Archive for the ‘Corporate Elections & Voting’ Category

Shareholder Voting in an Age of Intermediary Capitalism

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday April 16, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Paul H. Edelman and Randall S. Thomas, Professor of Law and Mathematics and Professor of Law and Business, respectively, at Vanderbilt University, and Robert Thompson, Professor of Business Law at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Shareholder voting, once given up for dead as a vestige or ritual of little practical importance, has come roaring back as a key part of American corporate governance. Where once voting was limited to uncontested annual election of directors, it is now common to see short slate proxy contests, board declassification proposals, and “Say on Pay” votes occurring at public companies. The surge in the importance of shareholder voting has caused increased conflict between shareholders and directors, a tension well-illustrated in recent high profile voting fights in takeovers (e.g. Dell) and in the growing role for Say on Pay votes. Yet, despite the obvious importance of shareholder voting, none of the existing corporate law theories coherently justify it.

…continue reading: Shareholder Voting in an Age of Intermediary Capitalism

Three Courts Dismiss Lawsuits for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday April 6, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Yafit Cohn, Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum; the full text, including footnotes, is available here.

This proxy season, rather than following the traditional route of seeking no-action relief from the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) (or, in one instance, after receiving a no-action denial), at least four companies have filed lawsuits against activist investor John Chevedden, in each case requesting declaratory judgment that the company may properly exclude Chevedden’s proposed shareholder resolution from the proxy materials for its 2014 annual meeting. While companies have enjoyed judicial victories against Chevedden in the recent past (including during the current proxy season), this month, for the first time, three federal courts dismissed actions against Chevedden, citing lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

…continue reading: Three Courts Dismiss Lawsuits for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

SEC Upholds Rule 14a-8’s One-Year Holding Period for Newly-Public Company

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday April 1, 2014 at 9:04 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Bradley P. Goldberg, Counsel in the Corporate Department and member of the Public Company Advisory Practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum by Mr. Goldberg and Yafit Cohn.

On March 10, 2014, in a no-action letter to SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (the “Company”), the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) signaled its position that shareholders seeking to submit proposals for inclusion in the proxy materials of newly-public companies are not exempt from the requirement in Rule 14a-8(b)(1) that proponents must hold the requisite amount of stock in the company for at least one year by the date on which they have submitted their proposal.

…continue reading: SEC Upholds Rule 14a-8’s One-Year Holding Period for Newly-Public Company

Recommendations from Conference Board Task Force on Corporate/Investor Engagement

Posted by Charles Nathan, RLM Finsbury, and Arthur H. Kohn, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, on Wednesday March 19, 2014 at 9:37 am
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Editor’s Note: Charles Nathan is partner and head of the Corporate Governance Practice at RLM Finsbury. Arthur H. Kohn is a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post relates to a report from The Conference Board Task Force on Corporate/Investor Engagement, one of three related publications released by The Conference Board Governance Center as a result of its year-long multifaceted study of corporate/investor engagement.

The 2008 financial crisis and the slow recovery that has followed has brought further evidence tending to support the view that the structure of our corporate sector needs adjustment, and that its faults affect the competitiveness of our economy. The crisis has resulted, as would be expected, in a raft of new rules and regulations, which as usual have been implemented before there emerged any consensus about the nature of the problems. There has also been a vigorous competition of ideas over causes and remedies.

…continue reading: Recommendations from Conference Board Task Force on Corporate/Investor Engagement

75% of 2014 Engagements Have Already Produced Agreements to Declassify

Editor’s Note: Lucian Bebchuk is the Director of the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP), Scott Hirst is the SRP’s Associate Director, and June Rhee is a counsel at the SRP. The SRP, a clinical program operating at Harvard Law School, works on behalf of public pension funds and charitable organizations seeking to improve corporate governance at publicly traded companies, as well as on research and policy projects related to corporate governance. Any views expressed and positions taken by the SRP and its representatives should be attributed solely to the SRP and not to Harvard Law School or Harvard University. The work of the SRP has been discussed in other posts on the Forum available here.

In a news alert released last week, the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP), working with SRP-represented investors, announced the high level of company responsiveness to engagements during the 2014 proxy season. In particular, as discussed in more detail below, major results obtained so far include the following:

  • Following active engagement, about three-quarters of the S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies that received declassification proposals for 2014 annual meetings from SRP-represented investors have already entered into agreements to move towards board declassification.
  • This outcome reinforces the SRP’s expectation (announced in a blog post available here) that, by the end of 2014, the work of the SRP and SRP-represented investors will have resulted in about 100 board declassifications by S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies.

…continue reading: 75% of 2014 Engagements Have Already Produced Agreements to Declassify

Toward Board Declassification in 100 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 Companies: The SRP’s Report for the 2012 and 2013 Proxy Seasons

Editor’s Note: Lucian Bebchuk is the Director of the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP), Scott Hirst is the SRP’s Associate Director, and June Rhee is a counsel at the SRP. The SRP, a clinical program operating at Harvard Law School, works on behalf of public pension funds and charitable organizations seeking to improve corporate governance at publicly traded companies, as well as on research and policy projects related to corporate governance. Any views expressed and positions taken by the SRP and its representatives should be attributed solely to the SRP and not to Harvard Law School or Harvard University. The work of the SRP has been discussed in other posts on the Forum available here.

