Top 10 des billets publiés sur Harvard Law School Forum au 29 juillet 2021


Voici, comme à l’habitude, le compte rendu hebdomadaire du forum de la Harvard Law School sur la gouvernance corporative au 29 juillet 2021.

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

Bonne lecture !

Harvard Law -Tesla's Governance Record & ESG | Blog | Truvalue Labs

  1. EESG Activism After ExxonMobil
  2. Corporate Governance in the Face of an Activist Investor
  3. Commenters Weigh in on SEC Climate Disclosures Request for Public Input
  4. SEC Increasingly Turns Focus Toward Strength of Cyber Risk Disclosures
  5. Connecting the Dots: Breaking the ESG Code
  6. Buybacks: Look Before You Leap
  7. Stewardship Excellence: ESG Engagement In 2021
  8. Voluntary Environmental and Social Disclosures
  9. Spotlight on Boards and Board Oversight of Business Strategy and Risk Management in a Post-Pandemic World
  10. Does Socially Responsible Investing Change Firm Behavior?

Créer de la valeur à long terme avec les métriques RSE (ESG)


On accorde de plus en plus d’importance à la RSE (ESG) parce que l’on peut démontrer que l’entreprise crée de la valeur à long terme en s’appuyant sur les dimensions des responsabilités sociales des entreprises (RSE), telles que les ressources humaines, la sécurité, l’environnement, la culture et la diversité.

Notons que les investisseurs institutionnels exercent une pression croissante pour la gestion dans une perspective de long terme.

Le compte rendu de Erin Lehr, responsable de la recherche chez Equilar, est paru sur le Forum de Harvard Law School on Corporate Governance. Il montre que les grandes entreprises américaines ont de plus en plus tendance à lier la rémunération aux objectifs se rapportant à la culture et à la diversité.

L’auteur donne plusieurs exemples d’organisation qui réussissent à relever les défis de créer des objectifs mesurables auxquels elles peuvent associer la rémunération des dirigeants.

L’établissement de lignes directrices claires pour mesurer et récompenser les performances est essentiel lors de l’utilisation de mesures ESG dans les plans de rémunération des dirigeants.

Cela garantit que les dirigeants sont tenus responsables des questions liées à la culture, à la diversité, au capital humain, à l’environnement et à la sécurité et qu’ils considèrent ces questions comme essentielles à l’entreprise.

De plus, la divulgation de ces informations permet une plus grande transparence avec les actionnaires. À mesure que la saison de procuration 2021 s’accélère, attendez-vous à voir plus de divulgations dans l’ensemble, ainsi que plus de divulgations quantitatives, en particulier celles relatives à la culture et à la diversité.

Aux fins de cette étude, Equilar a examiné les déclarations de procuration les plus récentes des sociétés Fortune 100 au 1er février 2020. L’étude ne comprend que les sociétés ouvertes, dont 94 au total.

Bonne lecture !

Creating Long-Term Value With ESG Metrics

 

Equilar | Creating Long-Term Value With ESG Metrics

 

During the last few years, ESG has transformed from a buzzword into a priority in the corporate world. More recently, a plethora of events has accelerated this demand for corporate change and accountability—COVID-19, the resurgence of racial justice movements and climate change. Additionally, there is mounting pressure from institutional investors on this front. ESG measures, while in the past viewed as costly to the bottom line, are increasingly viewed as key for ensuring long-term success and sustainability. Corporations may also avoid additional costs related to turnover and lawsuits through ESG practices. One way in which companies demonstrate to their shareholders that they value ESG matters is through executive compensation. In order to understand the connection between ESG and executive incentives, Equilar performed an analysis of ESG compensation metrics disclosed by Fortune 100 companies over the last year.

Among the Fortune 100, 38 companies disclosed compensation metrics that were tied to ESG goals. Out of these companies, three referenced forward-looking practices only, while the rest applied to the past year. There were 53 metrics disclosed in total, most of which corresponded to annual incentive plans. Only one company incorporated an ESG metric into their long-term incentive plan. While it’s clear that ESG is on the mind of compensation committees, the category of ESG is rather broad in itself. The actual metrics companies are using vary widely. For the purpose of this study, Equilar broke down ESG metrics into seven categories: general ESG, human capital, safety, environmental, culture, diversity and other.


graph
Most commonly, companies tied compensation to goals related to culture and diversity. Collectively, these categories accounted for 37.8% of all ESG metrics disclosed. The decision to evaluate based on these topics is unsurprising, given the increased interest in diversity and corporate social responsibility. Additionally, senior leadership has a significant influence on company culture, so it makes sense that companies would incentivize their executives in relation to this. These metrics falling under the “social” umbrella of ESG are applicable across a wide spectrum of companies, while others are more industry-specific. Environmental and safety metrics, for instance, tend to show up most frequently in energy companies, where compensation is tied to emission goals or incident prevention. Companies must select metrics that are material to their business and essential for their long-term success.

However, the challenge lies in creating measurable goals to which companies can link executive compensation. The goals should also correspond to areas of executive impact. Some companies will disclose that they incorporate ESG metrics into their incentive plans but not give much detail. The majority of these metrics, while taken into consideration for executive payouts, are not quantified. Often the achievement of these goals (which are frequently vague) is a matter of discretion, rather than calculation. Others give more detailed descriptions of the specific goals and how they measure performance in relation to them. Below is an in-depth example of a culture disclosure from Cardinal Health, Inc. This disclosure is unique in that it includes metrics for both Cardinal Health’s annual cash incentive and 2020 PSU grants from its long-term incentive plan.

Cardinal Health, Inc. (CAH)

DEF 14A filed 9/23/2020

The completion of a training course, such as unconscious bias training, showed up in several disclosures. Surveys were also fairly popular methods of determining levels of achievement for goals related to culture and human capital. While disclosures such as this one are not the norm, the trend toward detailed, quantitative measurement is gaining traction.

Aside from descriptions of their goals, some companies disclosed the specific weightings or payout percentages of these ESG metrics. Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., for example, is introducing a new diversity component to its 2021 annual incentive program in order to “reinforce its commitment to diversity goals throughout the Company with goals designed to support driving tangible results in this critical area.” Although these diversity goals were not disclosed in the proxy statement, the metric weighting and payout structure was:

Walgreen’s Boots Alliance, Inc. (WBA)

DEF 14A filed 12/8/2020

Establishing clear guidelines for measuring and rewarding performance is crucial when employing ESG metrics in executive compensation plans. This ensures that executives are held responsible for matters related to culture, diversity, human capital, the environment and safety and that they view these matters as essential to the business. Furthermore, disclosing this information enables greater transparency with shareholders. As the 2021 proxy season ramps up, expect to see more disclosures overall, and also more quantitative disclosures, especially ones relating to culture and diversity.

