Posts Tagged ‘Proxy materials’

SEC Issues Guidance on Use of Social Media in Offerings and Proxy Fights

Editor’s Note: Trevor Norwitz is a partner in the Corporate Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where he focuses on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and securities law matters. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Mr. Norwitz, Sabastian V. Niles, Eitan S. Hoenig, and Matthew I. Danzig.

The SEC staff has released new guidance regarding the use of social media such as Twitter in securities offerings, business combinations and proxy contests (as a senior SEC official telegraphed at the Tulane Corporate Law Institute conference). Until now, SEC legending requirements have restricted an issuer’s ability to communicate electronically using Twitter or similar technologies with built-in character limitations before having an effective registration statement for offerees, or definitive proxy statement for stockholders (as the legends generally exceed the character limits). Companies using Twitter and similar media with character limits can now satisfy these legend requirements by using an active hyperlink to the full legend and ensuring that the hyperlink itself clearly conveys that it leads to important information. Although the SEC guidance does not provide example language, hyperlinks styled as “Important Information” or “SEC Legend” would seem to satisfy this standard. Social media platforms that do not have restrictive character limitations, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, must still include the full legend in the body of the message to offerees or stockholders.

…continue reading: SEC Issues Guidance on Use of Social Media in Offerings and Proxy Fights

SEC Exempts “Foreign Issuer” From Filing a Preliminary Proxy Statement

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Saturday April 12, 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 by Ms. Cohn.

On January 31, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a no-action letter to Schlumberger Ltd. (“Schlumberger” or “the Company”), permitting the Company not to file a preliminary proxy statement under Rule 14a-6(a) when the only matters to be acted upon by stockholders at the Company’s annual meeting were either specifically excluded from the filing requirements by Rule 14a-6(a) or were certain ordinary and routine matters required to be submitted for stockholder approval under Curaçao law on an annual basis.

…continue reading: SEC Exempts “Foreign Issuer” From Filing a Preliminary Proxy Statement

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

Sustainability Disclosure in Annual Reports and Proxy Statements

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday August 1, 2013 at 9:22 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Betty Moy Huber, co-head of the Environmental Group in the Corporate Department of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk publication by Ms. Huber.

Public interest groups and socially responsive investors have been for decades pushing for increased sustainability (also known as environmental, social, and governance or ESG) disclosure by public companies. Surprisingly, many mainstream investors (in the United States and worldwide) are now joining the call for better and more uniform sustainability disclosure, arguing that such disclosure is required for them to be able to make informed investment decisions. Some global stock exchanges have also thrown their support behind this campaign and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) appears to be listening, too.

Shareholder activism, specifically submitting shareholder proposals to U.S. public companies for inclusion in such companies’ annual proxy statements on form DEF 14A was one of the original tools of public interest groups to compel companies to disclose and consider sustainability matters. This strategy had manifold benefits to the public interest groups, including forcing companies to focus on their sustainability issues, generating helpful written statements from the SEC in response to company no-further action letter requests to exclude these proposals from their proxies, and gaining media attention for the cause. This activism proved to be a fertile training ground for the interest groups who continue to submit various sustainability shareholder proposals, but are now focusing their sights on the next frontier, i.e., binding sustainability disclosure requirements.

…continue reading: Sustainability Disclosure in Annual Reports and Proxy Statements

How Well Do You Know Your Shareholders?

Editor’s Note: Mary Ann Cloyd is leader of the Center for Board Governance at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on an edition of ProxyPulse™, a collaboration between Broadridge Financial Solutions and PwC’s Center for Board Governance; the full report, including additional figures, is available here.

ProxyPulse™ provides data and analysis on voting trends as the proxy season progresses. This first edition for the 2013 season covers the 549 annual meetings held between January 1, and April 23, 2013 and subsequent editions will incorporate May and June meetings. These reports are part of an ongoing commitment to provide valuable benchmarking data to the industry.

The analysis is based upon Broadridge’s processing of shares held in street name, which accounts for over 80% of all shares outstanding of U.S. publicly-listed companies. For purposes of this report, the term “institutional shareholders” refers to mutual funds, public and private pension funds, hedge funds, investment managers, managed accounts and voting by vote agents. The term “retail shareholders” refers to individuals whose shares are held beneficially in brokerage accounts.

…continue reading: How Well Do You Know Your Shareholders?

Lessons from the 2013 Proxy Season

Editor’s Note: Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton, Karessa L. Cain, and Sabastian V. Niles.

1. Shareholder activism is growing at an increasing rate. No company is too big to become the target of an activist, and even companies with sterling corporate governance practices and positive share price performance, including outperformance of peers, may be targeted.

2. “Activist Hedge Fund” has become an asset class in which institutional investors are making substantial investments. In addition, even where institutional investors are not themselves limited partners in the activist hedge fund, several now maintain open and regular lines of communication with activists, including sharing potential “hit lists” of possible targets.

3. Major investment banks, law firms, proxy solicitors, and public relations advisors are representing activists.

…continue reading: Lessons from the 2013 Proxy Season

Demanding Transparency in Clawbacks

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday June 7, 2013 at 9:24 am
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Editor’s Note: This post comes to us from Elizabeth McGeveran, a consultant on corporate governance matters, member of the External Citizens Advisory Panel at ExxonMobil, and former Senior Vice President for Governance & Sustainable Investment at F&C Asset Management, one of the co-filers of Shareholder Proposal No. 8 in Walmart’s 2013 Proxy Statement.

