Posts Tagged ‘Shareholder proposals’

Shareholder Proposals on Social and Environmental Issues

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 Melissa Aguilar and Thomas Singer. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Political spending and climate change, key topics during the 2014 proxy season, are expected to feature heavily again in 2015 shareholder proposals. This post reviews the content of the social and environmental proposals voted on most frequently by shareholders of Russell 3000 companies during the 2014 season, including the topics that received the highest average shareholder support. The complete publication provides examples of proposal text and sponsor supporting statements, as well as board responses and related corporate disclosure.

Nearly 40 percent of all shareholder proposals submitted at Russell 3000 companies that held meetings during the first half of 2014 were related to social and environmental policy issues, up from 29.2 percent in 2010, as documented in Proxy Voting Analytics (2010-2014). Social and environmental policy proposals now represent the second-largest category of the subjects in terms of both the number submitted and the number voted, narrowly behind corporate governance.

…continue reading: Shareholder Proposals on Social and Environmental Issues

SEC Commissioner, Law Professor Wrongfully Accuse SRP of Securities Fraud

Posted by Jonathan R. Macey, Yale Law School, on Monday December 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm
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Editor’s Note: Jonathan R. Macey is the Sam Harris Professor of Corporate Law, Corporate Finance & Securities Law at Yale University. This post analyzes the arguments in a paper by SEC Commissioner Daniel M. Gallagher and Stanford law School Professor Joseph A. Grundfest, described in a post by Professor Joseph Grundfest (available on the Forum here) and a post by Wachtell Lipton (available on the Forum here).

Here is something that one does not see every day. In their recent paper “Did Harvard Violate Federal Securities Law? The Campaign Against Classified Boards of Directors” posted on December 10, 2014, a sitting Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission and a former SEC Commissioner accuse the Shareholder Rights Project at Harvard Law School (SRP) of violating the anti-fraud provisions of the securities laws. The alleged fraud occurred when institutional investors represented by the SRP proposed shareholder resolutions encouraging shareholders in U.S. public companies to vote to de-stagger their companies’ boards.

In this submission I present my analysis of this paper, concluding that the SRP proposals were not fraudulent or misleading and that the aggressive application of the anti-fraud provisions of the securities laws advanced by the authors of the “Did Harvard Violate Federal Securities Law?” would be inconsistent with the law and, by the authors’ own admission, inconsistent with the current policy and practice of the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

…continue reading: SEC Commissioner, Law Professor Wrongfully Accuse SRP of Securities Fraud

Current and Former SEC Commissioners Question Legality of Harvard Declassification Proposals

Posted by Martin Lipton, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on Monday December 15, 2014 at 9:20 am
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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, Theodore N. Mirvis, and George T. Conway III.

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that a current SEC Commissioner and a former SEC Commissioner (now a law professor) have published a lengthy paper challenging the scholarly bona fides—and legality—of the recent efforts by the Harvard Law School Shareholder Rights Project (SRP) to cause major American corporations to declassify their boards of directors. During the past three proxy seasons, the Harvard SRP has promulgated numerous stockholder-sponsored precatory resolutions calling for declassification of companies with staggered boards, and has succeeded in causing 98 companies to remove their staggered structure and have all their directors stand for election annually.

…continue reading: Current and Former SEC Commissioners Question Legality of Harvard Declassification Proposals

Did Harvard Violate Federal Securities Law?

Posted by Joseph Grundfest, Stanford Law School, on Monday December 15, 2014 at 9:19 am
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Editor’s Note: Joseph A. Grundfest is the W. A. Franke Professor of Law and Business at Stanford University Law School.

SEC Commissioner Daniel Gallagher and I just posted on SSRN a new paper, titled Did Harvard Violate Federal Securities Law? The Campaign Against Classified Boards of Directors. The abstract of the paper summarizes it as follows:

The Harvard Shareholder Rights Project (“Harvard SRP”) has, on more than 120 occasions, invoked SEC Rule 14a-8 to propose precatory shareholder resolutions calling for the de-staggering of corporate boards of directors (the “Harvard Proposal”), and claims to have contributed to de-staggering at approximately 100 of America’s largest publicly traded corporations. The Harvard Proposal relies on a summary of academic research that portrays staggered boards as categorically detrimental to shareholder interests, and cites only one study reaching a contrary conclusion, while dismissing that study’s analysis.

…continue reading: Did Harvard Violate Federal Securities Law?

The Next Wave of Proxy Access Proposals

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday November 24, 2014 at 9:14 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David J. Berger, partner focusing on corporate governance at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and is based on a WSGR Alert memorandum.