Methodology: For the purpose of this study, Equilar examined the most recent proxy statements of Fortune 100 companies as of February 1, 2020. The study only includes public companies, of which there were 94 total.

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

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.

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.

Le vote consultatif sur la rémunération des dirigeants — Say-on-Pay : Quoi de neuf ?


L’Institut sur la gouvernance (IGOPP) publie occasionnellement des textes sous forme de « Commentaire » rendant compte de nouvelles recherches, perspectives et réglementations à propos des enjeux de gouvernance.

Les auteurs de ce document, messieurs Allaire et Dauphin, m’ont fait parvenir cette publication très pertinente pour ceux qui s’intéressent au vote consultatif sur la rémunération des dirigeants.

Je reçois ce « Commentaire » parce que le site a un intérêt pour des enjeux de gouvernance.

Le vote consultatif sur la rémunération des dirigeants – Say-on-Pay : Quoi de neuf ?

 

Deloitte | Say on Pay - YouTube

 

Abordant le vote consultatif sur la rémunération, celui-ci cible les trois sujets suivants :

1. Rappel de la position de l’IGOPP au sujet du Say-on-Pay ;
2. Statistiques canadiennes et américaines ;
3. Résultats d’études menées au cours des cinq dernières années.

Bonne lecture !

 

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

La rémunération incitative en contexte de pandémie 2021


Voici un texte intéressant publié par Hugue St-Jean | Conseiller, rémunération des dirigeants et gouvernance et Bridgit Courey | Associée et conseillère principale, tous deux de la firme Perrault Conseil.

Les auteurs abordent la rémunération incitative en contexte de pandémie et présentent différentes approches pour mieux appréhender cette situation exceptionnelle. Voici certaines mesures à envisager pour 2021.

    1. Insister davantage sur les programmes d’intéressement à long terme (RILT);
    2. Faire un octroi supplémentaire au RILT pour compenser les pertes subies
      pendant la pandémie;
    3. Modifier les indicateurs de rendement.

Je vous invite à lire le document suivant afin de prendre connaissance des scénarios proposés.

INCITATIFS EN CONTEXTE DE PANDÉMIE

 

PCI Perrault Conseil – Notre expertise est à votre disposition pour vous aider à mettre en place des solutions de rémunération sensées permettant de soutenir l'atteinte de vos objectifs organisationnels.

 

Les perturbations économiques causées par la pandémie ont exacerbé les risques liés à la rémunération variable et à la rémunération à base d’actions dans un contexte très volatil.

À l’approche de l’automne 2020, la plupart des entreprises dont l’exercice financier prend fin au quatrième trimestre se demandent comment évaluer le rendement pour 2020 et comment fixer les objectifs de 2021.

Certaines entreprises ont déjà envisagé différentes approches et nous les avons groupées par thèmes. Nous soulignons aussi les avantages et certains risques à considérer résultant des façons d’aborder la rémunération incitative dans un contexte très volatil.

Le défi consiste à équilibrer les attentes des employés et celles des investisseurs tout en garantissant la protection de la pérennité et des liquidités de l’entreprise, en plus de maintenir la motivation et la rétention des employés.

Selon de récents sondages, plus de la moitié des entreprises envisagent de rajuster d’une manière ou d’une autre leur régime d’incitatifs.

Comment la COVID-19 affecte-t-elle la rémunération des PDG et des administrateurs ?


Voici un article très intéressant de Andrew Gordon (Equilar, inc.), David F. Larcker (Stanford University), et Courtney Yu (Equilar, inc.) qui analyse les effets de la pandémie sur les rémunérations globales de CEO et des membres des conseils d’administration.

Cet article a été publié sur le Forum en gouvernance de Harvard Law School.

Voici les conclusions et les questionnements des auteurs à la suite d’une étude très détaillée des grandes entreprises américaines. J’ai utilisé l’outil de traduction de google afin de vous présenter les résultats.

Indépendamment de la valeur des ajustements annuels de rémunération que les entreprises ont effectués, les PDG ont subi une perte de richesse considérable en raison de leur propriété directe dans les actions de l’entreprise.

Sharing the Pain: How Did Boards Adjust CEO Pay in Response to COVID-19

 

U.S. firms shield CEO pay as pandemic hits workers, investors | Reuters

 

Pourquoi est-ce important ?

À la suite du COVID-19, moins de 20 % des entreprises publiques ont choisi d’apporter des modifications à leurs programmes de rémunération des dirigeants et des administrateurs. Selon l’angle à travers lequel ces changements sont mesurés — changement de salaire, rémunération totale ou perte de richesse — cela peut être considéré comme un sacrifice relativement modeste ou une perte importante de valeur.

Quelle a été la souffrance économique du PDG type ? En général, cela indique-t-il le succès ou l’échec de la conception du programme de compensation ?

Les entreprises qui ont connu des difficultés économiques étaient beaucoup plus susceptibles de réduire la rémunération des PDG et des administrateurs que celles qui ne l’ont pas fait. Ces PDG ont-ils la responsabilité de placer leurs entreprises dans une position de risque plus élevé entraînant des pertes plus importantes, ou leurs difficultés économiques étaient-elles dues à des facteurs tels que l’exposition à l’industrie qui étaient hors du contrôle du PDG ?

Dans ce dernier cas, les PDG de ces entreprises devraient-ils recevoir à l’avenir des primes supplémentaires pour compenser leurs pertes ? Quelle est la bonne chose à faire d’un point de vue économique ? Une perspective sociétale ?

Les PDG bénéficient généralement d’environnements économiques positifs et de valorisations boursières globales en hausse.

Les PDG devraient-ils être à l’abri des inversions de ces mêmes facteurs ? Dans l’affirmative, quelles implications cette asymétrie a-t-elle sur les incitatifs des PDG ? Cela crée-t-il une condition dans laquelle le PDG bénéficie de tout événement exogène ?

Le concept d’ESG (environnemental, social et de gouvernance) se concentre sur le fait que les entreprises qui embrassent réellement leurs parties prenantes et investissent dans leurs besoins ont un risque plus faible et des performances plus élevées. On s’attend à ce que ces entreprises subissent moins de pertes économiques en cas de ralentissement et qu’elles « agissent correctement » par leurs employés. Cependant, nous n’avons trouvé aucune différence observable entre les scores ESG des entreprises qui ont volontairement réduit la rémunération des PDG/administrateurs et celles qui ne l’ont pas fait, malgré des différences de performance.

Nous n’avons pas non plus trouvé de différence dans les scores ESG selon qu’ils choisissent ou non de licencier des employés.

Qu’est-ce que cela dit sur notre capacité à mesurer avec précision l’ESG ? Les entreprises affichant des scores ESG plus favorables sont-elles réellement « meilleures » du point de vue des parties prenantes ?

L’article complet est disponible en téléchargement ici.

Bonne lecture !

