Archive | history of corporate governance

What Would Alexander Hamilton and Wilma Soss Think About the P&G Proxy Fight?

With activist investor Nelson Peltz of Trian Partners making an intense and expensive play for a seat on the board of troubled Proctor & Gamble, the past six months have witnessed the largest proxy battle, and perhaps the oddest one, in U.S. history. In October, it appeared to be over, as the relieved P&G management declared Peltz to be the loser based on its preliminary count of proxy votes.

The drama, however, took an unusual turn in November when Peltz announced that an independent vote count revealed that he indeed had won a seat on the board, albeit by the thinnest of thin margins. Whether Peltz truly succeeded in winning the battle will undoubtedly be hotly contested by P&G. But whatever happens, it is worthwhile at this juncture to put the Peltz play in some historical perspective. What would Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and pioneer “corporate gadfly” Wilma Soss think about the P&G proxy fight? Continue Reading →

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International Women’s Day

SSGA: Tired of the Bull During International Women's Day

SSGA: Tired of the Bull? Celebrate International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day and Corporate Governance.

Progress on gender diversity in boardrooms and executive suites is slow in North America and many other parts of the world. Ahead of today’s International Women’s Day (March 8) SHARE and SSGA have taken dramatic action. The Women Corporate Directors Foundation can also take credit on this International Women’s Day.Where are the others? Post a comment to let us know.

International Women’s Day: SHARE

In recognition of International Women’s Day, the Shareholder Association for Research & Education (SHARE) announced efforts to tackle gender diversity and gender-related pay gaps across corporate Canada.  Continue Reading →

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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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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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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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Proxy Cards Must be Impartially Labeled

Proxy CardsProxy cards must be impartially labeled, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Rule 14a-4(a)(3) requires that proxies “identify clearly and impartially each separate matter intended to be acted upon.” (Guidance) Over and over again during the last twenty years I have written to the SEC asking them to enforce this rule on proxy cards, especially with regard to misleading or uninformative descriptions of shareholder proposals frequently provided on voter information forms (VIFs).

According to Broadridge “98% of all shares of U.S. public companies are held by institutions or retail brokerage accounts in “street name,” leaving just 2% registered through transfer agents.” (Registered Shareholders: How to Manage the Millennial Challenge) Everyone voting shares held in street names votes their ‘proxy’ using a VIF. Yesterday, the SEC finally issued clarification in the form of Questions and Answers of General Applicability: Section 301. Description under Rule 14a-4(a)(3) of Rule 14a-8 Shareholder Proposals. Should we be celebrating? Will the SEC guidance actually change behavior? Does it apply to VIFs or only to legal proxies? Who will enforce the rule? How?  Continue Reading →

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‘Substantial Implementation’ Will Backfire

Substantial Implementation Will Backfire

‘Substantial Implementation’ Defense for Proxy Access Lite Under (i)(10) Will Backfire for Corporate Boards

Substantial implementation, that’s the deception companies have been arguing in order to obtain ‘no-action’ relief under SEC Rule 14a-8(i)(10) after implementing proxy access ‘lite.’ Law firms have been touting recent no-action letters released on February 12, with more in March  2016. It looks like a clear win for entrenched managers and directors for implementing only proxy access lite. In reality, such deception will cost companies more in legal fees and will reduce board discretion, since shareholders will increasingly file binding bylaw resolutions to obtain the same robust proxy access promised under vacated Rule 14a-8(i)(10). Continue Reading →

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Video Friday: Ira Millstein on Corporate Governance

Ira Millstein

Ira Millstein

The Open Mind: Corporate Governance a decade later

Although taped on 4/20/2006, this interview with Ira Millstein, Senior Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, was not posted to YouTube until this month. Millstein discusses corporations, corruption, and regulation.  Listen and learn about changes that have been made and some of what remains to be done. In the history of corporate governance, Ira Millstein has occupied a prominent position for several decades.  Continue Reading →

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July 2010, 2005, 2000 in Corporate Governance History

Mr. Peabodys WayBackMachineI don’t think we’ve gone back in time all year… too busy with proxy season. Join us as Mr. Peabody and Sherman prepare to go back in time to visit corpgov.net 5, 10 and 15 years ago. Yes, many links are broken. The world and the internet move on… still, it is worth a few minutes to reflect on where we’ve been.

