Tag Archives | Corporate Governance

Paycom 2019: Proxy Voting Recommendations

The Paycom 2019 annual meeting is April 29th at 5300 Gaillardia Boulevard, Oklahoma City at 11:00 a.m. local time. Your last opportunity to vote online is April 28th. To increase corporate performance and shareholder value, WITHHOLD votes from Clark and Duques. Vote AGAINST pay; FOR auditor and FOR shareholder proposal to declassify the board.

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Kellogg 2019 Proxy Vote Recommendations

Kellogg 2019 annual meeting is April 26th. Stock price fared poorly for the last five years, so the CEO should not be paid as if he had average performance. Vote AGAINST pay. The Compensation Committee should not be reelected, since they recommended average pay for below average performance. Vote AGAINST Laschinger and Tasted. Vote AGAINST ratifying the auditor. They have served for more than seven years, so independence is questionable. Vote FOR declassifying the board, so that we can hold each member accountable every year.

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Discover 2019 Proxy Vote

Discover 2019 Proxy Vote Recommendations. The Discover Financial Services (DFS) 2019 annual meeting is May 16th. To enhance long-term shareholder value, vote AGAINST directors Aronin, Case, and Weinbach, as well as the auditor. Vote FOR pay, end supermajority standards and shareholder proposal to allow shareholder of 15% to call a special meeting. ABSTAIN on the board proposal allowing shareholders with 25% to call a special meeting. Continue Reading →

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MBII Elects Directors by Majority Vote

MBII elects directors by majority vote, effective March 15th 2019. Marrone Bio Innovations (MBII) amended its bylaws after a request by shareholder advocate James McRitchie and upon the recommendation of the Nominating and Governance Committee. The bylaws now provide that, in uncontested elections, MBII elects directors by majority vote of “For” and “Withheld” votes cast.

The board also amended MBII’s Corporate Governance Guidelines to provide that director nominee are to supply a conditional letter of resignation, effective if they fail to get a majority vote and the board accepts their resignation. I hope if the board fails to accept such a resignation, that would clearly be on a temporary basis.  Continue Reading →

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Berry Global Group 2019: Proxy Votes

Berry Global Group 2019 annual meeting is March 6, 2019. To enhance long-term shareholder value, vote AGAINST Carl Rickertsen, Thomas Salmon and Scott Ullem, as well as auditor, pay and 25% threshold for special meetings.  Vote FOR 1 year frequency for say on pay and for shareholder proposal to provide a 15% threshold for special meetings.  Continue Reading →

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Apple 2019: Proxy Vote Recommendations

The Apple 2019 annual meeting is March 1st. To enhance long-term shareholder value, vote AGAINST directors Levinson and Gore., as well as pay and the auditor. Vote FOR shareholder proposal #4 Proxy Access Amendments and against #5, which aims to set up an ideological litmus test for directors. [yasr_visitor_votes size=”small”][yasr_overall_rating size=”small”] Continue Reading →

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Cisco Systems 2018: Proxy Voting Recommendation

The Cisco Systems 2018 annual meeting is December 12th. To enhance long-term shareholder value, vote AGAINST directors Arway, Desroches, Grauer and Thiry, as well as pay and the auditor. Vote FOR shareholder proposals to split chair and CEO and to Deduct Impact of Stock Buybacks from Executive Pay.  CorpGov.net is an independent source for information about shareholder rights by real Main Street Investors, not sock puppetsContinue Reading →

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IRRCi Joins Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance

IRRCi has a new home! The Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi) announced that it has selected the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance (Weinberg Center) at the University of Delaware as its successor organization. The Weinberg Center will receive a grant from IRRCi in excess of $1 million as part of the successor transition.
With these funds, the Weinberg Center will materially expand its environmental, social, corporate governance and capital market research, and also maintain the full IRRCi research library so that more than 75 research reports remain publicly available at no cost. The Weinberg Center also will continue to fund and manage the annual IRRCi Investor Research Award that recognizes outstanding practitioner and academic research.

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Netflix Approach to Governance: One-Sided

Netflix Approach to Governance: Genuine Transparency with the Board (download) by David F. Larcker and Brian Tayan takes a look at one aspect of corporate governance at Netflix and finds “a radically different approach to information sharing” by management with the Board. Shareholders are largely left out of the equation.

