Events James McRitchie will attend

James McRitchie

The Handbook of Board Governance: A Comprehensive Guide for Public, Private, and Not-for-Profit Board Member  I contributed Chapter 21, The Individual’s Role in Driving Corporate Governance. My current focus is filing shareholder proposals at companies with proxy access lite bylaws that don’t meet CII best practices. Don’t miss:

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Qualcomm (QCOM) Proxy Access: Proxy Score 57

QCOMQUALCOMM (NASD:QCOM) Incorporated develops, designs, manufactures, and markets digital communications products and services in China, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, and internationally.

QCOM is one of the stocks in my portfolio. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of two funds when I checked and voted. Their annual meeting is coming up on March 7th, 2017.  

I voted AGAINST pay, comp committee members, auditor. FOR Proxy Access Amendments. See why below. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 57% of the time. View Proxy Statement via iiWisdom. Continue Reading →

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eSignatureGuarantee Facilitates Securities Transfer

eSignatureGuaranteeFor shareholders and investors, transferring securities just got a whole lot easier with the introduction of eSignatureGuarantee.com (link).

In order to transfer securities – whether it’s stock, a 401K, an estate trust, whatever it may be – the transfer agent industry requires what is called a medallion signature guarantee, which essentially proves your identity and helps protect shareholders from fraud. To obtain a signature medallion one must physically go into their financial institution or bank of choice to get one. Not only is this time consuming and outdated, but many financial institutions, such as the Bank of America and many community banks, have stopped offering this service, literally leaving shareholders with nowhere to turn. Continue Reading →

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Moneyball Corporate Governance

Moneyball Corporate Governance: making the best use of what limited capital is available – just like what the Oakland A’s had to do with their limited payroll.

David R. Koenig, Founding Principal, The Governance Fund & Author of Moneyball Corporate Governance

David R. Koenig, Founding Principal, The Governance Fund, Author of Governance Reimagined: Organizational Design, Risk, and Value Creation

In the mid-1980s, New York Mets manager Davey Johnson was among the first in professional baseball to realize the advantage that could be gained by using computers and statistics to help select the team members for any given game, the order in which he played them, and even which specific pinch-hitter to use in a given situation. Under his leadership, the New York Mets won the 1986 World Series, Major League Baseball’s championship series.

The more widely known Moneyball story, made famous by Michael Lewis’ book and a movie starring Brad Pitt, takes place nearly 15 years later. It tells a similar story – of using analytics and probability-based decision-making to successfully discover hidden value in both players and collections of players. In that story, the focus of the analytics is on maximizing player and team performance relative to the constraints of the Oakland Athletics’ very limited payroll. Continue Reading →

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Apple (AAPL) Proxy Access: Proxy Score 66

AAPL logoApple Inc. (NASD:AAPL) designs, manufactures, and markets mobile communication and media devices, personal computers, and portable digital music players to consumers, small and mid-sized businesses, and education, enterprise, and government customers worldwide.

AAPL is one of the stocks in my portfolio. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of two funds when I checked and voted. Their annual meeting is coming up on February 28th, 2017.  

I voted FOR Proxy Access Amendments. See how and why I voted other items below. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 66% of the time. View Proxy Statement via iiWisdom. Continue Reading →

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Egan-Jones Updates Voting Guidelines

Egan-JonesI have been using Egan-Jones Proxy Services (“EJPS”) for several months to help me decide how to vote my proxies and have come to value their advice. For example, I like their policy of withholding votes from the entire compensation committee when voting against say on pay.

Recently Egan-Jones announced the implementation of changes to their proxy voting guidelines for the 2017 Proxy Season. I like the direction they are going. Continue Reading →

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Proxy Statements Increase Disclosures

Proxy Statements Disclosing Engagement

Nearly half of S&P 100 companies included information in their proxy statements that showed how they responded to shareholder concerns and made changes to policies, according to a new report from Equilar, Innovations in Proxy Design, featuring commentary from Donnelley Financial Solutions and Pay Governance.

In 2012, just 14.3% of the S&P 100 included disclosures in their proxy statements on how they modified their practices after engaging shareholders, a figure that increased to 42.0% in 2016.

Disclosing Modifications

Disclosing Modifications in Proxy Statements

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Can We Really Govern for the Long-Term?