Vous siégez à un conseil d’administration | Comment bien se comporter ?


Johanne Bouchard* a eu l’occasion d’agir à titre d’auteure invitée sur mon blogue en gouvernance de nombreuses fois depuis 5 ans.

Cet article de Johanne a été visionné de multiples fois sur mon site ; c’est pourquoi je vous propose de revisiter ce billet qui a aussi été publié sur son blogue en français https://www.johannebouchard.com/

L’auteure a une solide expérience d’interventions de consultation auprès de conseils d’administration de sociétés américaines et d’accompagnements auprès de hauts dirigeants de sociétés publiques. Dans ce billet, elle aborde ce que, selon elle, doivent être les qualités des bons administrateurs.

Quels conseils, simples et concrets, une personne qui connaît bien la nature des conseils d’administration peut-elle prodiguer aux administrateurs eu égard aux qualités et aux comportements à adopter dans leurs rôles de fiduciaires ?

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

Siéger à un conseil d’administration : comment exceller ?

par

Johanne Bouchard

 

C’est un privilège de servir au sein d’un conseil d’administration. Servir au sein d’un conseil est l’occasion de vraiment faire une différence dans la vie des gens, puisque les décisions que vous prenez peuvent avoir un effet significatif, non seulement sur l’entreprise, mais aussi sur les individus, les familles, et même sur les communautés entières.

Vous êtes un intervenant-clé dans l’orientation et la stratégie globale, qui, à son tour, détermine le succès de l’entreprise et crée de la valeur ajoutée pour les actionnaires.

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « johanne bouchard »

 

En 2014, Bryan Stolle, un des contributeurs de la revue Forbes, également investisseur au Mohr Davidow Ventures, a examiné le sujet dans un billet de son blogue. Il a écrit : « L’excellence d’un conseil d’administration est le résultat de l’excellence de chacun de ses membres ». Il poursuit en soulignant ce qu’il considère en être les principaux attributs. Je suis d’accord avec lui, mais j’aimerais ajouter ce qui, selon moi, fait la grandeur et la qualité exceptionnelle d’un membre de conseil d’administration.

Intention

 

D’abord et avant tout, être un excellent membre de conseil d’administration commence avec « l’intention » d’en être un, avec l’intention d’être bienveillant, et pas uniquement avec l’intention de faire partie d’un conseil d’administration. Malheureusement, trop de membres ne sont pas vraiment résolus et déterminés dans leur volonté de devenir membres d’un conseil.

La raison de se joindre à un conseil doit être authentique, avec un désir profond de bien servir l’entité. Être clair sur les raisons qui vous poussent à vous joindre au conseil est absolument essentiel, et cela aide à poser les jalons de votre réussite comme administrateur.

En adhérant à un conseil d’administration, votre devoir, ainsi que celui de vos collègues-administrateurs, est de créer une valeur ajoutée pour les actionnaires.

Attentes

 

Ensuite, vous devez comprendre ce que l’on attend de vous et du rôle que vous serez appelé à jouer au sein du conseil d’administration. Trop de membres d’un conseil ne comprennent pas leur rôle et saisissent mal les attentes liées à leurs tâches. Souvent, le président du conseil et le chef de la direction ne communiquent pas suffisamment clairement leurs attentes concernant leur rôle.

Ne tenez rien pour acquis concernant le temps que vous devrez consacrer à cette fonction et ce qu’on attendra de votre collaboration. Dans quelle mesure devez-vous être présent à toutes les réunions, que vous siégiez à un comité ou que vous participiez aux conférences téléphoniques entre les réunions normalement prévues ? Votre réseau suffit-il, à ce stade-ci de la croissance de l’entreprise, pour répondre au recrutement de nouveaux talents et pour créer des partenariats ? Est-ce que votre expérience de l’industrie est adéquate ; comment serez-vous un joueur-clé lors des discussions ? Y aura-t-il un programme d’accueil et d’intégration des nouveaux administrateurs pour faciliter votre intégration au sein du conseil ?

De plus, comment envisagez-vous d’atteindre un niveau suffisant de connaissance des stratégies commerciales de l’entreprise ? Soyez clairs en ce qui concerne les attentes.

Exécution

 

Vous devez honorer les engagements associés à votre responsabilité de membre du conseil d’administration. Cela signifie :

Être préparé : se présenter à une réunion du conseil d’administration sans avoir lu l’ordre du jour au préalable ainsi que les documents qui l’accompagnent est inacceptable. Cela peut paraître évident, mais vous seriez surpris du nombre de membres de conseils coupables d’un tel manque de préparation. De même, le chef de la direction, soucieux d’une gestion efficace du temps, a la responsabilité de s’assurer que le matériel est adéquatement préparé et distribué à l’avance à tous les administrateurs.

Respecter le calendrier : soyez à l’heure et assistez à toutes les réunions du conseil d’administration.

Participation

 

Écoutez, questionnez et ne prenez la parole qu’au moment approprié. Ne cherchez pas à provoquer la controverse uniquement dans le but de vous faire valoir, en émettant un point de vue qui n’est ni opportun ni pertinent. N’intervenez pas inutilement, sauf si vous avez une meilleure solution ou des choix alternatifs à proposer.

Bonnes manières

 

Il est important de faire preuve de tact, même lorsque vous essayez d’être directs. Évitez les manœuvres d’intimidation ; le dénigrement et le harcèlement n’ont pas leur place au sein d’une entreprise, encore moins dans une salle du conseil. Soyez respectueux, en particulier pendant la présentation du comité de direction. Placez votre cellulaire en mode discrétion. La pratique de bonnes manières, notamment les comportements respectueux, vous permettra de gagner le respect des autres.

Faites valoir vos compétences

 

Vos compétences sont uniques. Cherchez à les présenter de manière à ce que le conseil d’administration puisse en apprécier les particularités. En mettant pleinement à profit vos compétences et en participant activement aux réunions, vous renforcerez la composition du conseil et vous participerez également à la réussite de l’entreprise en créant une valeur ajoutée pour les actionnaires.

Ne soyez pas timide

 

Compte tenu de la nature stratégique de cette fonction, vous devez avoir le courage de faire connaître votre point de vue. Un bon membre de conseil d’administration ne doit pas craindre d’inciter les autres membres à se tenir debout lorsqu’il est conscient des intérêts en cause ni d’être celui qui saura clairement faire preuve de discernement. Un bon membre de conseil d’administration doit être prêt à accomplir les tâches les plus délicates, y compris celles qui consistent à changer la direction de l’entreprise et le chef de la direction, quand c’est nécessaire, et avant qu’il ne soit trop tard.

Évitez les réclamations financières non justifiées

 

Soyez conscients des émoluments d’administrateur qu’on vous paie. N’abusez pas des privilèges. Les conséquences sont beaucoup trop grandes pour vous, pour la culture de l’entreprise et pour la réputation du conseil. Si vous voulez que je sois plus précise, je fais référence aux déclarations de certaines dépenses que vous devriez payer vous-même.

