinois

Je vous invite à lire la version française de la publication, en utilisant l’outil de traduction de Google, lequel est certainement perfectible.

Bonne lecture !

 

All the President’s Friends: Political Access and Firm Value

 

When CEOs Visit the White House, Their Companies Profit - POLITICO Magazine

 

L’accès aux décideurs politiques est une ressource rare, car les politiciens et leurs collaborateurs ont un temps limité et ne peuvent interagir qu’avec un nombre limité de personnes. Obtenir un accès politique peut être d’une grande valeur pour les entreprises, en particulier parce que les gouvernements jouent un rôle de plus en plus important pour influencer les entreprises.

Les gouvernements affectent les activités économiques non seulement par le biais de réglementations, mais aussi en jouant le rôle de clients, de financiers et de partenaires des entreprises du secteur privé. Il existe de nombreuses preuves anecdotiques suggérant que les entreprises bénéficient de l’accès à des politiciens puissants. Par exemple, un article du Wall Street Journal (2015) affirme que les visites fréquentes des dirigeants de Google à la Maison-Blanche ont joué un rôle déterminant dans la décision de la Federal Trade Commission d’abandonner son enquête antitrust sur l’entreprise.

Obtenir et conserver l’accès à des décideurs politiques influents peut être une source importante d’avantage concurrentiel pour les entreprises. Pourtant, malgré l’importance de l’accès politique pour les entreprises, la répartition de l’accès politique entre les entreprises et ses effets sur la valeur de l’entreprise restent sous-explorés.

Dans notre article All the President’s Friends: Political Access and Firm Value, publié dans le Journal of Financial Economics, nous étudions les caractéristiques des entreprises ayant un accès politique ainsi que les effets de valorisation de l’accès politique pour les entreprises. À l’aide d’un ensemble de données des journaux des visiteurs de la Maison-Blanche, nous identifions les principaux dirigeants d’entreprises du S&P 1500 qui ont des réunions en face à face avec des représentants de haut niveau du gouvernement fédéral.

Nous examinons deux questions fondamentales liées à l’accès politique. Premièrement, dans quelle mesure l’accès politique est-il répandu — sous la forme littérale de réunions avec des décideurs politiques influents — et quelles sont les caractéristiques des entreprises ayant accès aux politiciens ? Deuxièmement, l’accès politique augmente-t-il la valeur de l’entreprise et, dans l’affirmative, par quels canaux ?

Nous identifions 2 401 réunions entre les dirigeants d’entreprises du S&P1500 et des représentants du gouvernement fédéral à la Maison-Blanche entre 2009 et 2015. Nos résultats peuvent être résumés comme suit. Premièrement, en termes de prévalence et de caractéristiques des entreprises ayant un accès politique, nous constatons qu’environ 11 % des années-entreprises ont des cadres qui visitent la Maison-Blanche. Étant donné que les entreprises ayant un accès politique ont tendance à être plus grandes, ces années-entreprises représentent environ 40 % de la capitalisation boursière totale de toutes les années-entreprises de l’échantillon.

Conformément à la notion selon laquelle les contributions électorales « achètent » l’accès, nous constatons que les entreprises qui ont davantage contribué aux campagnes électorales présidentielles d’Obama sont plus susceptibles d’avoir accès à la Maison-Blanche. Nous constatons également que les entreprises qui dépensent plus en lobbying, les entreprises qui reçoivent plus de contrats gouvernementaux et les grandes entreprises cotées sont plus susceptibles d’avoir accès aux décideurs influents.