Five years ago in Corporate Governance

What Would Proxy Access Look Like if Done Right?

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Wayback: Five, Ten and Fifteen Years Ago in Corporate Governance

Mr. Peabodys WayBackMachine

Mr. Peabody and Sherman prepare to go back in time to visit corpgov.net 5, 10 and 15 years ago.

Five years ago in Corporate Governance

In the year-end reflections two contributing factors deserve more attention. First, “prophetic warnings” from religious groups on the dangers of subprime loans via shareowner resolutions. Second, a call from Sanford Lewis for boards to revoke implicit policies of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with regard to liability issues. (Two Overlooked Lessons From the Financial Crisis)

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Video Friday: Bob Tricker on Corporate Governance – Principles, Policies and Practices Part 2

Bob Tricker

Bob Tricker

We studied ‘corporate governance’ but never new its name until Bob Tricker defined the field. Discussions all over the world took on new meaning. Thirty years later, he is still in the vanguard of ensuring effective performance and social accountability, rooted in rigorous research. Governance is the defining issue of the 21st century and Bob Tricker our most knowledgeable teacher. – James McRitchie, CorpGov.net.

Bob Tricker – Corporate Governance – principles, policies and practices OUHK Lecture 1 (part 3)

Large companies effect employees, whole towns, states and societies. Should the idea of large corporations be rethought so that they owe a responsibility to the larger society rather than just the board. Stakeholder ideas of the 1970s were rejected but are now back. Tricker goes through some of the corporate collapses of the 1980s. Bribes, murder, suicide and mayhem at Carrian Investments led to calls for governance codes. The first was the Cadbury Code.  Continue Reading →

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October 2014: 5, 10, 15 & 20 Years Ago in Corporate Governance

Mr. Peabodys WayBackMachineCorporate Governance Publisher’s Note: Yes, you’ll find many broken links in the material referenced below. After 5, 10 and 15 years, the internet moves on. Many of the organization’s linked have since gone under. We’re just glad to still be here, offering our readers a sense of the history we have shared. More about the WABAC machine

Five Years Ago in Corporate Governance

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August: 5, 10 & 15 Years Ago in Corporate Governance

Mr. Peabodys WayBackMachineCorporate Governance Publisher’s Note: Yes, you’ll find many broken links in the material referenced below. After 5, 10 and 15 years, the internet moves on. Many of the organization’s linked have since gone under. We’re just glad to still be here, offering our readers a sense of the history we have shared. More about the WABAC machine

Five Years Ago in Corporate Governance

CalPERS is believed by many, and for good reason, to be a paragon of virtue with regard to its advocacy of good corporate governance. Yet, their own election process had long been criticized as making it nearly impossible to unseat incumbents. At one point, the Board voted in favor of regulations prohibiting criticism of the Board in candidate statements, which were to be strictly limited to biographical information. To help remedy that problem I shelled out $500 to rent a hall, holding the first ever forum of CalPERS candidates. An expected winner who failed to show lost. Members finally had an opportunity to question candidates on their qualifications and their positions on the issues. These days, CalPERS is holding the forums in their auditorium. The next one is scheduled for September 16. See page 3 of Candidate Statement Booklet. For some of the latest issues, see CalPensions. Continue Reading →

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July 2014: 5, 10 & 15 Years Ago in Corporate Governance

Mr. Peabodys WayBackMachineCorporate Governance Publisher’s Note: Yes, you’ll find many broken links in the material referenced below. After 5, 10 and 15 years, the internet moves on. Many of the organization’s linked have since gone under. We’re just glad to still be here, offering our readers a sense of the history we have shared. More about the WABAC machine

Five Years Ago in Corporate Governance

This morning, the SEC held a hearing on proxy access. By a three to two vote, Commissioners voted for proxy access. Democracy in corporate governance will dramatically improve with our right to nominate and elect directors, even if limited to 25% of the board. Directors may actually begin to feel dependent on the will of shareowners. Continue Reading →

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MSCI to Acquire GMI Ratings

MSCIMSCI Inc. (MSCI) announced it has agreed to acquire GMI Ratings, a provider of ESG (environmental, social and governance) ratings and research to institutional investors, through its subsidiary MSCI ESG Research Inc. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter, subject to customary closing conditions. Said Remy Briand, Managing Director and Head of ESG Research.  Continue Reading →

