Posts Tagged ‘Proxy voting’

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

Looking at Proxy Advisory Firms from the Investor’s Perspective

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Tuesday December 17, 2013 at 9:14 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 a recent Proxy Advisory Firm Roundtable; 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.

Public company shareholders have a vital role to play in corporate governance.  To that end, they are given important rights under federal and state law. Chief among these are the right to vote for the election of directors and on other significant matters and to make their views known to the company’s management and directors. Most corporate shareholders exercise their voting rights by proxy, which makes federal regulation of the proxy process a critical focal point for investor protection purposes.

To support the exercise of their voting rights, many institutional investors and investment advisers hire proxy advisory firms to provide analysis and voting recommendations on matters appearing on the proxy.

These firms often also provide other services to their institutional clients—such as:

…continue reading: Looking at Proxy Advisory Firms from the Investor’s Perspective

Florida SBA 2013 Corporate Governance Annual Summary

Editor’s Note: Michael McCauley is Senior Officer, Investment Programs & Governance, of the Florida State Board of Administration (the “SBA”). This post is based on an excerpt from the SBA’s 2013 Corporate Governance Report by Mr. McCauley, Jacob Williams and Lucy Reams. Mr. Williams and Ms. Reams are Corporate Governance Manager and Senior Corporate Governance Analyst, respectively, at the SBA.

The Florida State Board of Administration (the “SBA”) takes steps on behalf of its participants, beneficiaries, retirees, and other clients to strengthen shareowner rights and promote leading corporate governance practices among its equity investments in both U.S. and international capital markets. The SBA adopts and reports clearly stated, understandable, and consistent policies to guide its approach to key issues. These policies are disclosed to all clients and beneficiaries.

The SBA supports the adoption of internationally recognized governance practices for well-managed corporations including independent boards, transparent board procedures, performance-based executive compensation, accurate accounting and audit practices, and policies covering issues such as succession planning and meaningful shareowner participation. The SBA also expects companies to adopt rigorous stock ownership and retention guidelines, and implement well designed incentive plans with disclosures that clearly explain board decisions surrounding executive compensation.

…continue reading: Florida SBA 2013 Corporate Governance Annual Summary

Corporate Political Spending and the Mutual Fund Vote

Posted by Bruce F. Freed, Center for Political Accountability, on Monday December 9, 2013 at 9:33 am
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Editor’s Note: Bruce F. Freed is president and a founder of the Center for Political Accountability. This post is based on the CPA’s Annual Mutual Fund Survey; the full report, including a description of the data source and appendix, is available here.

Mutual funds’ support for corporate political disclosure reached a new high in 2013, according to a ten-year analysis by the Center for Political Accountability. Forty large US mutual fund families voted in favor of corporate political spending disclosure an unprecedented 39% of the time, on average.

CPA’s review of mutual fund votes looks at how 40 of the largest U.S. fund families voted on 276 shareholder requests for disclosure of corporate political contributions at U.S. companies over proxy seasons from 2004 to 2013 (covering shareholder meetings from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2013). Together, these fund families manage around $3.3 trillion in U.S. securities, according to Morningstar® fund data, and control a large portion of the shareholder vote in US securities.

…continue reading: Corporate Political Spending and the Mutual Fund Vote

ISS Updates Proxy Voting Policies, Requests Peer Group Changes

Editor’s Note: Holly J. Gregory is a corporate partner specializing in corporate governance at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. This post is based on a Weil Gotshal alert; the complete publication, including appendicies, is available here.

On November 21, 2013, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) released updates to its proxy voting policies for the 2014 proxy season, effective for meetings held on or after February 1, 2014. [1] In addition, ISS has requested that companies notify it by December 9, 2013 of any changes to a company’s self-selected peer companies for purposes of benchmarking CEO compensation for the 2013 fiscal year.

This post provides guidance to US companies on how to address ISS policy changes and also highlights recent developments regarding potential regulation or self-regulation of proxy advisory firms.

