The CII Research and Education Fund (CII-REF), a Council of Institutional Investors (CII) subsidiary, issued a Guide to Disclosure of Board Evaluation Processes highlighting best practices. Continue Reading →
Tag Archives | CII
SEC Proxy Process Video: November 15, 2018
In the interest of documenting important events in corporate governance, I am here bookmarking the SEC Proxy Process Video from November 15, 2018, for future reference. Read transcript by downloading the following pdf: SEC TranscriptShareholderProposalsRoundtable. (full day)
Listing standards change sought by the Council of Institutional Investors (CII). CII filed petitions with the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ, asking both to limit listings of companies with dual-class share structures. They have taken the right approach to address a growing problem. I hope it ends a worldwide race to the bottom for listing standards. Alternatively, adoption of the suggested listing standards could reestablish that US based companies are more democratic and accountable than counterparts based elsewhere. Continue Reading →
Protect the Voice of Shareholders is the name of a new website created by Institutional Shareholders Services (ISS) and the Council of Institutional Investors (CII). The educational website supports the current system, where institutional investors pay for and receive independent research and voting recommendations from proxy advisory firms for the public corporations in which they are owners. Continue Reading →
The first part of an in-depth look at Virtual-Only Shareholder Meetings, a new front in corporate-investor engagement.
Scenario 1: In-Person Shareholder Meeting
A shareholder proposal calling for the chairman’s resignation is coming up for vote at the physical annual meeting of Acme Inc.
In the packed hall, a supporter of the proposal rises to her feet and begins to describe exactly why the chairman must resign, making fulsome reference to his incompetence in negotiating the latest CEO’s pay package, dealing with the former CEO’s sexual misconduct and a botched acquisition that halved the company’s market cap. Continue Reading →
In a tweet this morning, President Trump said he had asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to study changing required financial reporting for public companies from a quarterly system to reporting every six months.
The Council of Institutional Investors (CII) believes that public companies should continue to report quarterly on their financial performance. Said Amy Borrus, CII’s deputy director; Continue Reading →
US stock exchanges should require sunset provisions for dual-class shares, SEC commissioner Rob Jackson said in his first speech since taking office last month. In the speech at UC Berkeley School of Law, he likened dual-class shares that do not sunset to “corporate royalty” and said such structures were “antithetical to our values as Americans.”
If you run a public company in America, you’re supposed to be held accountable for your work—maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday.
CII welcomed Jackson’s remarks. “We applaud Commissioner Jackson for using his first major public speech to support CII’s ongoing efforts to address the problem of unequal voting rights,” CII Executive Director Ken Bertsch said in a statement.
A dual-class structure without a sunset provision —‘forever shares’— says to investors, ‘we’ll take your money, but we won’t ever value your vote on how we use your capital to run the business over the long-term.’ That’s not equitable treatment of investors, and it’s certainly not good corporate governance.
CII has endorsed those measures taken by indexes to ban dual-class shares and only reluctantly backed sunset clauses. Jackson did not suggest his fellow commissioners take action, although he did say he hopes they share his views someday. Fellow Democratic appointee Kara Stein already does, saying that dual class listings are “inherently undemocratic.”
I certainly welcome Commissioner Jackson’s remarks. I’ve written many posts on dual-class shares over the last few years. I like the ban indexers are enforcing and also embrace the idea 0f sunset provisions for dual-class shares of two years. However, I don’t see US stock exchanges imposing sunset provisions. That is much more likely to come from the SEC… maybe, under the next administration. Continue Reading →
CII sent an important letter to the SEC on a recent no-action issued to the AES Corporation (AES) (not yet posted). A similar no-action had been granted in 2016 to Illumina (ILMN) on a proposal I (James McRitchie) had submitted. ISS referenced both. From the facts regarding AES, it appears John Chevedden submitted a proposal to lower the required threshold for shareholder to call a special meeting. The current standard is 25%. Chevedden’s proposal requested 10%. The SEC’s no-action letter gave the following rationale: Continue Reading →
A new report from the Council of Institutional Investors (CII) underlines the risks posed to investors by a corporate structure called a variable interest entity (VIE). Sixty two percent of Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges use a VIE, including internet giants Sina, Baidu, Alibaba and JD.com. U.S. exchanges are experiencing a surge of Chinese VIE IPOs, with 20 filings this year, including 15 since September 1, compared to six in 2016 and seven in 2015. Continue Reading →
Investor Response to Chamber: Letter
Representatives of hundreds of investors with trillions of dollars in assets delivered a letter to the SEC on November 9, 2017, An Investor response to U.S. Chamber’s Proposal to Revise SEC Rule 14a-8 (report).