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Corporate Governance WABAC Machine

MrPeabodysWayBackMachineCorporate Governance Publisher’s Note: Yes, you’ll find many broken links in the material referenced below. After 5, 10 and 15 years, the internet moves on. Many of the organization’s linked have since gone under. We’re just glad to still be here, offering our readers a sense of the history we have shared. More about the WABAC machine

Five Years Ago in Corporate Governance

Shareowners.org Launched. Finally a social networking site that will actually accomplish something. Yes, you can “friend” people and post to their “wall.” However, right now, ShareOwners.org will help engage typical investors by sending their comments in support of the group’s agenda directly to their members of Congress. Over the long run, ShareOwners.org’s broad four-part agenda focuses on the need for stronger regulation (including a beefed-up SEC), increased accountability of boards/CEOs, improved financial transparency and protection of the legal rights of investors. At some point, shareowners will also be able to vote their shares directly through ShareOwners.org. Unfortunately, the site went dark a few years later and nothing has arisen to take its place.  Continue Reading →

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CalPERS Makes History @ Nabors

CalPERS-logoCalPERS today announced that the System’s shareowner proposal at Nabors Industries $NBR recommending that the company change its proxy voting methodologies passed with the support of a majority of shares voted. CalPERS sought the changes to ensure equality and fairness in the manner in which Nabors counts votes cast on proxy proposals at its annual shareowner meeting.

Said Anne Simpson, CalPERS Senior Portfolio Manager and Director of Global Governance: Continue Reading →

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Heidi Soumerai’s Remarks at EMC Annual Meeting

EMCHere’s an example of classy questioning at an AGM.  Thanks to Ms. Soumerai for allowing me to reprint here.

Good morning Mr. Tucci, members of the board, and fellow shareholders.

My name is Heidi Soumerai and I am the Director of ESG Research at Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust & Investment Management Company where I also serve as Managing Director. Together, we hold approximately 1.6 million shares of EMC. Continue Reading →

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SEC Commissioner Wants to Muzzle Shareowners

DanielGallagherIn a speech to the 26th Annual Corporate Law Institute held at Tulane University Law School on Federal Preemption of State Corporate Governance, SEC commissioner Daniel Gallagher delivered a scathing attack on small investors and proposed radical steps to severely limit democracy in corporate governance.

Gallagher opened his attack by stating,

 Activist investors and corporate gadflies have used these loose rules to hijack the shareholder proposal system. Continue Reading →

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Review: Getting Women on to Corporate Boards

GettingWomenontoCorporateBoardsThis slim but informative volume contains contributions from practitioners, policy-makers, principle-setters, advocacy groups and researchers on gender balance in the boardroom, the outcomes of the Norwegian quota law and its snowball effects in other countries. The book came out of a Think Tank organized in Oslo in March 2011. The Norwegian quota law demanded a minimum share of either gender of 40% on boards of publicly listed companies, about 1500 corporations as of January 2008.

Norway took a radical approach. The penalty for not meeting the quota was dissolution. No company took that chance. By any reasonable measure, the Norwegian law is a success. Has Norway’s example started a “wave effect” of momentum around the world? I think so, although Norway had a head start over most countries because they already had a strong base of human rights. Continue Reading →

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Video Friday: Margaret Blair – Making The Hard Call: The Unheralded Role of Corporate Boards of Directors

MargaretBlairThe UBC Faculty of Law welcomed its fourth Fasken Martineau Visiting Senior Scholar, Professor Margaret Blair. Professor Blair is an economist who focuses on management law and finance. Her current research focuses on five areas: team production and the legal structure of business organizations, legal issues in the governance of supply chains, the role of private sector governance arrangements in contract enforcement, the legal concept of corporate “personhood,” the historical treatment of corporations by the Supreme Court, and the problem of excessive leverage in financial markets.

Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and hosted by the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia. It has become part of the accepted corporate governance wisdom in the U.S., as well as in numerous other countries, that boards of directors of publicly-traded corporations Continue Reading →

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Proxy Access is Needed at Apple

silver-apple-logo-apple-pictureDespite the Apple Board’s best effort to obtain a “no-action” letter to exclude my proxy access proposal, it is included among the items to be voted on at or before the annual meeting to be held on February 28 at our Company’s principal executive offices in Cupertino, CA.  See Apple’s proxy, Proxy Proposal 11, ‘Proxy Access for Shareholders’ on page 63. (A minor gripe – why doesn’t Apple provide a linked index to our proxy so that shareholders can easily flip to the subject they are looking for? Let’s hope part of their strategy isn’t making it too hard to analyze the issues and vote.)

