Posts Tagged ‘Compensation disclosure’

Looking at Corporate Governance from the Investor’s Perspective

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Thursday April 24, 2014 at 9:08 am
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Editor’s Note: Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s remarks at Emory University School of Law’s Corporate Governance Lecture Series; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Corporate governance has always been an important topic. It is even more so today, as many Americans recognize the need to develop a more robust corporate governance regime in the aftermath of the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Although the recent financial crisis—aptly named the “Great Recession”—has many fathers, there is ample evidence that poor corporate governance, including weak risk management standards at many financial institutions, contributed to the devastation wrought by the crisis. For example, it has been reported that senior executives at both AIG and Merrill Lynch tried to warn their respective management teams of excessive exposure to subprime mortgages, but were rebuffed or ignored. These and other failures of oversight continue to remind us that good corporate governance is essential to the stability of our capital markets and our economy, as well as the protection of investors.

…continue reading: Looking at Corporate Governance from the Investor’s Perspective

Executive Compensation Under Dodd-Frank: an Update

Editor’s Note: Joseph Bachelder is special counsel in the Tax, Employee Benefits & Private Clients practice group at McCarter & English, LLP. This post is based on an article by Mr. Bachelder, with assistance from Andy Tsang, which first appeared in the New York Law Journal.

The Dodd-Frank law took effect July 21, 2010. [1] Subtitle E of Title IX of Dodd-Frank addresses “Accountability and Executive Compensation” (§§951-957). Since the enactment of the act, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has adopted final rules as to two of the provisions, proposed rules as to two others and has not yet proposed (but has announced it will be proposing) rules as to another three provisions. This post summarizes the current status of regulation projects under Dodd-Frank Sections 951 through 957.

…continue reading: Executive Compensation Under Dodd-Frank: an Update

Jamie Dimon’s Pay Raise Sends Mixed Signals on Culture and Accountability

Posted by Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr., Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, on Monday February 3, 2014 at 4:46 pm
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Editor’s Note: Ben W. Heineman, Jr. is a former GE senior vice president for law and public affairs and a senior fellow at Harvard University’s schools of law and government. This post is based on an article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review online, which is available here.

The JP Morgan Chase board of directors has vexed the world with its terse announcement in a recent 8-K filing that CEO Jamie Dimon would receive a big pay raise—$20 million in total pay for 2013, up from $11.5 million for 2012, a 74 percent increase.

Not surprisingly, the news sparked strong reactions, from indignant critique to justification and support. Dimon’s raise obviously has special resonance because JP Morgan’s legal woes were one of the top business stories last year as it agreed to $20 billion in payments to settle a variety of cases involving the bank’s conduct since 2005 when Dimon became JPM CEO. But the ultimate question that gets fuzzed-over in the filing and response is one of culture and accountability—whether a long-serving CEO is accountable for a corporate culture that has spawned major regulatory inquiries and settlements across a broad range of legal issues, even though the firm has otherwise performed well commercially.

…continue reading: Jamie Dimon’s Pay Raise Sends Mixed Signals on Culture and Accountability

Communications Challenges at the New Frontiers of Corporate Governance Activism

Editor’s Note: Charles Nathan is partner and head of the Corporate Governance Practice at RLM Finsbury. This post is based on an RLM Finsbury commentary by Mr. Nathan.

The principal corporate governance campaigns of the past decade have reached a plateau in terms of both investor commitment and implementation. These governance issues (such as majority voting, de-classifying staggered boards, eliminating super-majority votes and executive compensation excesses) are not by any means going away. Indeed, there are concerted investor-led efforts to push favored corporate governance “best practices” down the corporate chain to mid-cap and small-cap companies. However, the activist community has clearly won the policy battles surrounding these governance principles, and their “sizzle” is dissipating.

Policy stasis does not become corporate governance activism, as its very name implies. Corporate governance activists will develop new “green fields” to plow; otherwise they risk becoming irrelevant. The question is not whether corporate governance activists will move on but rather where they will go.

While there are a number of possible new foci, two stand out in particular:

…continue reading: Communications Challenges at the New Frontiers of Corporate Governance Activism

Compensation Season 2014: Shareholder Engagement

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday December 20, 2013 at 10:11 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Michael J. Segal, partner in the Executive Compensation and Benefits Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Segal, Jeannemarie O’Brien, Adam J. Shapiro, Jeremy L. Goldstein, and David E. Kahan.

For many public companies, the new year marks the beginning of compensation season. As in years past, we have set forth below some of our thoughts on what to expect from the current compensation environment. Unlike previous years, the upcoming proxy season is not marked by new legislative or regulatory developments. And, as described in our memorandum of November 26, 2013, discussed previously on this Forum, here, the Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) voting policies regarding compensation matters have remained largely unchanged. The most significant development this proxy season is the continuation of a single trend: increasing levels of shareholder engagement.

…continue reading: Compensation Season 2014: Shareholder Engagement

The Path Forward on Disclosure

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Wednesday October 23, 2013 at 9:12 am
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Editor’s Note: Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s remarks to the National Association of Corporate Directors 2013 Board Leadership Conference; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

It is an honor to be with you today [Oct. 15, 2013]. The National Association of Corporate Directors has long played an important leadership role providing the insight and guidance that board members need to enhance shareholder value and effectively confront the various business challenges their companies face. The NACD has also been a very important partner to the SEC—providing valuable input on a number of our rulemaking efforts that affect companies and their boards of directors.