The Comptroller of the City of New York, who oversees pension funds with a combined $160 billion in assets, recently submitted proxy access shareholder proposals at 75 U.S. public companies as part of its Boardroom Accountability Project. [1] These 75 companies, representing a wide range of industries and market capitalizations, were targeted based on three “priority issues”: climate change, board diversity, and executive compensation.

“Proxy access” proposals seek to provide shareholders with a mechanism for placing their nominees for director in a company’s proxy statement and on its proxy card, thereby avoiding the cost to a shareholder of sending out its own proxy statement. Under a typical proxy access bylaw, shareholders must hold a specified amount of stock in the company (e.g., 3 percent) for a certain period (e.g., 3 years), in addition to meeting other procedural requirements. Proponents of proxy access argue that it provides shareholders with a cost-effective means of running their own candidates for director, providing all shareholders with greater ability to shape the composition of the board.

…continue reading: The Next Wave of Proxy Access Proposals

2014 Corporate Governance Review

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday October 30, 2014 at 8:54 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Rajeev Kumar, a senior managing director of research at Georgeson Inc, and is based on the executive summary of a Georgeson report; the full report is available here.

Shareholder activism continued to thrive in the 2014 proxy season, spurring corporate action as well as renewed engagement between issuers and investors. While the total number of shareholder proposals declined in 2014, lively activity continued with calls for independent chairs as well as burgeoning growth for social issues. And while few in number, change-in-control payout proposals were notably successful for the first time this year, while equity retention proposals continued to have a weak showing. In addition, support for proxy access proposals also grew at a rate greater than any other type of proposal.

…continue reading: 2014 Corporate Governance Review

ISS Proposes New Approach to Independent Chair Shareholder Proposals

Posted by Carol Bowie, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., on Tuesday October 28, 2014 at 9:03 am
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Editor’s Note: Carol Bowie is Head of Americas Research at Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS). This post relates to draft policy changes to voting recommendations on independent chair shareholder proposals issued by ISS on October 15, 2014.

Calls for independent board chairs were the most prevalent type of shareholder proposal offered for consideration at U.S. companies’ annual meetings in 2014. As of June 30, 62 of these proposals have come to a shareholder vote, up from 55 resolutions over the same time period in 2013. Notably, the number of proposals calling for independent board chairs has more than doubled over the past five years. Under the current policy formulation, ISS recommended against 32 of these 62 proposals in 2014. In line with results from recent seasons, independent chair proposals received average support of 31.2 percent of votes cast at 2014 meetings. Only four of these proposals received the support of a majority of votes cast.

…continue reading: ISS Proposes New Approach to Independent Chair Shareholder Proposals

ISS Spotlights Independent Chair Shareholder Proposals and Equity Compensation Plans

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday October 26, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Catherine T. Dixon, member of the Public Company Advisory Group at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and is based on a Weil alert.

On October 15, 2014, Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) released proposed amendments to its proxy voting policies for the 2015 proxy season. ISS is seeking comments by 6:00 p.m. EDT on October 29, 2014. [1] ISS has stated that it expects to release its final 2015 policies on or around November 7, 2014. The policies as revised will apply to meetings held on or after February 1, 2015.

…continue reading: ISS Spotlights Independent Chair Shareholder Proposals and Equity Compensation Plans

Proxy Access in the US

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday October 22, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Matt Orsagh, director at CFA Institute, and is based on the summary of a CFA publication, titled Proxy Access in the United States: Revisiting the Proposed SEC Rule; the complete publication is available here.

In this summary of CFA Institute findings, we take a brief look at the history of proxy access, discuss the pertinent academic studies, examine the benefits and limits of cost–benefit analysis, analyze the use of proxy access in non-US jurisdictions, and draw some conclusions.

How We Got Here

Proxy access refers to the ability of shareowners to place their nominees for director on a company’s proxy ballot. This right is available in many markets, though not in the United States. Supporters of proxy access argue that it increases the accountability of corporate boards by allowing shareowners to nominate a limited number of board directors. Afraid that special-interest groups could hijack the process, opponents of proxy access are also concerned about its cost and are not convinced that proxy access would improve either company or board performance.

…continue reading: Proxy Access in the US

The Recent Evolution of Shareholder Activism

Editor’s Note: Matteo Tonello is vice president at The Conference Board. This post relates to a report released jointly by The Conference Board and FactSet, authored by Dr. Tonello and Melissa Aguilar of The Conference Board. The Executive Summary is available here (the document is free but registration is required). For details regarding how to obtain a copy of the full report, contact matteo.tonello@conference-board.org.

Proxy Voting Analytics (2010-2014), a report recently released by The Conference Board in collaboration with FactSet, reviews the last five years of shareholder activism and proxy voting at Russell 3000 and S&P 500 companies.

Data analyzed in the report includes:
…continue reading: The Recent Evolution of Shareholder Activism

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