Author Archive | James McRitchie

Stock Buybacks: Four Reasons

Stock Buybacks

Stock Buybacks

Stock Buybacks: Directors Identify Four Reasons Stock Buyback Programs

Stock buybacks have reached their highest level since the financial crisis, with S&P 500 companies repurchasing $166.3 billion of shares in first quarter of 2016. The Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi) and Tapestry Networks have scheduled a webinar for Tuesday, September 13, 2016, at 1 PM ET to review the findings and respond to questions. Register at no charge here.  Download the research here.

Stock Buybacks: What Directors Say

As large American public corporations repurchase company shares at historic rates, corporate directors cite four key reasons for buybacks: to return capital to shareholders; invest in the company’s shares; offset dilution from using equity as currency; and/or alter the company’s capital structure. The directors generally disagree with widespread criticism of corporate stock buybacks, and say that companies need to better disclose the reasons for undertaking buybacks.

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The Committee to Rescue Reed’s Nominates Five Highly Qualified Director Candidates for Election at Reed’s 2016 Annual Meeting

Risks at Reed'sBelieves That Immediate and Meaningful Change Is Required to Ensure Reed’s Is Being Run in a Manner Consistent with the Best Interests of All Shareholders

States That the 2016 Annual Meeting Represents a Critical Opportunity for Shareholders to Elect Independent, Highly Qualified Directors

Believes That Now is the Moment for Shareholders to Send a Clear Message to Chairman and CEO Chris Reed That the Value-Destroying Status Quo is Unacceptable


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Cam C. Hoang: Proxy Access

Cam C. Hoang

Cam C. Hoang

Cam C. Hoang, a Partner at Dorsey & Whitney LLP, warns that Staff denial of H&R Block Inc.’s request to exclude my proxy access proposal “discourages thoughtful, comprehensive discussions at the outset, since proponents may revisit the issues in subsequent years.” (SEC Denial of H&R Block’s Request to Exclude Proxy Access ProposalThe Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation)

In the interest of “thoughtful discussions” on proxy access, I offer some additional points on  Ms. Hoang’s post that I hope will be helpful to companies and shareholders alike. I’ll try to address them in the order Hoang raised them. Yes, I’ll be repeating her name frequently below, mostly so I can easily go back and find this post in the future, since I have so many posts on the basic subject of proxy access. Continue Reading →

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Fiduciary Counsel Sought by CalPERS

Robert Klausner

Robert Klausner, Former CalPERS Fiduciary Counsel

Full-time fiduciary counsel sought by CalPERS to provide specialized fiduciary advice to the system’s board and staff.

CalPERS announce that former(?)/current(?) fiduciary counsel Robert Klausner can bid for the same contract he’s being pushed out of… where he  quoted the lowest price per hour of the finalists.

According to Pensions&Investments (CalPERS issues call for fiduciary counsel),  Continue Reading →

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Concerned Shareholders of Reeds, Inc. Formed

Concerned Shareholders of Reeds: Ready to Join?

Concerned Shareholders of Reeds: Ready to Join? (video from 2013, before current campaign)

Concerned Shareholders of Reeds: Formed

The Concerned Shareholders of Reeds, Inc., led by Edwin R. Lozano, today announced formation of a committee to rescue Reeds, Inc. The committee delivered an open letter to Reeds Founder/CEO/Chairman and the Reeds Board of Directors expressing significant concerns with the company’s poor financial performance, problematic corporate Governance practices and weak oversight. The Concerned Shareholders of Reeds believe immediate and meaningful change is required to ensure Reeds is being run in a manner consistent with the best interests of all shareholders. Although leaving open the possibility of negotiating with the Board, having been initially rebuffed, the letter indicates the Concerned Shareholders of Reeds, Inc. intends to commence a proxy contest by nominating a slate of highly qualified director candidates for the 2016 Annual Meeting. 

Concerned Shareholders of Reeds: Breadsticks Anyone?

