Posts Tagged ‘Shareholder voting’

Shareholder Voting in an Age of Intermediary Capitalism

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday April 16, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Paul H. Edelman and Randall S. Thomas, Professor of Law and Mathematics and Professor of Law and Business, respectively, at Vanderbilt University, and Robert Thompson, Professor of Business Law at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Shareholder voting, once given up for dead as a vestige or ritual of little practical importance, has come roaring back as a key part of American corporate governance. Where once voting was limited to uncontested annual election of directors, it is now common to see short slate proxy contests, board declassification proposals, and “Say on Pay” votes occurring at public companies. The surge in the importance of shareholder voting has caused increased conflict between shareholders and directors, a tension well-illustrated in recent high profile voting fights in takeovers (e.g. Dell) and in the growing role for Say on Pay votes. Yet, despite the obvious importance of shareholder voting, none of the existing corporate law theories coherently justify it.

…continue reading: Shareholder Voting in an Age of Intermediary Capitalism

Fixing Merger Litigation

Posted by Steven Davidoff, Ohio State University College of Law, Jill Fisch, University of Pennsylvania, and Sean Griffith, Fordham University, on Friday March 14, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Steven M. Davidoff is Professor of Law and Finance at Ohio State University College of Law. As of July 2014, Professor Davidoff will be Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Jill E. Fisch is Perry Golkin Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Institute for Law & Economics at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Sean J. Griffith is T.J. Maloney Chair in Business Law at Fordham University School of Law. 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 the US, every M&A deal of any significant size generates litigation. The vast majority of these lawsuits settle, and the vast majority of these settlements are for non-pecuniary relief, most commonly supplemental disclosures in the merger proxy.

The engine that drives this litigation is the concept of “corporate benefit.” Under judge-made law, litigation that produces a corporate benefit allows the court to order plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees to be paid directly by the defendants provided that the outcome of the litigation is beneficial to the corporation and its shareholders. In a negotiated settlement, plaintiffs will characterize supplemental disclosures in the merger proxy as producing a corporate benefit, and defendants will typically not oppose the characterization, as they are happy to pay off the plaintiffs’ lawyers and get on with the deal. The supposed benefits of these settlements thus are rarely tested in adversarial proceedings. Knowing this creates a strong incentive for plaintiffs’ attorneys to file claims, put in limited effort, and negotiate a settlement consisting exclusively of corrective disclosures. But is there any real value to these settlements?

…continue reading: Fixing Merger Litigation

Governance Priorities for 2014

Editor’s Note: Holly J. Gregory is a partner and co-global coordinator of the Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation group at Sidley Austin LLP. This post is based on an article that originally appeared in Practical Law The Journal. The views expressed in the post are those of Ms. Gregory and do not reflect the views of Sidley Austin LLP or its clients.

As the fallout from the financial crisis recedes and both institutional investors and corporate boards gain experience with expanded corporate governance regulation, the coming year holds some promise of decreased tensions in board-shareholder relations. With governance settling in to a “new normal,” influential shareholders and boards should refocus their attention on the fundamental aspects of their roles as they relate to the creation of long-term value.

Institutional investors and their beneficiaries, and society at large, have a decided interest in the long-term health of the corporation and in the effectiveness of its governing body. Corporate governance is likely to work best in supporting the creation of value when the decision rights and responsibilities of shareholders and boards set out in state corporate law are effectuated.

…continue reading: Governance Priorities for 2014

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

Governance Practices for IPO Companies: A Davis Polk Survey

Posted by Richard J. Sandler, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, on Monday February 3, 2014 at 9:10 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.

Amid the recent uptick in U.S. IPO transactions to levels not seen since the heady days of 1999 and 2000, Davis Polk’s pipeline of deals remains robust, leading us to believe that strength in the U.S. IPO market will continue in the near future. With ongoing pressure on companies that are past the IPO stage to update or modify their corporate governance practices to align with the views of some shareholders and proxy advisory groups, we thought this would be a good time to review corporate governance practices of newly public companies to see if they have also shifted in recent years. Our survey is an update of our October 2011 survey and focuses on corporate governance at the time of the IPO for the 100 largest U.S. IPOs from September 2011 through October 2013. Results are presented separately for controlled companies and non-controlled companies in recognition of their different governance profiles.

…continue reading: Governance Practices for IPO Companies: A Davis Polk Survey

Canadian Governance Insights from 2013

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday January 28, 2014 at 9:13 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Berl Nadler, partner at Davies, Ward, Phillips & Vineberg LLP, and is based on the executive summary of a Davies publication, titled “Governance Insights 2013,” available here.