Sachez qu’un employé du service de la comptabilité examine vos allocations de dépenses, et que cela pourrait facilement ternir votre réputation si vous soumettiez des dépenses inacceptables.

Faites preuve de maturité

 

Vous vous joignez à un conseil qui agit au plus haut niveau des entreprises (privée, publique ou à but non lucratif), dont les actions et les interventions ont une grande incidence sur les collectivités en général. Gardez confidentiel ce qui est partagé lors des réunions du conseil, et ne soyez pas la source d’une fuite.

Maintenez une bonne conduite

 

Le privilège de siéger au sein d’un conseil d’administration vous expose à une grande visibilité. Soyez conscients de votre comportement lors des réunions du conseil d’administration et à l’extérieur de la salle de réunion ; évitez de révéler certains de vos comportements inopportuns.

Confiance et intégrité

 

Faites ce que vous avez promis de faire. Engagez-vous à respecter ce que vous promettez. Tenez votre parole. Soyez toujours à votre meilleur et soyez fier d’être un membre respectable du conseil d’administration.

Valeurs

 

Un bon membre de conseil d’administration possède des valeurs qu’il ne craint pas de révéler. Il est sûr que ses agissements reflètent ses valeurs.

Un bon membre de conseil est un joueur actif et, comme Stolle l’a si bien noté, de bons administrateurs constituent l’assise d’un bon conseil d’administration. Ce conseil d’administration abordera sans hésiter les enjeux délicats, tels que la rémunération du chef de la direction et la planification de la relève — des éléments qui sont trop souvent négligés.

Un bon membre du conseil d’administration devrait se soucier d’être un modèle et une source d’inspiration en exerçant sa fonction, que ce soit à titre d’administrateur indépendant, de président, de vice-président, de président du conseil, d’administrateur principal, de président de comité, il devrait avoir la maturité et la sagesse nécessaires pour se retirer d’un conseil d’administration avec grâce, quand vient le temps opportun de le faire.

Enfin, prenez soin de ne pas être un membre dysfonctionnel, ralentissant les progrès du conseil d’administration. En tant qu’administrateur indépendant, vous aurez le même devoir qu’un joueur d’équipe.

Je vous invite à aspirer à être un bon membre de conseil d’administration et à respecter vos engagements. Siéger à un trop grand nombre de conseils ne fera pas de vous un meilleur membre.

Je conduis des évaluations du rendement des conseils d’administration, et je vous avoue, en toute sincérité, que de nombreux administrateurs me font remarquer que certains de leurs collègues semblent se disperser et qu’ils ne sont pas les administrateurs auxquels on est en droit de s’attendre. Vous ne pouvez pas vous permettre de trop « étirer l’élastique » si vous voulez pleinement honorer vos engagements.

Rappelez-vous que c’est acceptable de dire « non » à certaines demandes, d’être sélectif quant à ce que vous souhaitez faire, mais il est vital de bien accomplir votre tâche dans le rôle que vous tenez.


*Johanne Bouchard est maintenant consultante auprès de conseils d’administration, de chefs de la direction et de comités de direction. Johanne a développé une expertise au niveau de la dynamique et de la composition d’un conseil d’administration. Après l’obtention de son diplôme d’ingénieure en informatique, sa carrière l’a menée à œuvrer dans tous les domaines du secteur de la technologie, du marketing et de la stratégie à l’échelle mondiale.

Guide pratique à l’intention des administrateurs qui cible les situations problématiques | En reprise


Voici un guide pratique à l’intention des administrateurs de sociétés qui aborde les principales questions de gouvernance auxquelles ils sont confrontés.

Ce guide publié par Katherine Henderson et Amy Simmerman, associés de la firme Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, est un outil indispensable pour les administrateurs, mais surtout pour les présidents de conseil.

Les principaux thèmes abordés dans ce document sont les suivants :

    • Le but de l’entreprise et le rôle des parties prenantes ;
    • Le processus de délibération du conseil et la gestion des informations de nature corporative ;
    • L’indépendance des administrateurs et les conflits d’intérêts ;
    • Les conflits d’intérêt des actionnaires de contrôle ;
    • La formation des comités du conseil lors de situations délicates ;
    • Les procès-verbaux ;
    • La découverte de dossiers et de communications électroniques du CA par des actionnaires ;
    • Les obligations de surveillance des administrateurs et des dirigeants ;
    • Les informations relatives à la concurrence et aux occasions d’affaires de l’entreprise ;
    • La rémunération des administrateurs et l’approbation des actionnaires ;
    • La planification de la relève des administrateurs et des dirigeants.

Chaque point ci-dessus fait l’objet de conseils pratiques à l’intention du conseil d’administration. Voici un bref extrait du guide.

Vous pouvez télécharger le document complet en cliquant sur le lien ci-dessous.

Bonne lecture !

A Guidebook to Boardroom Governance Issues

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « A Guidebook to Boardroom Governance Issues »

 

In recent years, we have seen boards and management increasingly grapple with a recurring set of governance issues in the boardroom. This publication is intended to distill the most prevalent issues in one place and provide our clients with a useful and practical overview of the state of the law and appropriate ways to address complex governance problems. This publication is designed to be valuable both to public and private companies, and various governance issues overlap across those spaces, although certainly some of these issues will take on greater prominence depending on whether a company is public or private. There are other important adjacent topics not covered in this publication—for example, the influence of stockholder activism or the role of proxy advisory firms. Our focus here is on the most sensitive issues that arise internally within the boardroom, to help directors and management run the affairs of the corporation responsibly and limit their own exposure in the process.

La rémunération en lien avec la performance | Qu’en est-il ?


Aujourd’hui, je vous propose la lecture d’un article publié par Cydney S. Posner, conseiller spécial de la firme Cooley, paru sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

La nouvelle politique du Council of Institutional Investors (CII) concernant les rémunérations vient de paraître.

La nouvelle politique aborde plusieurs sujets :

    • Des plans de compensation moins complexes ;
    • De plus longues périodes de performance pour fixer les rémunérations liées à des incitatifs de rendement ;
    • Retarder le paiement des actions possédées par la direction après le départ afin de s’assurer de la correspondance avec les exigences du plan de compensation ;
    • Plus de latitude dans les décisions de rappels (clawbacks) ;
    • Utilisation de la référence au salaire moyen des employés afin de fixer les rémunérations de la direction ;
    • Supervision plus étroite des plans de rémunération en fonction des performances ;
    • Une plus grande importance accordée à la portion fixe de la rémunération.

Le CII propose donc des balises beaucoup plus claires et resserrées eu égard aux rémunérations de la direction des entreprises publiques. Il s’agit d’une petite révolution dans le monde des rémunérations de tout acabit.