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Reeds Board: Commonsense Principles

Can't Find a Photo of Reeds Board

I Can’t Find a Photo of Reeds Board ($REED)

Reeds Board (REED); is it functional? As indicated in a previous post, it might be useful to try and apply the recently announced Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance to Reed’s Inc. and their board of directors. This will probably be something of an exercise in futility with mostly blank spots, since Reeds is a very small company, with little coverage and I don’t know much about what the Reeds Board actually does, only something about what they should be doing. I’m not a very large shareholder, so it isn’t financially worth a major effort for me to mount a challenge to the current Reeds Board or management. However, I am hoping this exercise may be helpful to others considering such a challenge or even just a simple books and records request at Reeds or elsewhere.

The business leaders who authored the Commonsense Principles hoped that, “at the very least, these principles will serve as a catalyst for thoughtful discussion.” That’s the intent here. I hope that my very quick review of the Commonsense Principles might be a catalyst for discussions between the Reeds Board and concerned shareholders. I don’t have time to go through all the Commonsense Principles, so I will just highlight a few that seem relevant to the Reeds Board. Like the authors of the Commonsense Principles, my hope is that this post and other communications will lead to thoughtful discussions between the Reeds Board and the shareholders of Reeds Inc. Continue Reading →

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Gadflies at the Gate: Why?

Deal Professor Envisions Corporate Gadfly

Starting with Corporations

Gadflies at the Gate: Why Do Individual Investors Sponsor Shareholder Resolutions? is the catchy title of a new paper (8/2006) by David F. Larcker and Brian Tayan. Its part of the Stanford Closer Look Series from the Corporate Governance Research Initiative. While I am happy to see a more objective view the role retail shareholder advocates play in corporate governance than the nonsense presented by Steven Davidoff Solomon, I’m not sure what Gadflies at the Gate really adds by raising questions without advancing answers. I suppose, like many academic papers, it is pointing out the need for further research, like a cobbler calling for more shoes. I advise further reading that is more action oriented. 

Gadflies at the Gate: Possible Misrepresentations

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The Handbook of Board Governance: Part 4

The Handbook of Board Governance

The Handbook of Board Governance in Times Square

I continue my review of The Handbook of Board Governance: A Comprehensive Guide for Public, Private, and Not-for-Profit Board Member. With the current post, I provide comments on Part 4 of the book, The Rise of Shareholder Accountability. As a shareholder advocate, this is my favorite part of The Handbook of Board Governance. See prior introductory comments and those on Part 1Part 2 and Part 3. I suspect The Handbook of Board Governance will soon be the most popular collection of articles of current interest in the field of corporate governance.”

The Handbook of Board Governance: The Happy Myth, Sad Reality

Robert A.G. Monks warns, capitalism without owners will fail. The chapter is a condensed and updated version of Citizens DisUnited: Passive Investors, Drone CEOs, and the Corporate Capture of the American Dream, which I reviewed here. Continue Reading →

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CEO Pay Ratios: Do Employees Care?

CEO Pay Ratios - Larges GapsCEO Pay Ratios: Mandated Reporting Approaches

Starting fiscal years beginning in January, companies must disclose CEO pay ratios to the median compensation of their employees. Companies have flexibility with regard to sampling and other methodologies, according to how the SEC has interpreted the Dodd-Frank Act. In preparation, PayScale and Equilar surveyed employee sentiment on CEO pay ratios.

CEO Pay Ratios: Employees Surveyed

Do employees know what their CEO earns? If so, do they think it’s fair? If they believe it’s not fair, does it negatively affect their perception of their employer? And, finally, does CEO pay have any effect on the ability of a company to retain its employees? Additionally, they asked some CEOs to weigh in with their thoughts on the SEC rule and their approach to employee communication as it pertains to executive pay.

Equilar provided pay data for some of the the highest-paid CEOs in the U.S. and PayScale provided median worker pay data for those same companies. They then calculated the CEO pay ratios between the CEO at each company and their employees. Many CEOs do receive substantial stock/option grants and perks as part of their compensation, but the firms don’t currently have similar data available for employees, so they looked solely at cash compensation to calculate ratios for this report. However, they did provide the Equilar data on Total CEO Pay as well, so that it’s clear how much of each CEO’s pay is in the form of cash vs. stock/options/perks. Continue Reading →

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Commonsense Principles: Ground Floor

Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and a group of influential leaders in business and finance have joined to develop a set of "commonsense" principles that institutional investors and governance advisers are mostly applauding. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images and used by Washington Post)

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and a group of influential leaders in business and finance have joined to develop a set of “commonsense” principles that institutional investors and governance advisers are mostly applauding. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images and used by Washington Post)

The so-called Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance are posted here mostly for my future reference, since I don’t know how long others will keep them on the internet. The authors are no radicals, but are a group of 13 executives from the country’s largest public companies and institutional investors… very much mainstream CEOs. Almost half hold both CEO and chair positions, a practice many investors consider bad corporate governance. The Commonsense Principles are supposed to “provide a basic framework for sound, long-term oriented governance” at public companies. Continue Reading →

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The Handbook of Board Governance: Part 3

The Handbook of Board Governance - book coverI continue my review of The Handbook of Board Governance: A Comprehensive Guide for Public, Private, and Not-for-Profit Board Member. With the current post, I provide comments on Part 3 of the book, Risk Governance, Assurance and the Duties of Directors. See prior introductory comments and those on Part 1 and Part 2. I suspect the book will soon be the most popular collection of articles of current interest in the field of corporate governance.  

The Handbook of Board Governance: The Rise and (Precipitous, Vertiginous, Disastrous) Fall of the Fiduciary Standard

Nell Minow starts us out in Part III with a brief essay: The Rise and (Precipitous, Vertiginous, Disastrous) Fall of the Fiduciary Standard. Yes, she’s unhappy with a deteriorating fiduciary standard. Most readers will agree. Minow is not only the ‘queen of good corporate governance,’ according to BusinessWeek, but is also known at the Movie Mom. Nowhere else in The Handbook of Board Governance are you likely to find references to superheroes and kryptonite.

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Foiled Without Binding Proxy Access Proposals

Foiled Without Binding Proxy Access Proposals

Foiled Without Binding Proxy Access Proposals

There will be no rush to binding proxy access proposals, thanks to a July 21 denial of a no-action request filed by H&R Block. Corporations (HRB) continue with Wile E. Coyote type plots to derail genuine proxy access. See this incoming no-action request from Microsoft (MFST). However, in the case of H&R Block we foiled the latest plot to keep corporate governance a democratic-free zone without resorting to binding proxy access proposals. Continue Reading →

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CalPERS Chief Actuary: Help Wanted

CalPERS Actuary Estimate re source of pensionsChief Actuary position open at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS). Search underway for a new Chief Actuary to lead its Actuarial Office. Incumbent will provide independent counsel to CalPERS leadership and Board on actuarial valuations, assumptions and policies, rate structure, and funding of the CalPERS System and related funds.

This search is being led by New York-based Heidrick & Struggles. View a full description of the Chief Actuary career opportunity, including the ideal candidate profile and professional competencies.

Interested parties may contact: Continue Reading →

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The Handbook of Board Governance: Part 2

The Handbook of Board GovernanceI continue my review of The Handbook of Board Governance: A Comprehensive Guide for Public, Private, and Not-for-Profit Board Member. With the current post, I provide comments on Part 2 of the bookWhat Makes for a Good Board? See prior introductory comments and those on Part 1. I suspect the book will soon be the most popular collection of articles of current interest in the field of corporate governance.

The Handbook of Board Governance: Director Independence, Competency, and Behavior

Dr. Richard Leblanc‘s chapter focuses on the above three elements that make an effective director. Regulations require independence but not industry expertise; both are important elements. Leblanc cites ways director independence is commonly compromised and how independence ‘of mind’ can be enhanced. He then applies most of the same principles to choosing external advisors.  Throughout the chapter he employees useful exhibits that reinforce the text with bullet points, tables, etc. for quick reference. Continue Reading →

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The Handbook of Board Governance: Part 1

The Handbook of Board Governance

The Handbook of Board Governance advertised in Times Square

This is the second post in my review of  The Handbook of Board Governance: A Comprehensive Guide for Public, Private, and Not-for-Profit Board Member. see the introduction. I blabbed on for so long that I made my introduction a separate post. With the current post, I actually start reviewing Part 1 of the book. Yes, this will probably be my longest review ever… but it is for one of the biggest books ever.  Continue Reading →

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