This third annual edition of Governance Insights presents Davies’ analysis of the corporate governance practices of Canadian public companies over the course of 2013 and the trends and issues that influenced and shaped them.

We expect 2014 to be an active year for governance themes with greater calls for diversity on boards, a growing shareholder voice on “say on pay” resolutions, and further regulatory initiatives around proxy voting and the regulation of proxy advisory firms. We also anticipate continued discussion on shareholder activism and scrutiny of the tools and strategies used by issuers and shareholders.

…continue reading: Canadian Governance Insights from 2013

ISS Releases FAQs: Defensive Bylaw May Lead to Negative Vote Recommendations

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday January 26, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Rebecca Grapsas, senior associate in the Corporate Department of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and is based on a Weil alert.

Public companies that have recently adopted or are considering adopting bylaws that disqualify director nominees who receive compensation from anyone other than the company should be aware of new FAQs released yesterday by Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and the potential impact the FAQs may have on forthcoming director elections. Such bylaws typically operate in conjunction with advance notice bylaws that require proponents to disclose compensation arrangements with their nominees. Compensation payable by a third party for director candidacy and/or board service—for example, by an insurgent in a contested director election—may call into question a director’s undivided loyalty to the company and all of its shareholders.

…continue reading: ISS Releases FAQs: Defensive Bylaw May Lead to Negative Vote Recommendations

ISS Publishes Guidance on Director Compensation (and Other Qualification) Bylaws

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, Andrew R. Brownstein, Steven A. Rosenblum, Trevor S. Norwitz, David C. Karp, and Sabastian V. Niles.

In the latest instance of proxy advisors establishing a governance standard without offering evidence that it will improve corporate governance or corporate performance, ISS has adopted a new policy position that appears designed to chill board efforts to protect against “golden leash” incentive bonus schemes. These bonus schemes have been used by some activist hedge funds to recruit director candidates to stand for election in support of whatever business strategy the fund seeks to impose on a company.

…continue reading: ISS Publishes Guidance on Director Compensation (and Other Qualification) Bylaws

M&A Executive Compensation Enhancements and Impact on the Say-on-Golden-Parachute Vote

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday January 9, 2014 at 9:29 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 Matthew M. FriestedtMarc Trevino, and Jane Y. Wang.

We have reviewed the 365 merger agreements that were announced during the two years after the “Say-on-Golden-Parachute” vote rule went into effect on April 25, 2011 and that were subject to the rule. [1] We found that 39 companies (11% of the total) substantively enhanced executive compensation arrangements in connection with the transactions.

Some of the more common executive compensation enhancements, which generally did not result in negative vote recommendations from Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”), were: granting deal closing bonuses (in 17 deals), granting retention bonuses (in 16 deals) and granting additional equity awards that vest on or post-closing (in 13 deals). However, the following executive compensation enhancements generally did result in negative vote recommendations from ISS: granting new excise tax gross-ups (three out of four deals received negative ISS recommendations), cashing-out severance or converting severance into a retention bonus without an actual termination of employment (five out of eight deals received negative ISS recommendations) and accelerating the vesting of equity awards when the stated performance hurdles were not achieved or were artificially low (five out of six deals received negative ISS recommendations).

…continue reading: M&A Executive Compensation Enhancements and Impact on the Say-on-Golden-Parachute Vote

ISS Advises Against By-Law Restricting Shareholder Compensation of Board Nominees

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday December 27, 2013 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Berl Nadler, partner at Davies, Ward, Phillips & Vineberg LLP, and is based on a Davies publication by Mr. Nadler, Alex Moore, and Andrew Cooley.

In proxy contests earlier this year involving the boards of Agrium Inc. (“Agrium”) and Hess Corporation (“Hess”), the compensation by activist shareholders of their proposed director nominees was heavily criticized both by the target boards and by third party commentators. The Agrium and Hess contests have given rise to a debate over the merits and propriety of nominee compensation generally, with some institutional shareholders and commentators calling for the prohibition of the practice. In the face of this critical commentary, the recent experience of Provident Financial Holdings, Inc. (“Provident”), a U.S. bank holding company, suggests that efforts by boards to prohibit the practice entirely are likely to meet resistance.

…continue reading: ISS Advises Against By-Law Restricting Shareholder Compensation of Board Nominees

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