We noted with interest the November 1, 2017, guidance contained in Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14I. While we are reserving judgment about how the guidance may apply in practice, we are particularly pleased by Director Hinman’s accompanying statement that the guidance is not intended to “make things easier or harder for one side or the other, . . . [but] to improve the process.” We strongly support that goal and plan to actively monitor the SEC staff no-action process during the upcoming proxy season to determine whether the goal was achieved.
Conoco’s virtual only annual meeting is the target of a shareholder proposal by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. A similar proposal was filed at Comcast. The Conoco resolution has already been cofiled by the Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust and the Needmor Fund, a Walden client.
As responsible shareholders, we believe good corporate governance includes the opportunity for shareholders to meet face-to-face with the company’s Board and management at the Annual Shareholders Meeting.
Tim Smith of Walden Asset Management stated
The decision to move an annual meeting to cyberspace has moved far beyond a minor internal management decision and become an important governance matter for companies. Imagine if companies facing major controversies had decided to forgo physical meetings. If a company faces debate on their comp package or its climate change position or has votes on shareholder resolutions it is also a problem to have a disembodied discussion on line for a stockholder meeting.
For more views, see Nuns tell companies to get real over virtual AGMs @FT and In Depth: Growth in Virtual-Only Meetings a Concern for Institutional Investors @ Chief Investment Officer.
Richard Bookstaber: Human Complexity and the Financial Markets
Richard Bookstaber discusses value at risk modeling — easily the most illuminating talk at #CIIFall2017. It was certainly statistics aimed at the layperson. However, in listening to him, I was glad I completed by PhD comprehensive in statistics 35 years ago. I scribbled a few notes. Although I can’t guarantee accuracy, if I motivate a few fund managers to read his The End of Theory: Financial Crises, the Failure of Economics, and the Sweep of Human Interaction I will be delighted. Continue Reading →
Keynote Interview: William Hinman of the SEC
William Hinman, Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance, was interviewed by CII Co-Chair Gregory Smith, Executive Director, Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association at #CIIFall2017, I scribbled a few notes.
As you can well imagine for someone speaking from such a sensitive position, there were no bombshell announcements. However, it is certainly good to have a dialogue between CII members and the head of CorpFin. William Hinman did not disappoint. Continue Reading →
Public Companies Endangered Species: CII Panel
Are public companies an endangered species? If so, why? How can we solve that problem? At last week’s Council of Institutional Investors (CII) Fall Conference there as an informative panel discussion entitled Public Companies: An Endangered Species?
Panelists were David Brown, Michael Mauboussin, and Robert McCooey moderated by the always erudite and entertaining Frank Partnoy, one of the best facilitators in the corporate governance industry. Continue Reading →
Even in Washington, the numbers are impressive. The Council of Institutional Investors, who met in Washington DC this week, represents 23 trillion (with a t) dollars, mostly made up of retirement and other savings of working families. Compare that to the entire budget of the US government, less than two trillion a year. Like most industry group meetings in Washington, this one had presentations on what to expect from Congress and the regulatory agencies and how millennials will change the way the members do business, plus snack breaks and wireless sponsored by firms trying to sell products and services to the attendees. But the a two and a half day session featured repeated agenda topics on climate change and what are called ESG issues, suggesting that pension funds may step in where governments have failed. Continue Reading →
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), together with its subsidiaries, operates as an entertainment company worldwide.
The Walt Disney Company is one of the stocks in my portfolio. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of three fund families when I checked and voted. Their annual meeting is coming up on March 8, 2017.
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.
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 →
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 →
Today is your last chance to vote for real proxy access at Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM, $WFM), unless you plan to attend the meeting in San Francisco tomorrow. The annual shareholder’s meeting will be held at the Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason Street, San Francisco, California 94108 and will begin at 8 a.m. See Pension funds line up in favor of proxy-access bylaw change at Whole Foods.
If you do attend, please stop me and say hello. I would love to get your feedback on how shareholders can improve accountability through improved corporate governance. Whole Foods used to be one of the largest holdings in my portfolio. Back in October 2013 shares sold for about $65; today $35 seems to be the threshold to beat.
I used to head California’s cooperative development program, so had a lot of experience with struggling grocers and their co-op wholesale. I invested in Whole Foods Market because their model was something of a hybrid, with its emphasis on teams, employee ownership and organic foods. Let’s discuss how Whole Foods can get its groove back.
Apple shareholders rejected real proxy access at their meeting on February 25, 2016. Maybe shareholders thought they already have it. Recent decisions by the SEC could lead shareholders to believe proxy access was “substantially implemented.”
Maybe they wanted to support Apple’s management while the company is under attack from the FBI.
ISS recommended a “For” vote. Shouldn’t that have guaranteed passage?
We probably won’t know for months which Apple shareholders rejected real proxy access… and maybe that’s the key point.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal (Apple Offers Proxy Access) and the Financial Times (Campaigners hail Apple shareholder move), Apple adopts proxy access. Yes, that’s progress, but we shouldn’t be gushing in praise over proxy access lite.