Here’s the thrust of my argument. We need directors who can address the big money pile – not with short-term buyback strategies that facilitate extraction of value but with long-term strategies that create value. Investing $150B in Treasuries or money markets is not efficient use of our money. The returns of Google Ventures, for example, are far above the industry’s mean. There is no reason why Apple couldn’t also put our money to good use though an Apple Ventures type of vehicle or through a revamped and enhanced Blue Sky program.  Continue Reading →

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Review: Corporation Nation

Corporation Nation (Haney Foundation Series) by Robert E. Wright  delves into the history of the corporation, particularly in pre-Civil War United States (the antebellum period). Like the earlier reviewed Shareholder Democracies?: Corporate Governance in Britain and Ireland before 1850, Corporation Nation addresses central issues such as agency theory, democracy and public interest through the lens of history.

Despite protests that corporations were potentially corrupting, U.S. state governments early on combined to charter more corporations per capita than any other nation—including Britain—effectively making the United States a “corporation nation.” Robert E. Wright traces the shift in corporate governance from relatively self-governing business republics to the much more regulated entities we are familiar with today. Continue Reading →

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Video Friday: The Cadbury Archive

Cambridge0judge-logoThe Cadbury Archive at Cambridge Judge Business School has been completed with the addition of copies of all the speeches on corporate governance made by Sir Adrian Cadbury, Chairman of the UK Committee on the Financial Aspects of Corporate Governance. The Archive, established in 2010 and part of the Cambridge Corporate Governance Network (CCGN), is a major source for researchers into corporate governance. Continue Reading →

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IRRCi 5 Year Impact Report, Accepting Research Award Submissions

IRRCi-5yrImpactSince issuing their first report in 2009, the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute has made a deep impact – far beyond their expectations. A new Five Year Impact Report recaps the 28 reports IRRCi has issued, which cover a wide range of contentious issues – executive compensation, fracking, political spending and proxy voting – to name a few.  Since founding, they have remained passionate that all their research is objective and unbiased.  As a result, the research has become a valuable tool for investors, policymakers, and other stakeholders. Continue Reading →

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Review & Reflections: The Cadbury Committee

TheCadburyCommitteeThe Committee was formed in 1991, the same year I read Power and Accountability: Restoring the Balances of Power Between Corporations and Society by Robert A.G. Monks and Nell Minow. I had spent years in academia searching for the perfect corporate form. I studied corporate systems around the world and headed California’s cooperative development program. It was obvious to me the dominant form of corporate governance in the US and UK needed improvement.

Monks and Minow brought confirmation from experts in the field. The appointment of the Committee on the Financial Aspects of Corporate Governance, better known as the Cadbury Committee, in May that year by the London Stock Exchange, the Financial Reporting Council, and the accountancy profession meant even those running the markets knew something was wrong. Real change was possible.

The Cadbury Committee: A History takes the reader back to those days to see how changes happened and why. Thankfully, Laura F. Spira and Judy Slinn took the initiative to document the Committee’s history while many members are still alive. Continue Reading →

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Corporate Governance: Stepping Back in Time From October 2013

MrPeabodysWayBackMachinePublisher’s Note: Yes, you’ll find many broken links in the material referenced below. After 5, 10 and 15 years, the internet moves on. Many of the organization’s linked have since gone under. We’re just glad to still be here, offering our readers a sense of the history we have shared. More about the WABAC machine.

Five Years Ago in Corporate Governance

  • The Treasury is injecting $125 billion into nine big banks and making a like amount available for other banks that apply. Those financial giants owed their executives more than $40 billion for past years’ pay and pensions as of the end of 2007, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows. (Banks Owe Billions to Executives, 10/31/08) How much of our $250 billion bailout will go to pay for special executive pensions and deferred compensation, including bonuses? Will our disgust with those who brought us the financial melt-down lead to an upsurge in mutual banks and credit unions?
  • Jackie Cook, the founder of Fund Votes, told SocialFunds.com, “Executive compensation is at the heart of a growing problem Continue Reading →
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