As members of boards of directors, each of you has an incredibly important job. You are fiduciaries and tasked with the oversight of company management—which requires a tremendous amount of time, knowledge and dedication. As a former director, I know all-too-well the heavy responsibility you have and the hard and time-consuming work involved to do the job properly.

One aspect of the job, which has taken on increasing importance in the last several years, is the role that you play in shareholder engagement and ensuring that management is considering the needs of investors in connection with the information that is provided to them.

…continue reading: The Path Forward on Disclosure

Preparing for the 2014 Proxy and Annual Reporting Season

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday October 14, 2013 at 9:14 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Laura Richman, counsel at Mayer Brown LLP, and is based on a Mayer Brown Legal Update.

While the proxy and annual reporting season for calendar year public companies typically heats up in the winter, by autumn preparations for the 2014 season should be underway. The following key issues for the upcoming season are discussed below:

  • Current Say-on-Pay Considerations
  • Say-When-on-Pay
  • Compensation Committee Independence and Compensation Consultants
  • NYSE Quorum Requirement Change
  • Pending Dodd-Frank Regulation
  • Proxy Access
  • Specialized Disclosures
  • SEC Interpretations Impacting Reporting
  • Iran Sanctions Disclosure
  • XBRL
  • PCAOB Audit Committee Communications Requirements
  • Director and Officer Questionnaires
  • E-proxy

…continue reading: Preparing for the 2014 Proxy and Annual Reporting Season

Providing Context for Executive Compensation Decisions

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Monday September 30, 2013 at 8:22 am
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Editor’s Note: Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s statement at a recent open meeting of the SEC; the full text is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today [September 18, 2013], the Commission takes an important step to comply with the Dodd-Frank Act’s requirements for better disclosure and accountability regarding executive compensation decisions at public companies. [1]

As required by Section 953(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Commission is proposing a rule to provide for disclosure of CEO-to-worker pay multiples. Reports show that these pay multiples have risen steadily over the years. For example, an April 2013 study by Bloomberg finds that large public company CEOs were paid an average of 204 times the compensation of rank-and-file workers in their industries. By comparison, it is estimated that the average CEO was paid about 20 times the typical worker’s pay in the 1950s, with that multiple rising to 42-to-1 in 1980, and to 120-to-1 in 2000. [2]

Given this backdrop, it is not surprising that investors are asking if such a high level of CEO-pay multiples is in the interest of corporations and their shareholders. [3] As owners of public companies, shareholders have the right to know whether CEO pay multiples reflect CEO performance. Shareholders have the right to know how their company’s internal pay comparisons may impact employee morale, productivity, hiring, labor relations, succession planning, growth, and incentives for risk-taking. [4]

…continue reading: Providing Context for Executive Compensation Decisions

SEC Proposes CEO Pay Ratio Rule

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday September 23, 2013 at 9:19 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Glen T. Schleyer, Marc Trevino, and Jane Y. Wang.

On September 18, 2013, a divided SEC Commission proposed a requirement that U.S. public companies disclose:

  • the median of the annual total compensation of all employees of the issuer, except the issuer’s CEO (or the equivalent);
  • the annual total compensation of the issuer’s CEO (or the equivalent); and
  • the ratio of those two amounts.

The proposal was approved by a three-to-two vote and will not affect the 2014 proxy season. The specifics of the proposal have not yet been published, and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP will issue a more detailed memorandum after their publication. Comments will be due 60 days after publication of the proposal in the Federal Register, and the objecting Commissioners have specifically requested “detailed and data-heavy” comments regarding the expected cost of complying with the proposal and the potential harm of including the additional disclosure in proxy statements.

…continue reading: SEC Proposes CEO Pay Ratio Rule

Disclosure Lessons from the 2013 Proxy Season

Editor’s Note: Matteo Tonello is managing director of corporate leadership at The Conference Board. This post relates to an issue of The Conference Board’s Director Notes series authored by James D. C. Barrall, David T. Della Rocca, Carol B. Samaan, Julie D. Crisp, and Michelle M. Khoury.

In light of increased transparency and governance expectations imposed by shareholder advisory groups and increasingly aggressive attempts by plaintiffs’ firms to enjoin shareholder votes on key compensation issues, U.S. public companies face a substantial burden to provide adequate disclosure in their annual proxy statements. This Director Notes examines the key disclosure issues and challenges facing companies during the 2013 proxy season and provides examples of company responses to these issues taken from proxy statements filed during the first half of 2013.

U.S. public companies face a substantial burden to provide adequate disclosure in their annual proxy statements. In addition to complying with a growing number of increasingly burdensome disclosure rules from Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), companies must take into account corporate governance guidelines from institutional shareholder advisory groups such as Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) and Glass Lewis & Co. Moreover, a recent wave of proxy injunction lawsuits has added to this burden and created additional issues and challenges for companies. The plaintiffs’ bar has also been actively pursuing damage claims against public companies based on disclosure and corporate governance issues, including issues relating to Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). All of these developments present many traps for the unwary. As a result, companies should review their executive compensation disclosure and their say-on-pay and equity plan proposals to determine whether additional disclosures, beyond those required by statutes and rules, are appropriate to attempt to reduce the risk of a potential lawsuit or investigation by a plaintiff’s law firm.

…continue reading: Disclosure Lessons from the 2013 Proxy Season

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