The amendments to ISS proxy voting policies for the 2014 proxy season relate to:

…continue reading: ISS Updates Proxy Voting Policies, Requests Peer Group Changes

Court Finds No Breach of Fiduciary Duties in Proxy Contest

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday November 14, 2013 at 9:30 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Robert B. Schumer, chair of the Corporate Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and is based on a Paul Weiss client memorandum. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In Red Oak Fund, L.P. v. Digirad Corp., the Delaware Court of Chancery held that the Digirad board of directors did not breach its fiduciary duties or create an unfair election process where: (i) preliminary election results that showed the incumbents in the lead were accidentally disclosed to a large stockholder; (ii) certain preliminary proxy reports inaccurately reported a large lead by management; (iii) the company delayed disclosure of negative financial results until after the election; and (iv) management proxy materials did not disclose that the board was considering a stockholder rights plan (a “poison pill”).

Plaintiff, owner of 5.6% of Digirad’s outstanding common stock, nominated a slate of five directors to replace the company’s incumbent board, but lost the ensuing proxy contest. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging that the incumbent directors breached their fiduciary duties and created an unfair election process.

The court found no breach of fiduciary duties and no valid claim of an unfair election process, holding that:

…continue reading: Court Finds No Breach of Fiduciary Duties in Proxy Contest

The Autonomous Board

Editor’s Note: John Wilcox is chairman of Sodali, a co-chair of, and former Head of Corporate Governance at TIAA-CREF. This post is based on a Sodali publication by Mr. Wilcox.

“Can we end the long tradition of the boardroom as a sealed chamber…? Can we move toward more transparency about the boardroom process…?”
—Leon Panetta

Companies preparing for their annual shareholder meetings in 2014 should be aware of a new governance challenge: opposition to the election of individual directors is becoming a strategy of choice not only for activists but for “responsible” investors seeking change at portfolio companies. Withholding (or threatening to withhold) votes for incumbent directors, supporting short slate campaigns, or voting for dissident candidates in proxy contests are no longer considered hardball tactics for use only in extreme cases. Institutional investors who in the past would routinely support incumbent directors have learned an important lesson from the success of hedge funds and activists: targeting directors gets the immediate attention of companies, promotes dialogue, attracts media coverage and increases pressure on other investors to support shareholder initiatives.

…continue reading: The Autonomous Board

ISS Proposes Limited Updates to 2014 Voting Policy

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday November 1, 2013 at 9:02 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 and Marc Trevino.

Institutional Shareholder Services, the influential proxy advisory firm, has published for public comment two proposed changes to its proxy voting guidelines for U.S. companies. The proposals are limited and do not include any change related to the effect of longer board tenure on director independence. ISS had previously surveyed institutional investors and public companies on the topic of director tenure and received strong, but deeply split, responses from both constituencies. The proposed changes are:

…continue reading: ISS Proposes Limited Updates to 2014 Voting Policy

Through the Investor Lens: Perspectives on Risk & Governance

Editor’s Note: Kayla Gillan is leader of the Investor Resource Institute at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. The following post is based on the Introduction and Overview of a PwC Investor Survey; the complete publication is available here.

Investors are looking at risks differently than in the past. The financial crisis that affected capital markets across the globe demonstrated that companies—and even whole economies—can be rocked to their core when the connections between lending practices, securitization programs, and capital and funding levels are not clearly understood and monitored.

Investors today are expecting that those who manage the businesses that rely on their capital will exercise greater care over this expanded concept of “risk.” Of course, investors also seek steady returns, so risks cannot be eliminated. But this is when disclosure—information that provides necessary nourishment to an efficient market—becomes so important.

…continue reading: Through the Investor Lens: Perspectives on Risk & Governance

Proxy Voting Analytics (2009-2013)

Editor’s Note: Matteo Tonello is managing director of corporate leadership at The Conference Board. This post relates to a report released jointly by The Conference Board and FactSet, authored by Dr. Tonello, Melissa Aguilar, and Thomas Singer of The Conference Board. The Executive Summary is available here. For details regarding how to obtain a copy of the full report, contact

While the number of shareholder proposals filed at U.S. public companies continued to increase this year, management has been less successful at obtaining permission from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to exclude from the voting ballot new types of investor demands.

The finding is discussed in the latest Proxy Voting Analytics (2009-2013), recently released by The Conference Board in collaboration with FactSet Research. The study examines data from more than 2,400 annual general meetings (AGMs) held at Russell 3000 and S&P 500 companies between January 1 and June 30, 2013. Historical comparisons with findings from the last four proxy seasons are also made.

Data analyzed in the report includes:
…continue reading: Proxy Voting Analytics (2009-2013)

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