Je vous invite à lire le résumé ci-dessous pour avoir plus d’informations sur le sujet.

Pay for Performance—A Mirage?

 

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « Pay for Performance—A Mirage? »

 

Yes, it can be, according to the Executive Director of the Council of Institutional Investors, in announcing CII’s new policy on executive comp. Among other ideas, the new policy calls for plans with less complexity (who can’t get behind that?), longer performance periods for incentive pay, hold-beyond-departure requirements for shares held by executives, more discretion to invoke clawbacks, rank-and-file pay as a valid reference marker for executive pay, heightened scrutiny of pay-for-performance plans and perhaps greater reliance on—of all things—fixed pay. It’s back to the future for compensation!

Simplified and tailored plans

CII recommends that comp plans and practices be tailored for each company’s circumstances and that they be comprehensible: compensation practices that comp committees “would find difficult to explain to investors in reasonable detail are prime candidates for simplification or elimination.” In addition, performance periods for long-term compensation should be long term—at least five years, not the typical three-year time horizon for restricted stock.

Reference points and peers

To address the widening gap in compensation between workers and executives, CII recommends that the Comp Committee take into consideration employee compensation throughout the company as a reference point for setting executive pay, consistent with the company’s strategic objectives. In addition, CII cautions against overreliance on benchmarking to peer practices, which can lead to escalating executive comp. Understanding what peers are doing is one thing, but copying their pay practices is quite another, especially if performance of those peers is markedly different. CII also warns comp committees to “guard against opportunistic peer group selection. Compensation committees should disclose to investors the basis for the particular peers selected, and should aim for consistency over time with the peer companies they select. If companies use multiple peer groups, the reasons for such an approach should be made clear to investors.”

Elements of comp

With regard to elements of comp, the message again is simplification. While most U.S. companies pay programs consist of three elements—salary, annual bonus and a long-term incentive—it may make sense in some cases to focus only on salary and a single long-term incentive plan, reserving short-term incentives for special circumstances such as turnarounds.

Time-based restricted stock

CII seems to have a soft spot for time-based restricted stock with extended vesting periods (we’re talking here about beginning to vest after five years and fully vesting over 10 (including post-employment). CII believes that this type of award provides

“an appropriate balance of risk and reward, while providing particularly strong alignment between shareholders and executives. Extended vesting periods reduce attention to short-term distractions and outcomes. As full-value awards, restricted stock ensures that executives feel positive and negative long-term performance equally, just as shareholders do. Restricted stock is more comprehensible and easier to value than performance-based equity, providing clarity not only to award recipients, but also to compensation committee members and shareholders trying to evaluate appropriateness and rigor of pay plans.”

Performance-based pay

CII’s sharpest dagger seems to be out for performance-based comp, which has long been the sine qua non of executive compensation to many comp consultants and other comp professionals. According to ISS, “equity-based compensation became increasingly performance-based in the past decade. As a percentage of total equity compensation, performance-based equity almost doubled between 2009 and 2018. Cash performance-based compensation has remained relatively unchanged. Overall, cash and equity performance-based compensation now make up approximately 58 percent of total pay, compared to 34 percent in 2019.” CII cautions that comp committees need to “apply rigorous oversight and care” to this type of compensation. Although cash incentive plans or performance stock units may be appropriate to incentivize “near-term outcomes that generate progress toward the achievement of longer-term performance,” performance-based plans can be problematic for a number of reasons: they can be too complex and confusing, difficult to value, “more vulnerable to obfuscation” and often based on non-GAAP “adjusted” measures that are not reconciled to GAAP. What’s more, CII believes that performance-based plans are

“susceptible to manipulation. Executives may use their influence and information advantage to advocate for the selection of metrics and targets that will deliver substantial rewards even without superior performance (e.g., target awards earned for median performance versus peers). Except in extraordinary situations, the compensation committee should not ‘lower the bar’ by changing performance targets in the middle of performance cycles. If the committee decides that changes in performance targets are warranted in the middle of a performance cycle, it should disclose the reasons for the change and details of the initial targets and adjusted targets.”

In CII’s view, comp committees need to ensure that these plans are not so complex that they cannot be

“well understood by both participants and shareholders, that the underlying performance metrics support the company’s business strategy, and that potential payouts are aligned with the performance levels that will generate them. In addition, the proxy statement should clearly explain such plans, including their purpose in context of the business strategy and how the award and performance targets, and the resulting payouts, are determined. Finally, the committee should consider whether long-vesting restricted shares or share units would better achieve the company’s long-term compensation and performance objectives, versus routinely awarding a majority of executives’ pay in the form of performance shares.”

SideBar

As discussed in this article in the WSJ, executive compensation has been “increasingly linked to performance,” but investors have recently been asking whether the bar for performance targets is set too low to be effective. Has the prevalence of performance metrics had the effect (whether or not intended) of lifting executive compensation? According to the article, based on ISS data, for about two-thirds of CEOs of companies in the S&P 500, overall pay “over the past three years proved higher than initial targets….That is typically because performance triggers raised the number of shares CEOs received, or stock gains lifted the value of the original grant. On average, compensation was 16% higher than the target.” In addition, for 2016, about half of the CEOs of the S&P 500 received cash incentives above the performance target payout levels, averaging 46% higher, while only 150 of these companies were paid bonuses below target.

And sometimes, the WSJ contends, pay may be exceeding performance targets because those targets are set at levels that are, shall we say, not exactly challenging. According to the head of analytics at ISS, in some cases, “’the company is setting goals they think the CEO is going to clear….It’s a tip-off to investors.’” The article reports that, based on a 2016 analysis, ISS concluded that about 186 of the Fortune 500 expected that the equity awards granted to their CEOs would pay out above target, 122 at target and 150 below target. The head of corporate governance for a major institutional investor expressed his concern that, sometimes, the bar is set “too low, allowing CEOs to earn ‘premium payouts in the absence of compelling performance relative to the market.’’’ In selecting metrics and setting targets, comp committees “must juggle a range of factors,” taking into account the preferences of investors and proxy advisers, as well as the recommendations of consultants.’’ However, he said, “‘[i]t has to be the right measure and the right achievement level.”’ (See this PubCo post.)

Fixed pay

And speaking of simplicity, if CII had its way, fixed pay would be making a comeback. CII’s new policy characterizes fixed pay as

“a legitimate element of senior executive compensation. Compensation committees should carefully consider and determine the right risk balance for the particular company and executive. It can be appropriate to emphasize fixed pay (which essentially has no risk for the employee) as a significant pay element, particularly where it makes sense to disincentivize ‘bet the company’ risk taking and promote stability. Fixed pay also has the advantage of being easy to understand and value, for the company, the executive and shareholders. That said, compensation committees should set pay considering risk-adjusted value, and so, to the extent that fixed pay is a relatively large element, compensation committees need to moderate pay levels in comparison with what would be awarded with contingent, variable pay.”

