2013 Compensation & Governance Outlook Report

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday February 10, 2013 at 10:21 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David Chun, CEO and founder of Equilar, and is based on the executive summary of Equilar’s 2013 Compensation & Governance Outlook Report; the full publication is available here.

Each year, Equilar looks to highlight critical areas that can potentially affect those dealing with compensation and governance issues in the upcoming year. The 2012 Compensation & Governance Outlook Report aims to cover a variety of emerging trends in the fields of executive and director pay, equity trends, and corporate governance, while also providing an array of disclosure examples to illustrate unique approaches to strategic matters. The majority of firms will not encounter all, or even most, of the trends in this report in the New Year; it is primarily intended as a starting point for discussions that will take place over the course of 2013.

The 2012 year can be identified by a number of unique identifiers including the presidential election, high-profile public offerings, the second year of Say on Pay, record setting stock prices as well as an unfortunate natural disaster that helped bring together a country. Reverberations for such a dynamic year will no doubt be felt well into 2013 as potential changes to government and regulatory agencies could significantly alter the business landscape causing the need for firms to adjust. Discussions between companies and shareholders will continue to drive changes as firms ensure the story they want told is communicated through a variety of mediums and methods. Concerns surrounding fairness in a number of areas including stock structure and pay will cause struggles between conflicting parties as focus continues to shift towards the decisions in the boardroom. Topics including shareholder engagement, board dynamics, Say on Pay, and pay for performance dominate this year’s report.

As with other Equilar publications, this report relies on a variety of actual disclosure examples, chosen to highlight current trends. We organized each issue into one of three broader categories: Board of Directors, Executive Pay, and Disclosure & Governance. We organized the issues into sections to help the reader navigate the report. To avoid emphasizing any single issue, the issues in each category are organized in alphabetical order under each category.

Key Findings

  • Most companies no longer award meeting fees to directors: The prevalence of S&P 1550 companies that provide director’s regular board meeting fees decreased from 59.8 percent to 44.3 percent between 2007 and 2011. Fixed annual retainers increased from 94.6
    percent to 99.7 percent over the same period.
  • Female representation on boards increasing: In 2011, 76 percent of companies in the S&P 1500 had one or more female board member. The percentage of boards with no female directors fell from 29 percent to 24 percent between 2009 and 2011.
  • Boards continue move toward single classes: 59 percent of S&P 1500 companies had declassified boards in 2011, up from 49 percent in 2007.
  • Equity vehicle mix shifts to include performance shares: The number of companies providing performance-based equity to chief executives increased from 42.2 percent to 54.5 percent between 2007 and 2011.
  • Future of multi-class share structures remains unclear: Several high-profile public offerings in 2012 brought renewed attention to multi-class share structures increased the number of companies in the S&P 1500 with multiple classes of stock to 82.
  • Alternative pay tables becoming more common: While not widespread, in order to better illustrate pay stories, a number of companies are providing alternative pay tables and graphs, including pay-for-performance alignment and target versus realized pay.
  • Compensation Discussion & Analysis length trending upward: The average CD&A word count for S&P 1500 companies increased nearly 14 percent to 7,340 words between 2009 and 2011. CD&A word length ranged from 519 (Berkshire Hathaway) to 20,022 words
    (Telephone & Data Systems).
  • Internal pay equity closer for small and mid-cap companies: CEOs make 2 times more than the next ranked NEO in small and mid-cap companies, and 2.3 times more in large cap companies.
  • Increase in disclosures of realized and realizable pay: Although methods of calculating realized and realizable pay are not yet consistent among public companies, many companies are employing the use of realized or realizable pay in order to better explain compensation figures.
  • Proxy advisors using new methods for peer group selection: Proxy advisors Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis will both use new methods for peer groupselection in 2013. While it is unclear how this will affect advisory votes on pay, it is still important for companies themselves to give clear disclosure surrounding the peer groups created.
  • Earnings and revenue continue to be most commonly used performance metrics: In 2011, earnings were used as a metric in 49.8 percent of all awards, while 36.5 percent of all awards used revenue.
  • Initially exempt companies to have first Say on Pay vote in 2013: Firms with public floats of less than $75 million will hold their first votes for Say on Pay in 2013. It remains to be seen whether the trends for larger firms, which included less than 2 percent of firms failing a Say on Pay vote, will extend down to the smaller firms.
  • Shareholder outreach and engagement growing: The number of companies within the S&P 500 filing amended proxies in response to negative recommendations increased from 29 in 2011 to 42 in 2012.


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