Deuxièmement, nous constatons que les réunions des dirigeants d’entreprise avec les responsables de la Maison-Blanche sont suivies de rendements anormaux cumulatifs (RAC) positifs significatifs. Par exemple, le RAC est d’environ 0,38 % pendant une fenêtre de 12 jours entourant les réunions. Nous constatons que ce résultat est principalement motivé par des entreprises étroitement liées, définies comme celles qui ont davantage contribué à la campagne présidentielle d’Obama que celle de son adversaire. Par exemple, les visites de dirigeants d’entreprises proches sont associées à un RAC sur 12 jours de 0,51 %, contre 0,27 % pour celles des dirigeants d’entreprises non fermées. De plus, nous trouvons des RAC positifs significatifs autour de la publication des journaux des visiteurs, en particulier pour les visites qui n’étaient pas couvertes par les médias avant la publication des journaux.

Troisièmement, pour examiner plus en détail les effets de valorisation associés à l’accès politique, nous observons que l’élection de Donald J. Trump a représenté un choc pour l’accès politique. Nous constatons que les entreprises ayant accès à l’administration Obama enregistrent des rendements boursiers significativement plus faibles après la publication du résultat des élections que les entreprises similaires.

L’ampleur économique est également non triviale : après avoir contrôlé divers facteurs qui sont probablement corrélés aux activités politiques des entreprises, tels les contributions électorales, les dépenses de lobbying et les contrats gouvernementaux, les actions des entreprises ayant accès à l’administration Obama sous-performent les actions d’entreprises similaires d’environ 0,70 % dans les trois jours suivants immédiatement l’élection. Ce résultat corrobore notre principale constatation selon laquelle l’accès politique est d’une grande valeur pour les entreprises. Nous constatons également que la RAC négative autour de l’élection présidentielle de 2016 pour les entreprises ayant accès à la Maison-Blanche d’Obama est principalement motivée par des entreprises proches, ce qui suggère que l’accès politique permet aux entreprises qui soutiennent le président de récolter des avantages significatifs.

Enfin, nous identifions deux canaux par lesquels l’accès politique augmente la valeur de l’entreprise. En utilisant un score de propension apparié à un échantillon d’entreprises ayant un accès politique (groupe de traitement) et celles sans accès politique (groupe de contrôle) et une approche de différence dans les écarts, nous constatons que les groupes de traitement, par rapport aux groupes de contrôle, reçoivent plus de contrats gouvernementaux après les réunions qu’avant les réunions. Nous trouvons également des preuves suggérant que les groupes de traitement, par rapport aux groupes de contrôle, obtiennent des mesures réglementaires plus favorables après les réunions qu’avant les réunions.

La principale contribution de notre article à la littérature est double. Premièrement, nous sommes les premiers à utiliser les données sur les visiteurs de la Maison-Blanche pour identifier les interactions physiques entre les dirigeants d’entreprise et les politiciens influents. Les informations détaillées contenues dans les données du journal des visiteurs nous permettent de fournir une mesure directe de l’accès politique et de fournir des preuves sur les effets d’attribution et d’évaluation de l’accès politique. Les données permettent également d’identifier le moment exact de l’accès des dirigeants d’entreprise à des politiciens puissants, nous permettant ainsi de mesurer les effets de valorisation à l’aide d’une approche d’étude des événements.

Deuxièmement, notre étude renforce la compréhension de la valeur des liens politiques avec les responsables de l’exécutif aux États-Unis. Parce que les entreprises sont souvent directement affectées par les décisions prises par les agences exécutives (par exemple, l’attribution des marchés publics et des décisions d’application de la réglementation), il est important de comprendre la valeur des liens avec les politiciens de l’exécutif et les canaux par lesquels un tel effet d’évaluation se produit. Les données de notre article suggèrent que l’accès aux hauts fonctionnaires de l’exécutif peut être une source importante d’avantage concurrentiel pour les entreprises. Nos résultats mettent également en lumière deux canaux, à savoir les marchés publics et les allègements réglementaires, par lesquels l’accès politique affecte la valeur de l’entreprise.

L’article complet est disponible en téléchargement ici.

Comment gérer le départ d’un administrateur problématique ?


Voilà une question délicate qui exige une réponse mesurée !

Un article de Michael W. Peregrine, associé de la firme McDermott Will & Emery, publié sur le site du Harvard Law School, propose deux approches qui semblent prometteuses.