SideBar

The global economic crisis of 2008 led many to question whether large bonuses and stock options were motivations behind the overly risky behavior and short-term strategies that many argue had triggered that crisis. But the answer that most often resulted was to structure the compensation “differently so that the variable component motivates the right behaviors.” However, in a 2016 essay in the Harvard Business Review, two academics made a case for fixed pay, contending that performance-based pay for CEOs makes absolutely no sense: research on incentives and motivation suggests that the nature of a CEO’s work is unsuited to performance-based pay. Moreover, “performance-based pay can actually have dangerous outcomes for companies that implement it.” According to the academics, research has shown that, while performance-based pay works well for routine tasks, the types of work performed by CEOs are typically not routine; performance-related incentives, the authors argue, are actually “detrimental when the [task] is not standard and requires creativity.” Where innovative, non-standard solutions were needed or learning was required, research “results showed that a large percentage of variable pay hurt performance.” Why not, they propose, pay top executives a fixed salary only? (See this PubCo post.)

Similarly, as discussed in this PubCo post, a New Yorker columnist concurs with the contention that performance pay does not really work for CEOs because the types of tasks that a CEO performs, such as deep analysis or creative problem solving, are typically not susceptible to performance incentives: “paying someone ten million dollars isn’t going to make that person more creative or smarter.’” In addition, the argument goes, performance is often tied to goals that CEOs don’t really control, like stock price (see this PubCo post and this news brief).

Stock ownership guidelines

CII also encourages companies to maintain stock ownership guidelines that apply for at least one year post termination; executives “not in compliance should be barred from liquidating stock-based awards (beyond tax obligations) until satisfaction of the guideline.” For some companies it may even be appropriate to apply “a hold-to-departure requirement or hold-beyond-departure requirement for all stock-based awards held by the highest-level executives is an appropriate and workable commitment to long-termism. Other boards may consider such restrictions unnecessary to the extent that awards include extended vesting periods.”

Clawbacks

Finally, CII advocates that boards have more discretion to invoke clawback policies. According to CII, clawbacks should apply, not only in the event of acts or omissions resulting in fraud or financial restatement, but also in the context of “some other cause the board believes warrants recovery, which may include personal misconduct or ethical lapses that cause, or could cause, material reputational harm to the company and its shareholders. Companies should disclose such policies and decisions to invoke their application.”

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


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

Les sujets touchent :

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

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

(3) compensation ; and

(4) climate change risk oversight and disclosure.

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

Bonne lecture !

ISS 2019 Benchmarking Policy Survey—Key Findings

 

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

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

Summary

1. Board Composition/Accountability

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

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

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

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

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

2. Board/Capital Structure

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

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

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

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

3. Compensation

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

4. Climate Change Risk Oversight & Disclosure

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

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

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

 


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

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


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

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

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

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

Bonne lecture !

 

Spotlight on Boards

 

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

 

Afin de satisfaire ces attentes, les entreprises publiques doivent :

 

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

_________________________________________________________

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

Composition du conseil d’administration d’OBNL | recrutement d’administrateurs


Ayant collaboré à la réalisation du volume « Améliorer la gouvernance de votre OSBL » des auteurs Jean-Paul Gagné et Daniel Lapointe, j’ai obtenu la primeur de la publication d’un chapitre sur mon blogue en gouvernance.

Pour donner un aperçu de cette importante publication sur la gouvernance des organisations sans but lucratif (OSBL), j’ai eu la permission des éditeurs, Éditions Caractère et Éditions Transcontinental, de publier l’intégralité du chapitre 4 qui porte sur la composition du conseil d’administration et le recrutement d’administrateurs d’OSBL.

Je suis donc très fier de vous offrir cette primeur et j’espère que le sujet vous intéressera suffisamment pour vous inciter à vous procurer cette nouvelle publication.

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, un court extrait de la page d’introduction du chapitre 4. Je vous invite à cliquer sur le lien suivant pour avoir accès à l’intégralité du chapitre.

Également, les auteurs m’ont avisé qu’ils ont complété une nouvelle version de leur livre. Dès que j’aurai plus d’information, je publierai un nouveau billet.

La composition du conseil d’administration et le recrutement d’administrateurs

 

 

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Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus.

__________________________________

 

Les administrateurs d’un OSBL sont généralement élus dans le cadre d’un processus électoral tenu lors d’une assemblée générale des membres. Ils peuvent aussi faire l’objet d’une cooptation ou être désignés en vertu d’un mécanisme particulier prévu dans une loi (tel le Code des professions).

L’élection des administrateurs par l’assemblée générale emprunte l’un ou l’autre des deux scénarios suivants:

1. Les OSBL ont habituellement des membres qui sont invités à une assemblée générale annuelle et qui élisent des administrateurs aux postes à pourvoir. Le plus souvent, les personnes présentes sont aussi appelées à choisir l’auditeur qui fera la vérification des états financiers de l’organisation pour l’exercice en cours.

ameliorezlagouvernancedevotreosbl

2. Certains OSBL n’ont pas d’autres membres que leurs administrateurs. Dans ce cas, ces derniers se transforment une fois par année en membres de l’assemblée générale, élisent des administrateurs aux postes vacants et choisissent l’auditeur qui fera la vérification des états financiers de l’organisation pour l’exercice en cours.

 

La cooptation autorise le recrutement d’administrateurs en cours d’exercice. Les personnes ainsi choisies entrent au CA lors de la première réunion suivant celle où leur nomination a été approuvée. Ils y siègent de plein droit, en dépit du fait que celle-ci ne sera entérinée qu’à l’assemblée générale annuelle suivante. La cooptation n’est pas seulement utile pour pourvoir rapidement aux postes vacants; elle a aussi comme avantage de permettre au conseil de faciliter la nomination de candidats dont le profil correspond aux compétences recherchées.

Dans les organisations qui élisent leurs administrateurs en assemblée générale, la sélection en fonction des profils déterminés peut présenter une difficulté : en effet, il peut arriver que les membres choisissent des administrateurs selon des critères qui ont peu à voir avec les compétences recherchées, telles leur amabilité, leur popularité, etc. Le comité du conseil responsable du recrutement d’administrateurs peut présenter une liste de candidats (en mentionnant leurs qualifications pour les postes à pourvoir) dans l’espoir que l’assemblée lui fasse confiance et les élise. Certains organismes préfèrent coopter en cours d’exercice, ce qui les assure de recruter un administrateur qui a le profil désiré et qui entrera en fonction dès sa sélection.