Can We Really Govern for the Long-Term vs the Quarterly Fixation? This is Part 3 of my coverage of Directors Forum 2017 in San Diego, which was billed as Directors, Management, & Shareholders in Dialogue. I was also hoping to learn more about President Donald J. Trump and how his administration might impact corporate governance. See Part I and Part 2. As usual, the Directors Forum was under Chatham House Rule, so I’m mostly just posting a few observations that were interesting to me.  Photos from the professional photographer at Directors Forum 2017 Photo Slide Show.

Can We Really Govern for the Long-Term vs the Quarterly Fixation?

Can We Really Govern for the Long-Term vs the Quarterly Fixation?

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Boardroom Issues of the Future

Boardroom Issues of the Future

Boardroom Issues of the Future

Boardroom Issues of the Future is Part 2 of my coverage of Directors Forum 2017 in San Diego, which was billed as Directors, Management, & Shareholders in Dialogue. I was also hoping to learn more about President Donald J. Trump and how his administration might impact corporate governance. See Part I. As usual, the Directors Forum was under Chatham House Rule, so I’m mostly just posting a few observations that were interesting to me. Sorry for the poor photo quality. I find it difficult to get good color in front of a lighted screen. Photos from the professional photographer at Directors Forum 2017 Photo Slide Show. Continue Reading →

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Whole Foods Proxy Access: Proxy Score 82

Whole Foods Proxy Access - Give Us the Key

Whole Foods Proxy Access – Give Us the Key (cartoon from Pensions & Investments)

Whole Foods Proxy Access, we have another chance to vote to make proxy access real before the annual meeting on February 17.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASD:WFM) is a retailer of natural and organic foods and is one of the stocks in my portfolio. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of four funds when I checked and voted.  Whole Foods Market (WFM)

I voted FOR Whole Foods Proxy Access and the report on Food Waste; AGAINST director Jonathan Sokoloff because of his poor attendance record. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 82% of the time. View Proxy Statement via iiWisdom. Continue Reading →

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Anti-Hypocrisy Proposals: Franklin Resources

Anti-Hypocrisy Proposals at Franklin Resources

Support Anti-Hypocrisy Proposals at Franklin Resources

Anti-hypocrisy proposals could be the most important ones of the season. I purchased shares on Franklin Resources (BEN) so that I could file anti-hypocrisy proposals, of the same variety we get to vote on at the February 15, 2017, annual meeting. I had not owned my shares for a year as of the filing deadline last year, so did not submit a proposal. Fortunately, other shareholders have submitted exactly the type of anti-hypocrisy proposals I would have put forward. I will concentrate on the first anti-hypocrisy proposals and will cover the other items only briefly.

Votes at funds, like Franklin Resources, are especially important since the votes these funds cast at annual meetings drive the outcomes. We can’t expect to win important issues like Majority vote provisions to elect directors, requested reports on climate change activities or voting down outrageous pay packages until huge funds like Franklin Resources vote with us. Large commercial funds, such as Franklin Resources, often have a built-in conflict of interest. They want to service corporate clients, so do not want to offend corporate managers. At the same time, as investors in their funds, we want them to monitor management and be critical when that is in our best interest. These resolutions seek better alignment between the interest of investors in funds offered by Franklin Resources and the proxy positions taken by those funds. Continue Reading →

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Yvan Allaire: World Economic Forum, Davos 2010

There is a Chinese proverb that says He who knows he has enough is rich; but the modern Western version of the saying seems to be: One never has enough; I deserve more; or There is always someone who has more.

Over the last years, we have built a system of incentives and motives so powerful that it overwhelmed values. Ethics is the resistance of values under pressure. But there is a breaking point. Enough pressure will grind values down. Heroes and saints do what they think is right whatever the costs and consequences for them. Most mortals, mes semblables, mes frères, dirait Baudelaire, are suspended in webs of motives and meanings they themselves have spun. We must understand how we have come to spin this web and learn to spin a new one. Continue Reading →

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Directors Forum 2017 & Trump – Part 1

Linda Sweeney - Eec Director - Directors Forum 2016

Linda Sweeney – Exec Director – Directors Forum 2016

Directors Forum 2017 in San Diego was billed as Directors, Management, & Shareholders in Dialogue. Sure, all well and good, but I went there also hoping to learn more about President Donald J. Trump. He is the subject of a huge portion of tweets, Facebook posts and much of the news, so I expected Trump to also be the center of attention at Directors Forum 2017.