(1) Un outil de plus en plus populaire pour les conseils d’administration pour relever ce défi est une politique qui oblige un administrateur à divulguer volontairement à la direction du conseil la survenance d’une telle circonstance. Le conseil, par l’entremise d’un comité spécial, évaluerait la situation dans le contexte de son impact sur la société et de l’efficacité de sa gouvernance, puis rendrait une décision sur la question de savoir si l’administrateur devrait être obligé de démissionner du conseil.

(2) Un autre outil populaire est le « director offboarding », un processus ciblé du conseil pour parvenir à une séparation structurée de certains administrateurs sans susciter de controverse ou de mauvaise volonté. Il vise à permettre au conseil de réaliser le roulement nécessaire plus rapidement et plus largement que par le biais de limites de mandats ou d’âge obligatoire de la retraite, et plus doucement que par la révocation.

Je vous invite à lire la version française de la publication, en utilisant l’outil de traduction de Google, lequel est certainement perfectible.

Bonne lecture !

When That Problematic Board Member Just Won’t Leave

 

When That Problematic Board Member Just Won't Leave

 

Parfois, un dirigeant d’entreprise qui est la principale source des problèmes de réputation d’une entreprise est le dernier à le reconnaître.

C’est pourquoi, afin de protéger l’entreprise contre les controverses indésirables et les atteintes à la réputation, les conseils d’administration bénéficient d’outils discrets pour révoquer les dirigeants et administrateurs problématiques avant la fin de leur mandat, et sans passer par un processus formel de révocation. Ces outils auto-exécutables sont destinés à résoudre les problèmes sans aggraver une mauvaise situation pour l’entreprise, le conseil d’administration et l’administrateur impliqué.

Les problèmes d’image découlent de deux circonstances qui peuvent surgir pendant le mandat d’un réalisateur ; la première classe, les circonstances du fait propre du directeur ; et les circonstances de seconde classe sur lesquelles le directeur peut n’avoir eu aucune responsabilité directe. Une fois en discussion publique, les deux types risquent de nuire à la réputation de l’entreprise, d’interférer ou de perturber le travail du conseil d’administration et de douter (juste ou injuste) de l’aptitude de l’administrateur impliqué à siéger.

La première classe comprendrait les controverses impliquant une organisation perçue négativement où le directeur occupe une position de leadership et qui par association par l’intermédiaire du directeur, remet en question la manière dont cette organisation fonctionne. Les exemples incluent la faillite, les enquêtes gouvernementales, les violations flagrantes de l’éthique d’entreprise, les amendes judiciaires ou réglementaires importantes ou les positions organisationnelles publiques qui sont en contradiction avec les normes sociales ou qui invitent à la diffamation.

La deuxième catégorie comprendrait les controverses qui impliquent ou allèguent une faute personnelle du directeur ; par exemple, allégations ou détermination de violation de la loi ou de la réglementation civile ou pénale, conduite contraire à l’éthique ; l’imposition de sanctions ou de pénalités pour faute personnelle ; allégations ou détermination de manquement à une obligation fiduciaire ; faillite personnelle ; interdiction de service à bord dans un État ou un secteur industriel particulier, ou conséquences similaires des activités personnellement contrôlables d’un administrateur.

Le dénominateur commun entre les deux classes est qu’elles soulèvent toutes deux des questions sur la capacité ou les qualifications continues du directeur à servir l’entreprise et, ce faisant, créent des défis de réputation pour l’entreprise associée à ce service continu. Avec ou sans mérite, le service continu du directeur devient un nouveau problème. Pourquoi ce gars est-il toujours sur leur conseil ?