Quant à l’élection du président du conseil et, le cas échéant, du vice-président, du secrétaire et du trésorier, elle est généralement faite par les administrateurs. Dans les ordres professionnels, le Code des professions leur permet de déterminer par règlement si le président est élu par le conseil d’administration ou au suffrage universel des membres. Comme on l’a vu, malgré son caractère démocratique, l’élection du président au suffrage universel des membres présente un certain risque, puisqu’un candidat peut réussir à se faire élire à ce poste sans expérience du fonctionnement d’un CA ou en poursuivant un objectif qui tranche avec la mission, la vision ou encore le plan stratégique de l’organisation. Cet enjeu ne doit pas être pris à la légère par le CA. Une façon de minimiser ce risque est de faire connaître aux membres votants le profil recherché pour le président, profil qui aura été préalablement établi par le conseil. On peut notamment y inclure une expérience de conseil d’administration, ce qui aide à réduire la période d’apprentissage du nouveau président et facilite une transition en douceur.

Guide pratique à l’intention des administrateurs qui cible les situations problématiques


Voici un guide pratique à l’intention des administrateurs de sociétés qui aborde les principales questions de gouvernance auxquelles ils sont confrontés.

Ce guide publié par Katherine Henderson et Amy Simmerman, associés de la firme Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, est un outil indispensable pour les administrateurs, mais surtout pour les présidents de conseil.

Les principaux thèmes abordés dans ce document sont les suivants :

    • Le but de l’entreprise et le rôle des parties prenantes ;
    • Le processus de délibération du conseil et la gestion des informations de nature corporative ;
    • L’indépendance des administrateurs et les conflits d’intérêts ;
    • Les conflits d’intérêt des actionnaires de contrôle ;
    • La formation des comités du conseil lors de situations délicates ;
    • Les procès-verbaux ;
    • La découverte de dossiers et de communications électroniques du CA par des actionnaires ;
    • Les obligations de surveillance des administrateurs et des dirigeants ;
    • Les informations relatives à la concurrence et aux occasions d’affaires de l’entreprise ;
    • La rémunération des administrateurs et l’approbation des actionnaires ;
    • La planification de la relève des administrateurs et des dirigeants.

Chaque point ci-dessus fait l’objet de conseils pratiques à l’intention du conseil d’administration. Voici un bref extrait du guide.

Vous pouvez télécharger le document complet en cliquant sur le lien ci-dessous.

Bonne lecture !

A Guidebook to Boardroom Governance Issues

 

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In recent years, we have seen boards and management increasingly grapple with a recurring set of governance issues in the boardroom. This publication is intended to distill the most prevalent issues in one place and provide our clients with a useful and practical overview of the state of the law and appropriate ways to address complex governance problems. This publication is designed to be valuable both to public and private companies, and various governance issues overlap across those spaces, although certainly some of these issues will take on greater prominence depending on whether a company is public or private. There are other important adjacent topics not covered in this publication—for example, the influence of stockholder activism or the role of proxy advisory firms. Our focus here is on the most sensitive issues that arise internally within the boardroom, to help directors and management run the affairs of the corporation responsibly and limit their own exposure in the process.

La rémunération en lien avec la performance | Qu’en est-il ?


Aujourd’hui, je vous propose la lecture d’un article publié par Cydney S. Posner, conseiller spécial de la firme Cooley, paru sur le site de Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

La nouvelle politique du Council of Institutional Investors (CII) concernant les rémunérations vient de paraître.

La nouvelle politique aborde plusieurs sujets :

    • Des plans de compensation moins complexes ;
    • De plus longues périodes de performance pour fixer les rémunérations liées à des incitatifs de rendement ;
    • Retarder le paiement des actions possédées par la direction après le départ afin de s’assurer de la correspondance avec les exigences du plan de compensation ;
    • Plus de latitude dans les décisions de rappels (clawbacks) ;
    • Utilisation de la référence au salaire moyen des employés afin de fixer les rémunérations de la direction ;
    • Supervision plus étroite des plans de rémunération en fonction des performances ;
    • Une plus grande importance accordée à la portion fixe de la rémunération.

Le CII propose donc des balises beaucoup plus claires et resserrées eu égard aux rémunérations de la direction des entreprises publiques. Il s’agit d’une petite révolution dans le monde des rémunérations de tout acabit.

Je vous invite à lire le résumé ci-dessous pour avoir plus d’informations sur le sujet.

Pay for Performance—A Mirage?

 

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Yes, it can be, according to the Executive Director of the Council of Institutional Investors, in announcing CII’s new policy on executive comp. Among other ideas, the new policy calls for plans with less complexity (who can’t get behind that?), longer performance periods for incentive pay, hold-beyond-departure requirements for shares held by executives, more discretion to invoke clawbacks, rank-and-file pay as a valid reference marker for executive pay, heightened scrutiny of pay-for-performance plans and perhaps greater reliance on—of all things—fixed pay. It’s back to the future for compensation!

Simplified and tailored plans

CII recommends that comp plans and practices be tailored for each company’s circumstances and that they be comprehensible: compensation practices that comp committees “would find difficult to explain to investors in reasonable detail are prime candidates for simplification or elimination.” In addition, performance periods for long-term compensation should be long term—at least five years, not the typical three-year time horizon for restricted stock.

Reference points and peers

To address the widening gap in compensation between workers and executives, CII recommends that the Comp Committee take into consideration employee compensation throughout the company as a reference point for setting executive pay, consistent with the company’s strategic objectives. In addition, CII cautions against overreliance on benchmarking to peer practices, which can lead to escalating executive comp. Understanding what peers are doing is one thing, but copying their pay practices is quite another, especially if performance of those peers is markedly different. CII also warns comp committees to “guard against opportunistic peer group selection. Compensation committees should disclose to investors the basis for the particular peers selected, and should aim for consistency over time with the peer companies they select. If companies use multiple peer groups, the reasons for such an approach should be made clear to investors.”

Elements of comp

With regard to elements of comp, the message again is simplification. While most U.S. companies pay programs consist of three elements—salary, annual bonus and a long-term incentive—it may make sense in some cases to focus only on salary and a single long-term incentive plan, reserving short-term incentives for special circumstances such as turnarounds.

Time-based restricted stock

CII seems to have a soft spot for time-based restricted stock with extended vesting periods (we’re talking here about beginning to vest after five years and fully vesting over 10 (including post-employment). CII believes that this type of award provides

“an appropriate balance of risk and reward, while providing particularly strong alignment between shareholders and executives. Extended vesting periods reduce attention to short-term distractions and outcomes. As full-value awards, restricted stock ensures that executives feel positive and negative long-term performance equally, just as shareholders do. Restricted stock is more comprehensible and easier to value than performance-based equity, providing clarity not only to award recipients, but also to compensation committee members and shareholders trying to evaluate appropriateness and rigor of pay plans.”