Directors Forum 2017 - iJoan B. Kroc Institute for Peace Justice

Directors Forum 2017 – Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace Justice

I know what those in my immediate circles in Sacramento are saying. Clinton got 58% of the vote to Trump’s 34%. My news silos are much the same. At Directors Forum 2017 were directors and managers from companies, large and medium (the focus is rarely on small companies, although the Forum does better than most). Investors representing trillions of dollars in assets were in the room and on stage. What was the speculation on Trump and his impact on what we do? Continue Reading →

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Equilar GDI: Board Gender Parity 2055

Equilar GDI - gender parityThe new Equilar GDI (Gender Diversity Index) found it will take nearly 40 years for Russell 3000 boards of directors to reach gender parity. If the current rate of growth remains the same, Russell 3000 boards would reach 50% male and 50% female representation in Q4 2055.

Diversity Forum

I urge readers 5/10 join CalPERS & CalSTRS at this year’s Diversity Forum, an all-day event in Sacramento. We do not have to wait for 2055 to obtain gender parity. Join us to learn strategies that should move us forward at a substantially quicker pace. MoDiversity Forum 2017re information:

Equilar GDI: Research

The Equilar GDI is an index that measures 50% representation of both males and females on Russell 3000 boards as “1.” As of December 31, 2016, Russell 3000 boards were at 0.30 on the index, nearly one-third of the way toward parity. The data reflects that 15.1% of board seats at Russell 3000 companies were occupied by women as of year end. This represented an increase from 13.9% at the same point in 2015, which was up from 13.2% in 2014.  Continue Reading →

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Investor Stewardship Group: 1 Share, 1 Vote

Investor Stewardship Group logoInvestor Stewardship Group Launches Stewardship Framework for 2018

The Investor Stewardship Group (link), a collective of some of the largest U.S.-based institutional investors and global asset managers, along with several of their international counterparts, announced the launch of the Framework for U.S. Stewardship and Governance, a historic, sustained initiative to establish a framework of basic standards of investment stewardship and corporate governance for U.S. institutional investor and boardroom conduct.one share one vote

My own impression is that this group has been carefully constructed, probably stemming from many discussions at ICGN and CII. They have certainly started with an impressive group. Although most of the principles are relatively ‘safe,’ I am delighted to see their position that “shareholders should be entitled to voting rights in proportion to their economic interest.” That one recommendation alone is huge. I hope they continue to build on their initial consensus items.

Internet Roadblock

Of course, the internet changes everything. Companies used to go public to raise money for factories, staff, etc. Now, they raise funds from private equity funds and scale all the way because they can build out through the internet with coding and algorithms. They go public only when founders and initial supporters want to cash out a portion of their investment. Continue Reading →

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Governance Lessons from Wells Fargo

Governance Lessons From Wells Fargo

Governance Lessons From Wells Fargo

Tone at the Bottom: Governance Lessons from Wells Fargo

That was the advertised title for the program co-sponsored by the Rock Center for Corporate Governance and the Silicon Valley Directors Exchange. (Sign up to be on the SVDX mailing list.) After the program, I am still not convinced the real governance lesson from Wells Fargo (ticker: WFC) is not more about lack of oversight from the top, rather than the tone at the bottom.

It was another great panel of corporate governance, legal, and public relations experts for the deep dive into what went wrong. As usual, it was Chatham House Rule, so I’m mostly providing a little more background and some commentary on the presentations. I am sure others drew different conclusions than I did. The panel focused on issues ranging from public disclosure requirements, whistleblower policies and mechanics, compensation policies (including the board’s use of claw-back provisions), company policies regulating employee conduct, and the negative publicity suffered by the bank. Here were some of the advertised questions:

WFC panel

WFC panel

What happens when you have a well-meaning and talented board and a CEO who was regarded within the industry as one of the best managers with a stellar reputation? Was it inevitable that the CEO would be forced to step down by an outraged Congress and populist sentiment? What governance lessons from Wells Fargo are applicable to the non-banking industry, with special attention to Silicon Valley-based tech companies?

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