Dans ces situations, la question pour le conseil est souvent : « Que faire ? » Cela est particulièrement vrai lorsqu’il s’agit d’allégations ou de réclamations, par opposition à des conclusions de fait ou de droit. Il n’est pas inhabituel que les conseils d’administration (ou les cadres supérieurs) adoptent ce qu’ils croient être des positions de principe en faveur du maintien en poste des dirigeants ou administrateurs accusés de certaines conduites, en invoquant l’argument « innocent jusqu’à preuve du contraire ». C’est compréhensible lorsque l’individu en question a des antécédents de service efficace et est bien respecté au sein de l’organisation. Il existe également des circonstances moins compréhensibles. Même dans les cas où les accusations ne sont pas méritées, le préjudice causé à l’entreprise peut encore résulter de l’atmosphère de suspicion qui peut survenir lorsqu’une accusation non fondée est portée.

Le travail du conseil est d’agir dans ce qu’il croit raisonnablement être dans l’intérêt supérieur de l’organisation, de sa mission et de ses parties prenantes. S’agissant des questions d’aptitude personnelle à servir, l’obligation du conseil de protéger la réputation de l’organisation peut être une considération primordiale, indépendamment de l’équité des circonstances. La situation peut créer une publicité négative qui est préjudiciable à l’organisation, déclencher une enquête réglementaire, entraîner une réaction économique significative et perturber le conseil d’administration.

On espère que la plupart des administrateurs reconnaissent un tel problème et démissionnent volontairement du conseil. Mais un tel espoir n’est pas universel dans le monde de l’entreprise…

Un outil de plus en plus populaire pour les conseils d’administration pour relever ce défi est une politique qui oblige un administrateur à divulguer volontairement à la direction du conseil la survenance d’une telle circonstance. Le conseil, par l’entremise d’un comité spécial, évaluerait la situation dans le contexte de son impact sur la société et de l’efficacité de sa gouvernance, puis rendrait une décision sur la question de savoir si l’administrateur devrait être obligé de démissionner du conseil.

Le principal avantage de la politique est sa nature auto-exécutable. Le directeur a déjà accepté de se conformer au processus, le processus a progressé et le maintien du service du directeur au conseil dépend des résultats de l’examen du conseil. Oui, il y a certainement des subtilités situationnelles, des zones grises et des problèmes juridiques impliqués dans une telle approche, mais elle est supérieure à un débat contentieux du conseil d’administration, au refus du directeur de démissionner, à une confrontation avec un directeur qui refuse de démissionner ou à d’éventuelles fuites médiatiques.

Un autre outil populaire est le « director offboarding », un processus ciblé du conseil pour parvenir à une séparation structurée de certains administrateurs sans susciter de controverse ou de mauvaise volonté. Il vise à permettre au conseil de réaliser le roulement nécessaire plus rapidement et plus largement que par le biais de limites de mandats ou d’âge obligatoire de la retraite, et plus doucement que par la révocation.

L’Association nationale des administrateurs de sociétés (NACD) a été un fervent défenseur de l’offboarding, notant que le concept d’administrateur n’est pas de servir aussi longtemps que vous l’on veut, mais de servir aussi longtemps que nécessaire. Comme défini par le NACD et d’autres, les processus de « retrait » sont fondés sur une compréhension partagée par tous les administrateurs des raisons pour lesquelles une personne a été nommée et des attentes du conseil en matière de rendement. Dès le début de leur mandat au conseil, les administrateurs sont idéalement mis au courant de la possibilité qu’on leur demande de quitter le conseil avant la fin officielle de leur mandat. Les accords de démission sont mis en œuvre dans le cadre d’un processus respectueux qui honore le directeur pour son service.

Il y aura des moments où la présence continue d’un administrateur au conseil d’administration deviendra problématique, pour des raisons qui peuvent ou non être de sa propre faute. Dans ces situations, le temps est peut-être insuffisant pour résoudre complètement les équités de la situation. L’optique est tellement mauvaise que le réalisateur doit partir — mais il ne comprend pas l’allusion. Les conseils ont donc besoin d’un mécanisme, en dehors d’un processus de retrait contentieux, pour aider discrètement et respectueusement le directeur à reconnaître l’heure de départ et pour l’escorter jusqu’à la sortie.