After the horrifying collapse of a factory in Bangladesh killed over 1,100 workers, companies like H&M are moving to strengthen supplier standards and audits, as they should. We have seen similar responses to other compliance meltdowns in the past. Banks trumpet new checks and balances to help prevent excessive risk taking, massive trading losses and robo-foreclosures. Walmart points to changes in its compliance policies in response to front-page allegations of bribery and corruption in Mexico. Companies are quite happy to tell investors, employees, and the public how such changes will prevent the same problems from recurring.

This public disclosure about change for the future is commendable. But such reforms must be accompanied by measures to hold executives accountable for major compliance failures in the past. And here, beyond the occasional news report that a CEO volunteered to forego a bonus, companies tell us very little.

…continue reading: Demanding Transparency in Clawbacks

Assessing Vague Shareholder Proposals Under Rule 14a 8(i)(3)

Posted by John F. Olson and Amy L. Goodman, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, on Thursday March 28, 2013 at 9:22 am
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Editor’s Note: John F. Olson is a founding partner of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Washington, D.C. office and a visiting professor at the Georgetown Law Center; Amy L. Goodman is a partner and co-chair of the Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. The following post is based on a Gibson Dunn alert by Ms. Goodman, Elizabeth Ising, Brian Lane, and Ronald Mueller.

During the 2012 proxy season, the SEC staff concurred that a number of high profile shareholder proposals could be excluded from company proxy statements because various key terms in the proposals were not adequately defined or explained within the text of the proposal and supporting statement. See e.g., WellPoint, Inc. (SEIU Master Trust) (avail. Feb. 24, 2012, recon. denied Mar. 27, 2012) (concurring with exclusion of an independent chair proposal that referred to the New York Stock Exchange standard of independence without defining it because “neither shareholders nor the company would be able to determine with any reasonable certainty exactly what actions or measures the proposal requires”); Textron Inc. (avail. Mar. 7, 2012) (arguing that a reference to the Rule 14a-8 eligibility requirements in a proxy access shareholder proposal was vague and indefinite, although the staff ultimately concurred with the exclusion of the shareholder proposal on other grounds); Dell Inc. (avail. Mar. 30, 2012) (concurring with the exclusion of a similar proxy access shareholder proposal because the proposal’s reference to the Rule 14a-8 eligibility requirements was vague and indefinite). While these no-action letters reflected long-standing SEC staff precedent, in the current proxy season, there has continued to be a large number of no-action requests arguing that various terms in shareholder proposals are undefined or vague and therefore excludable under Rule 14a-8(i)(3).

…continue reading: Assessing Vague Shareholder Proposals Under Rule 14a 8(i)(3)

Assigning Value to Long-Term Incentive Pay

Posted by Joseph E. Bachelder III, McCarter & English, LLP, on Monday January 28, 2013 at 9:32 am
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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.

“Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.

“I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least—at least I mean what I say—that’s the same thing, you know.”

“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”

Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (1865)

The Preamble to SEC Disclosure Regulations (2006) [1] states: “We believe that plain English principles should apply to the disclosure requirements that we are adopting, so disclosure provided in response to those requirements is easier to read and understand. Clearer, more concise presentation of executive and director compensation…can facilitate more informed investing and voting decisions in the face of complex information about these important areas.”

To which the Mad Hatter might have responded: “You can assume plain English conveys clear thinking, but what happens if plain English is not fed by clear thinking?”

…continue reading: Assigning Value to Long-Term Incentive Pay

Mid-Season Update on the 2012 Proxy Season

Posted by Richard J. Sandler, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, on Thursday June 7, 2012 at 9:42 am
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Editor’s Note: Richard J. Sandler is a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and co-head of the firm’s global corporate governance group. This post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum by Mr. Sandler, Ning Chiu, William M. Kelly, Kyoko Takahashi Lin, and Elizabeth S. Weinstein. This memo mentions the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP); posts about the SRP can be found here.

The 2012 proxy season in the United States, forecast by some to feature significant turmoil and change, has in fact been less tumultuous than expected. It’s been all quiet on the regulatory front, owing to the SEC’s highly deliberate approach to rulemaking and the D.C. Circuit’s interventionist reaction to the proxy access rules. With new rules, for once, not in motion, change is occurring incrementally, as activists continue old campaigns and launch new ones, institutional shareholders express their support on both the issues and the circumstances of particular companies, and the companies themselves decide when to resist and when to negotiate.

Continued Support for Say-on-Pay Votes

Obtaining say-on-pay support continues to be a nonissue for many companies. Of the 639 large accelerated filers to report results as of May 18th, only 2% failed their say-on-pay votes, the same percentage that we saw in 2011. Less than 16% of large accelerated filers reported say-on-pay results below the 80% approval level and less than 10% reported results below the 70% approval level. The continued high pass rates may reflect not only the tactical judgment of shareholders to force the issue at only a handful of companies, but also the retreat at many companies from practices that had drawn the most criticism, such as tax gross-ups and excessive severance. Many companies also increased their engagement with shareholders and have done a better job of explaining their pay practices.

…continue reading: Mid-Season Update on the 2012 Proxy Season

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