Performance-based pay

CII’s sharpest dagger seems to be out for performance-based comp, which has long been the sine qua non of executive compensation to many comp consultants and other comp professionals. According to ISS, “equity-based compensation became increasingly performance-based in the past decade. As a percentage of total equity compensation, performance-based equity almost doubled between 2009 and 2018. Cash performance-based compensation has remained relatively unchanged. Overall, cash and equity performance-based compensation now make up approximately 58 percent of total pay, compared to 34 percent in 2019.” CII cautions that comp committees need to “apply rigorous oversight and care” to this type of compensation. Although cash incentive plans or performance stock units may be appropriate to incentivize “near-term outcomes that generate progress toward the achievement of longer-term performance,” performance-based plans can be problematic for a number of reasons: they can be too complex and confusing, difficult to value, “more vulnerable to obfuscation” and often based on non-GAAP “adjusted” measures that are not reconciled to GAAP. What’s more, CII believes that performance-based plans are

“susceptible to manipulation. Executives may use their influence and information advantage to advocate for the selection of metrics and targets that will deliver substantial rewards even without superior performance (e.g., target awards earned for median performance versus peers). Except in extraordinary situations, the compensation committee should not ‘lower the bar’ by changing performance targets in the middle of performance cycles. If the committee decides that changes in performance targets are warranted in the middle of a performance cycle, it should disclose the reasons for the change and details of the initial targets and adjusted targets.”

In CII’s view, comp committees need to ensure that these plans are not so complex that they cannot be

“well understood by both participants and shareholders, that the underlying performance metrics support the company’s business strategy, and that potential payouts are aligned with the performance levels that will generate them. In addition, the proxy statement should clearly explain such plans, including their purpose in context of the business strategy and how the award and performance targets, and the resulting payouts, are determined. Finally, the committee should consider whether long-vesting restricted shares or share units would better achieve the company’s long-term compensation and performance objectives, versus routinely awarding a majority of executives’ pay in the form of performance shares.”

SideBar

As discussed in this article in the WSJ, executive compensation has been “increasingly linked to performance,” but investors have recently been asking whether the bar for performance targets is set too low to be effective. Has the prevalence of performance metrics had the effect (whether or not intended) of lifting executive compensation? According to the article, based on ISS data, for about two-thirds of CEOs of companies in the S&P 500, overall pay “over the past three years proved higher than initial targets….That is typically because performance triggers raised the number of shares CEOs received, or stock gains lifted the value of the original grant. On average, compensation was 16% higher than the target.” In addition, for 2016, about half of the CEOs of the S&P 500 received cash incentives above the performance target payout levels, averaging 46% higher, while only 150 of these companies were paid bonuses below target.

And sometimes, the WSJ contends, pay may be exceeding performance targets because those targets are set at levels that are, shall we say, not exactly challenging. According to the head of analytics at ISS, in some cases, “’the company is setting goals they think the CEO is going to clear….It’s a tip-off to investors.’” The article reports that, based on a 2016 analysis, ISS concluded that about 186 of the Fortune 500 expected that the equity awards granted to their CEOs would pay out above target, 122 at target and 150 below target. The head of corporate governance for a major institutional investor expressed his concern that, sometimes, the bar is set “too low, allowing CEOs to earn ‘premium payouts in the absence of compelling performance relative to the market.’’’ In selecting metrics and setting targets, comp committees “must juggle a range of factors,” taking into account the preferences of investors and proxy advisers, as well as the recommendations of consultants.’’ However, he said, “‘[i]t has to be the right measure and the right achievement level.”’ (See this PubCo post.)

Fixed pay

And speaking of simplicity, if CII had its way, fixed pay would be making a comeback. CII’s new policy characterizes fixed pay as

“a legitimate element of senior executive compensation. Compensation committees should carefully consider and determine the right risk balance for the particular company and executive. It can be appropriate to emphasize fixed pay (which essentially has no risk for the employee) as a significant pay element, particularly where it makes sense to disincentivize ‘bet the company’ risk taking and promote stability. Fixed pay also has the advantage of being easy to understand and value, for the company, the executive and shareholders. That said, compensation committees should set pay considering risk-adjusted value, and so, to the extent that fixed pay is a relatively large element, compensation committees need to moderate pay levels in comparison with what would be awarded with contingent, variable pay.”

SideBar

The global economic crisis of 2008 led many to question whether large bonuses and stock options were motivations behind the overly risky behavior and short-term strategies that many argue had triggered that crisis. But the answer that most often resulted was to structure the compensation “differently so that the variable component motivates the right behaviors.” However, in a 2016 essay in the Harvard Business Review, two academics made a case for fixed pay, contending that performance-based pay for CEOs makes absolutely no sense: research on incentives and motivation suggests that the nature of a CEO’s work is unsuited to performance-based pay. Moreover, “performance-based pay can actually have dangerous outcomes for companies that implement it.” According to the academics, research has shown that, while performance-based pay works well for routine tasks, the types of work performed by CEOs are typically not routine; performance-related incentives, the authors argue, are actually “detrimental when the [task] is not standard and requires creativity.” Where innovative, non-standard solutions were needed or learning was required, research “results showed that a large percentage of variable pay hurt performance.” Why not, they propose, pay top executives a fixed salary only? (See this PubCo post.)

Similarly, as discussed in this PubCo post, a New Yorker columnist concurs with the contention that performance pay does not really work for CEOs because the types of tasks that a CEO performs, such as deep analysis or creative problem solving, are typically not susceptible to performance incentives: “paying someone ten million dollars isn’t going to make that person more creative or smarter.’” In addition, the argument goes, performance is often tied to goals that CEOs don’t really control, like stock price (see this PubCo post and this news brief).

Stock ownership guidelines

CII also encourages companies to maintain stock ownership guidelines that apply for at least one year post termination; executives “not in compliance should be barred from liquidating stock-based awards (beyond tax obligations) until satisfaction of the guideline.” For some companies it may even be appropriate to apply “a hold-to-departure requirement or hold-beyond-departure requirement for all stock-based awards held by the highest-level executives is an appropriate and workable commitment to long-termism. Other boards may consider such restrictions unnecessary to the extent that awards include extended vesting periods.”

Clawbacks

Finally, CII advocates that boards have more discretion to invoke clawback policies. According to CII, clawbacks should apply, not only in the event of acts or omissions resulting in fraud or financial restatement, but also in the context of “some other cause the board believes warrants recovery, which may include personal misconduct or ethical lapses that cause, or could cause, material reputational harm to the company and its shareholders. Companies should disclose such policies and decisions to invoke their application.”

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


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

Les sujets touchent :

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

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

(3) compensation ; and

(4) climate change risk oversight and disclosure.

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

Bonne lecture !

ISS 2019 Benchmarking Policy Survey—Key Findings

 

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

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

Summary

1. Board Composition/Accountability

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

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

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

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

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

2. Board/Capital Structure

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

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

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

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

3. Compensation

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

4. Climate Change Risk Oversight & Disclosure

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

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

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

 


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