C’est une chose pour un administrateur de pouvoir résoudre le problème ; c’est une autre chose si l’administrateur ne réalise pas que le problème c’est lui.

Top 10 des billets publiés sur Harvard Law School Forum au 26 novembre 2020


 

Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 26 novembre 2020.

Cette semaine, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Ericsson jolts the FCPA top ten list | The FCPA Blog

 

  1. Acquisition Experience and Director Remuneration
  2. Russell 3000 Database of Executive Compensation Changes in Response to COVID-19
  3. Risks of Back-Channel Communications with a Controller
  4. Cyber: New Challenges in a COVID-19–Disrupted World
  5. Varieties of Shareholderism: Three Views of the Corporate Purpose Cathedral
  6. ISS Releases New Benchmark Policies for 2021
  7. Why Have CEO Pay Levels Become Less Diverse?
  8. The Department of Labor’s ESG-less Final ESG Rule
  9. SEC Adopts Rules to Modernize and Streamline Exempt Offerings
  10. EQT: Private Equity with a Purpose

Top 10 des billets publiés sur Harvard Law School Forum au 19 novembre 2020


Voici le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 19 novembre 2020.

Cette semaine, j’ai relevé les dix principaux billets.

Bonne lecture !

 

Top ten list Stock Photos, Royalty Free Top ten list Images | Depositphotos®

 

  1. Decision Making in 50:50 Joint Ventures
  2. Delaware Reaffirms Director Independence Principle in Founder-Led Company
  3. Shareholders’ Rights & Shareholder Activism 2020
  4. ESG Management and Board Accountability
  5. Financial Institution Regulation Under President Biden
  6. Corporations in 100 Pages
  7. Racial Equity on the Board Agenda
  8. The Rise of the General Counsel
  9. Revealing ESG in Critical Audit Matters
  10. SEC Division of Enforcement 2020 Annual Report

Guide sur la gouvernance et la conformité des entreprises | AMF


L’Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) vient de publier son guide sur la gouvernance et la conformité des organismes.

Voici le préambule à la mise à jour ce ce guide.

Bonne lecture !

 

Professionnels | AMF

 

La mise à jour de cet outil de référence vise à mieux accompagner l’industrie, notamment sur le plan de la conformité.

Les objectifs de ce guide sont de :

    1. vulgariser le cadre réglementaire entourant la pratique des inscrits;
    2. clarifier les attentes ou les interprétations de l’Autorité concernant ce cadre réglementaire;
    3. énoncer des bonnes pratiques encouragées par l’Autorité en matière de gouvernance et de conformité.

Guide sur la gouvernance et la conformité des inscrits | AMF

 

La gouvernance d’un inscrit correspond à une gestion d’entreprise fondée sur la conformité à la réglementation en vigueur, de saines pratiques de gestion des risques, de saines pratiques commerciales, un comportement organisationnel éthique, le traitement équitable du consommateur et la responsabilisation du conseil d’administration et de la haute direction.

Une bonne gouvernance est essentielle à la viabilité des affaires de l’inscrit
et à la confiance du public envers le système financier. L’inscrit devrait s’engager concrètement à instaurer une gouvernance saine et efficace permettant notamment d’assurer :

    1. la compétence, la probité et l’indépendance des administrateurs ou des associés et de la haute direction;
    2. un cadre de gouvernance établi et formalisé par les administrateurs ou associés et la haute direction au moyen de stratégies, d’orientations, de politiques et de procédures évolutives et fondées sur le traitement équitable du consommateur. Ce cadre de gouvernance devrait être adapté à la taille de
      l’inscrit, à la nature et la complexité de ses activités et à son profil de risque;
    3. que la prise de décisions clés fasse l’objet de discussions suffisantes au sein du conseil d’administration ou des associés et de la haute direction;
    4. les ressources humaines adéquates pour la conduite des activités;
    5. la mise en place de contrôles internes appropriés des activités.