Staggered boards have long played a central role in the debate on the proper relationship between boards of directors and shareholders. Advocates of shareholder empowerment view staggered boards as a quintessential corporate governance failure. Under this view, insulating directors from market discipline diminishes director accountability and encourages self-serving behaviors by incumbents such as shirking, empire building, and private benefits extraction. On the contrary, defendants of staggered boards view staggered boards as an instrument to preserve board stability and strengthen long-term commitments to value creation. This debate notwithstanding, the existing empirical literature to date has strongly supported the claim that board classification seems undesirable, finding that, in the cross-section, staggered boards are associated with lower firm value and negative abnormal returns at economically and statistically significant levels.
Posts Tagged ‘Classified boards’
Toward Board Declassification in 100 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 Companies: The SRP’s Report for the 2012 and 2013 Proxy Seasons
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.
Towards Board Declassification at 100 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 Companies: Advancing Annual Elections in the 2014 Proxy Season
In a news alert released last week, the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP) announced the work that SRP-represented investors and the SRP are undertaking for the 2014 proxy season, and the significant contribution that this work is expected to make in moving 100 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies towards annual elections.
- 31 shareholder proposals for board declassification have been submitted to S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies for a vote at their 2014 annual meetings (listed here);
- 7 companies—about one quarter of the 31 companies receiving proposals—have already entered into agreements to bring management declassification proposals to a shareholder vote;
- These 7 companies are in addition to 8 other S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies that have committed to bring agreed-upon management proposals to a vote in future annual meetings following 2012 and 2013 precatory proposals by SRP-represented investors;
- The 15 agreed-upon management proposals to declassify, coupled with board declassifications that have already taken place at 80 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies as a result of the work by the SRP and SRP-represented investors (listed here), can be expected to contribute to the wide-scale move toward annual elections; and
- The agreements already obtained following the submission of 2014 proposals, and the ongoing engagements by the SRP and SRP-represented investors with companies receiving 2014 proposals that have not yet entered into such agreements, reinforce the SRP’s expectation that, as a result of the work by the SRP and SRP-represented investors, close to 100 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies will have moved toward board declassification by the end of 2014.
In a news alert released yesterday, the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP), working on behalf of SRP-represented investors, announced the substantial results of the work by the SRP and SRP-represented investors during 2012 and in 2013, the SRP’s first two years year of operations. (The results reported below reflect 2013 outcomes through the end of October 2013.)
As discussed in more detail below, major results obtained include the following (for full details on all outcomes see the SRP’s preliminary 2012-2013 Report released yesterday):
- 99 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies (see more details here) have entered into agreements to move toward declassification;
- 79 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies (listed here) have 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 any proponents.
Expected Impact by End of 2014: As a result of these outcomes and the ongoing work of the SRP and SRP-represented investors, it is estimated that, by the end of 2013, the work of the SRP and SRP-represented investors will have resulted in:
- Close to 100 board declassifications by S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies;
- Declassification of the boards of over 60% of the S&P 500 companies that had classified boards as of the beginning of 2012; and
- A decrease in the incidence of classified boards among S&P 500 companies to less than 10%.
Below are further details about these substantial results:
In a news alert released yesterday, the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP), working on behalf of eight SRP-represented investors, announced the substantial results of the work by the SRP and SRP-represented investors during the first six months of 2013, as well as the aggregate impact of their work during 2012 and 2013.
Produced Large-Scale Reforms: As a result of the work of the SRP and SRP-represented investors, 77 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies declassified their boards of directors during 2012 or the first half of 2013. The companies that declassified:
The New York Times published on Sunday an article on the work of the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP). The article, entitled New Momentum for Change in Corporate Board Elections, was written by New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson.
Based on a review of the SRP’s results and interviews with the SRP’s clients and the Director of the SRP, the article discusses the benefits produced by the SRP’s work. The article begins with the observation that “shareholder efforts that actually succeed in changing dubious corporate governance policies are so rare that when they happen, it makes you sit up and take notice;” and concludes that “[c]learly, the shareholder project is having a positive effect.” The article expresses the hope that “mutual funds would join this bandwagon or construct their own,” and suggests that “[t]he Shareholder Rights Project is a model they might want to emulate.”
The SRP is a clinical program operating at Harvard Law School. The SRP 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.
The New York Times article stresses that the work of the SRP and its clients during the 2012 and 2013 proxy seasons has produced a large number of board declassifications at large publicly traded firms, moving these companies to annual elections for directors. The article further notes that “[a] far better approach for holding directors accountable, according to a significant body of academic research, is to make them stand for election annually.”
SRP Mid-Proxy-Season Results: 19 Boards Declassified, 13 Precatory Declassification Proposals Passed
This post describes the results produced so far during the 2013 proxy season as a result of the work that the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP) has done on behalf of SRP-represented clients. Thus far, this work has already resulted in the following 2013 outcomes:
- 19 boards of S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies declassified following the adoption of agreed-upon management proposals at 2013 annual meetings; and
- 13 precatory proposals passed at the 2013 annual meetings of S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies, with an average support of 78%.
Further details about these results (including lists of all the relevant S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies) are provided below. We note that these results add to those obtained during 2012 in which the work of the SRP and SRP-represented investors resulted in:
In a memorandum issued recently by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (WLRK), WLRK co-founder Martin Lipton criticized me for supporting shareholder activism that allegedly has detrimental effects in the long term. The memorandum followed two earlier, strongly-worded WLRK memoranda signed by Lipton and several other prominent corporate partners at the firm, titled “The Shareholder Rights Project is Wrong” and “The Shareholder Rights Project is Still Wrong“. Those memoranda criticized the work of a program I direct, the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP), for destroying long-term value by contributing to numerous board declassifications.
I am currently carrying out research work that addresses the view held by WLRK and others that investor activism is generally detrimental to the long-term interests of companies and their shareholders. In the meantime, however, the SRP’s recent release of its 2013 results provides an appropriate opportunity to respond to WLRK claims that the SRP’s work, in particular, has contributed to the destruction of long-term value. As I explain below, these results indicate that relevant institutional investors and corporate boards have largely rejected WLRK’s views – and require that WLRK reconsider its position.
I respectfully take issue with Professor Bebchuk’s analysis and conclusions. Professor Bebchuk’s empirical evidence consists basically of cherry-picked stock market prices and a unanimous vote in favor of shareholder-centric governance by institutional shareholders. Professor Bebchuk’s hyperbole cannot disguise the fact that his shareholder-centric model promotes short-termism and that it is this short-term focus on capital allocation and other business decisions that has led to the decline of the American economy and greater unemployment. When one attempts to parse his syllogism, it doesn’t hold-together. Apparently, Professor Bebchuk believes that classified boards can’t be bad unless directors are bad, or else they would have all committed ritual suicide rather than ever agree to declassification.
As a result of the work of the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP) and SRP-represented investors, declassification proposals will be voted on in April and May 2013 at the annual meetings of 36 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies:
- At 28 companies, agreed-upon management proposals to declassify will be brought to a shareholder vote of approval pursuant to agreements entered into with SRP-represented investors;
- At 8 companies, where such agreements have not been reached, precatory proposals that the SRP has submitted on behalf of SRP-represented investors will go to a vote.
These 36 proposals are in addition to 9 proposals that already went to a vote and were approved at annual meetings of S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies in 2013 (3 management proposals and 6 precatory proposals), as well as the many additional declassification proposals (both agreed-upon management proposals and precatory proposals) that will go to a vote at subsequent annual meetings.