Scott Stringer, New York City comptroller, called the Apple decision a
tipping point… Corporate resistance to proxy access is crumbling as more and more boards are coming to the table and working with investors to provide greater accountability that will drive long-term value.
This was an interesting session from the Council of Institutional Investors Fall 2015 Conference in Boston. Please feel free to post corrections, counterpoints and additional relevant material on topic of Investing for the Long-Term, using the site’s comment feature. Find more posts from the conference on this site or Twitter by searching #CIIFall2015.
Investing for the Long-Term
Mark Grier, Vice Chairman, Prudential Financial
Ronald O’Hanley, President & CEO, State Street Global Advisors
Moderator: Theresa Whitmarsh, Executive Director, Washington State Investment Board Continue Reading →
This the fifth part of my coverage of this year’s ICGN event in Boston. I haven’t taken the time to edit the prose to make complete well-flowing sentences. Still, I hope you find them of some value. Here we touch on the idea of a Stewardship code for the US and I captured a few remarks from DuPont’s former CEO, Ellen Pullman. Continue Reading →
ISS’s 2015-2016 global voting policy survey indicate investors are prepared to vote against directors at companies that ignore shareholders wishes and adopt proxy access mechanisms with overly burdensome ownership requirements.
An overwhelming majority of investors said ISS should issue negative director recommendations if a shareholder proposal to provide proxy access receives majority support and a board adopts proxy access with material restrictions not contained in the shareholder proposal. 90% said an against or withhold vote in a director election would be warranted if a provision had an ownership threshold in excess of 5% or an ownership duration in excess of three years. From the ISS press release: Continue Reading →
I attended day one of the ICGN Boston Event and CII 2015 fall conference at the Westin Copley Plaza in Boston, MA. I will do at least a post or two on this wonderful combined meeting in future. However, I’m also negotiating with a couple of companies on proxy access and will be taking a much needed vacation out of country with my wife, who just retired. Therefore, my posts will not be forthcoming for a while. Continue Reading →
Last week I uploaded a revised template for proxy access proposals (see Avoiding Proxy Access Lite: QUALCOMM Proposal) to address some of the problems identified by the Council of Institutional Investors in their August 5th report, Proxy Access: Best Practices. Thanks to the quick response from several readers, I have already made a few improvments. Please use the new language below if you want to keep up with my latest revised template. Of course, I always welcome additional suggestions for improvement from readers either through the comment function below or by email. I hope to see many of you at the ICGN/CII conference in Boston today. Continue Reading →
As I have mentioned in other posts (see especially Proxy Access Lite: Victories at Whole Foods, H&R Block), several companies have adopted proxy access ‘lite’ with provisions that make implementation excessively difficult and less effective than they would have been under the SEC’s universal proxy access Rule 14a-11.
Although I withdrew proposals at several companies, based on the fact that even adoption of proxy access lite represented real progress, I vowed to circle back and seek more robust provisions through subsequent amendments. I recently filed the first such proposal at Whole Foods Market. Let’s start fixing proxy access lite. Continue Reading →
As I have mentioned in several other posts (see especially Proxy Access Lite: Victories at Whole Foods, H&R Block), several companies have adopted proxy access ‘lite’ with provisions that make implementation excessively difficult and less effective than anticipated by the SEC’s vacated Rule 14a-11. At the beginning of last season I announced that proxy access was temporarily ‘on sale.’ I was willing to accept some unfavorable provisions in order to establish a track record of ‘wins.’
That mission has largely been accomplished. Proxy access was the hottest topic this year and is fully expected to be so for the next few seasons. Boards now see proxy access as inevitable and are adopting bylaws even without receiving shareholder proposals. Philip Morris is one of the latest. As the next season gears up, it is time to reframe proposals, avoiding proxy access lite from the start.
Fortunately, the Council of Institutional Investors, released an excellent policy paper on August 5, 2015, Proxy Access: Best Practices, which “highlights the most troublesome provisions” of recently adopted bylaw and charter amendments. I used that as a guide to reconstruct last year’s template proposal and have begun submitting this new template to companies that have not adopted proxy access provisions. QUALCOMM (QCOM) is one of the first examples. We only get 500 words for a shareholder’s proposal. Hopefully, this new version addresses most of the previous defects. Continue Reading →
In response to a proxy access proposal I filed earlier this year, Clorox Co (NYSE:CLX), manufacturer and marketer of consumer and professional products, adopted proxy access (press release, amended bylaws). I am declaring another victory and withdrawing my proposal.
While I filed a standard proxy access proposal seeking the ability of shareholders with 3% of shares held for 3 years to be able to nominate up to 25% of the board, Clorox adopted bylaws allowing nominations only up to 20% and limiting nominating groups to 20, whereas my proposals had no such restrictions on the number of participants in nominating groups. Continue Reading →