The Shareholder Rights Project (SRP) just released its final report for the 2012 and 2013 proxy seasons, the SRP’s first two years year of operations. As the report details, major results obtained include the following:

  • 100 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies (listed here) entered into agreements to move toward declassification;
  • 81 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies (listed here) declassified their boards; these companies have aggregate market capitalization exceeding one trillion dollars, and represent about two-thirds of the companies with which engagement took place;
  • 58 successful declassification proposals (listed here), with average support of 81% of votes cast; and
  • Proposals by SRP-represented investors represented over 50% of all successful precatory proposals by public pension funds and over 20% of all successful precatory proposals by all proponents.

…continue reading: Toward Board Declassification in 100 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 Companies: The SRP’s Report for the 2012 and 2013 Proxy Seasons

Majority Voting Finally Arrives in Canada

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday February 19, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Stephen Erlichman, securities law partner at Canadian law firm Fasken Martineau and Executive Director at the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance, a nonprofit corporation whose members are most of the largest pension funds, mutual fund managers and other money managers across Canada.

Thursday February 13, 2014 was an important day for shareholder democracy in Canada. We know that athletes train many years in order to reach the Olympics, but the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG) also has worked publicly and behind the scenes for many years to bring majority voting to Canada. Finally, last week the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) agreed to adopt a listing requirement effective June 30, 2014 pursuant to which TSX listed companies (other than those which are majority controlled) must adopt a majority voting policy which requires each director of a TSX listed issuer to be elected by a majority of the votes cast with respect to his or her election other than at contested meetings.

…continue reading: Majority Voting Finally Arrives in Canada

Disqualifying Dissident Nominees: A New Trend in Incumbent Director Entrenchment

Editor’s Note: Carl Icahn is the majority shareholder of Icahn Enterprises. The following post is based on a commentary featured today at the Shareholders’ Square Table.

There are many good, independent boards of directors at public companies in the United States. Unfortunately, there are also many ineffectual boards composed of cronies of CEOs and management teams, and such boards routinely use corporate capital to hire high-priced “advisors” to design defense mechanisms, such as the staggered board and poison pill, that serve to insulate them from criticism. Recently, these advisors have created a particularly pernicious new mechanism to protect their deep-pocketed clients—a bylaw amendment (which we call the “Director Disqualification Bylaw”) that disqualifies certain people from seeking to replace incumbent members of a board of directors. Under a Director Disqualification Bylaw, a person is not eligible for election to the board of directors if he is nominated by a shareholder and the shareholder has agreed to pay the nominee a fee, such as a cash payment to compensate the nominee for taking the time and effort to seek election in a proxy fight, or compensation that is tied to performance of the company. [1]

…continue reading: Disqualifying Dissident Nominees: A New Trend in Incumbent Director Entrenchment

SEC Staff Issues Further Guidance on the Proxy “Unbundling” Rule

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday February 5, 2014 at 9:16 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Phillip R. Mills, partner in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about bundling includes Bundling and Entrenchment by Lucian Bebchuk and Ehud Kamar, discussed on the Forum here.

The SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance recently released three Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations concerning the SEC’s so-called unbundling rule (Exchange Act Rule 14a-4(a)(3)), which requires proxies to identify clearly and impartially each “separate matter” intended to be acted upon.

Nearly a year ago, in Greenlight Capital, L.P. v. Apple, Inc., a federal court enjoined Apple from bundling four charter amendments into a single proposal. The Apple decision highlighted the lack of clarity in the unbundling rules and the risk that the SEC or an activist shareholder could challenge a company’s presentation of proposals. The new C&DIs provide bright-line guidance for amendments to equity incentive plans but leave other situations to be considered on a facts-and-circumstances basis and, implicitly, to be discussed with the SEC Staff in cases of uncertainty.

Two new concepts will need to be addressed going forward:

…continue reading: SEC Staff Issues Further Guidance on the Proxy “Unbundling” Rule

ISS QuickScore 2.0

Posted by David A. Katz, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on Wednesday January 29, 2014 at 11:19 am
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Editor’s Note: David A. Katz is a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, and complex securities transactions. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Katz, Sabastian V. Niles, and Francis J. Stapleton; the complete publication, including annex, is available here.

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) has announced the governance factors and other technical specifications underlying its new Governance QuickScore 2.0 product, which ISS will apply to publicly traded companies for the 2014 proxy season. Companies have until 8pm ET on Friday, February 7th to verify the underlying raw data and can submit updates and corrections through ISS’s data review and verification site. ISS will release company ratings on Tuesday, February 18th, and the scores will be included in proxy research reports issued to institutional shareholders. While previous QuickScore ratings remained static between annual meeting periods, ISS has now committed to update ratings on an on-going basis based on a company’s public disclosures throughout the calendar year.

…continue reading: ISS QuickScore 2.0

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