Netflix Approach to Governance: Management

Netflix Approach to Governance has the appearance of a balanced look at how management shares information with the Board. There is no suggestion the approach can be widely copied. Says Larker,

I think it would be hard to put this type of system in place at older and more mature organizations. Innovative organizations that want and need the insights from board members can clearly adapt this type of approach. You need a CEO who wants a high level of discussion about strategy, etc., and is open to alternative points of view.

Transparency works at Netflix, at least in part, because CEO Reed Hastings understands board members would not have the confidence to make tough calls unless they have a better understanding of the company.

Transparency is hard to argue against, unless it leads to directors leaking information that reaches competitors. Larcker and Tayan interviewed CEO Reed Hastings and most of the board members. They describe two key features of what they appear to believe is remmanagement transparency.

Board members attend monthly and quarterly senior management meetings as observers. Communications to the board take the shape of approximately 30-page memos that are heavy on analysis and contain links to all relevant data on the company’s internal computer systems. (Another Netflix Disruption: A Transparent Board)

More frequent meetings with senior staff and more information allows Netflix directors to work more effectively, since they are better able to assess strategic developments. It is hard to tell what impact transparency is having on the company but,

Netflix has been enormously successful over the last five years. Revenues have nearly tripled, increasing to $11.69 billion from $4.4 billion at the end of 2013, while the market cap soared to $133 billion from $4.4 billion.

Directors like the approach.

The overall tone Reed has set, really from early days, is around transparency. … There is no editorializing. There’s no censorship.

It’s just a deep desire to hear rational, well-argued pros and cons of any decision.

No censorship and frank discussions between management and board; if other companies are not operating that way, why not? Equally important, why does that approach not carry through to the relationship between shareholders and the board?

Netflix Approach to Governance: Shareholders

Their research, part of the informative Stanford Closer Look Series, begins with the following sentence:

The hallmark of good corporate governance is an independent-minded board of directors to oversee management and represent the interests of shareholders.

The only other significant reference to shareholders comes later in the following sentence:

While fiduciary rules allow directors to rely exclusively on information provided by management, dynamics such as these can reduce the quality of that information and impair their ability to make good decisions on behalf of shareholders.

Even through the law allows directors to rely on what the CEO and other senior executives tell them, directors make better decisions when the company is more transparent – when they can observe meetings further down the chain and have more direct access to company relevant data. Yet, the Netflix approach to governance appears one-sided. Transparency and dialogue are missing when it comes to management and shareholders.

As I pointed out in a recent post, Netflix has repeatedly ignored shareholder votes. (Will Netflix Ignore Stockholders Again?) While proxy proposals are generally precatory, most companies implement those receiving a majority vote and often those that do not. The Netflix approach to governance appears to ignore proxy votes whenever legally possible.

  • In 2014 a majority voted to declassify the board and to require a majority vote to elect directors.
  • In 2015 similar proposals were voted and won.  A majority of shareholders also voted against director Barton, who, although he lost, was up for reelection this year.
  • In 2016 a majority of shares were voted in favor of proxy access, reducing supermajority vote requirements, and declassifying the board.
  • In 2017 a majority of shares were voted in favor of proxy access, to declassify the board, to require a majority vote for electing directors and to eliminate all supermajority voting requirements. As far as I know, none of those proposals were implemented by the Board.
  • In 2018 a majority of shares were voted in favor of the following:
    • Reduce Ownership Threshold for Shareholders to Call Special Meeting (57%)
    • Adopt Proxy Access Right (58%)
    • Provide Right to Act by Written Consent (52%)
    • Adopt Simple Majority Vote (85%)
    • Amend Bylaws (72%) This was a binding proposal to require directors in uncontested elections to be elected by a majority of shares voted

Given the Netflix approach to governance with regard to shareholders, I expect the only proposal that will be adopted from this year is the binding proposal to require a majority vote in uncontested directors elections. The vote in favor surpassed the bylaw requirement of a two-thirds threshold.

Although I do not question the scholarship of Larcker and Tayan, their discussion of the Netflix approach to governance would benefit from an examination of shareholder relations with the board. We hope that is on their agenda for a closer look

Netflix Approach to Governance: Other Views

   

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