As part of our mission to advance exemplary board leadership, the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) engages in ongoing dialogue with major U.S. institutional investors representing approximately $14 trillion in assets under management.  This post reflects NACD’s perspectives on recent conversations, including group and individual discussions with eight leading investors and several roundtable meetings between investors and Fortune 500 committee chairs. Several themes emerged regarding important issues for boards to consider in preparation for the upcoming proxy season:
Posts Tagged ‘Succession’
Individual- and family-owned businesses are a vital part of our economy. If you or your family owns such a company you understand how important the company’s success is to your personal wealth and to future generations. If you’re a nonfamily executive at a family company, you also recognize that its profitability and resilience is vital to your job security and financial well-being.
The World Affairs Council of Atlanta’s 2013 Global Strategic Leadership Forum focused on a critical issue facing boards of directors: CEO succession. As arguably its most crucial responsibility, the board’s process for hiring and developing CEOs must be an extraordinarily thorough one that addresses the complexities of the modern global company. While there is no exact template that fits all circumstances, the board must ensure that its processes and oversight accurately reflects the organization’s future needs, identifies the skills and experience required in today’s complex global economy, and builds and closely monitors a truly robust succession plan.
State Street Global Advisors (“SSgA”) believes that board refreshment and planning for director succession are key functions of the board. Some markets such as the UK, have adopted best practices on a comply-or-explain basis that aim to limit a director’s tenure to nine years of board service, beyond which, investors may question a director’s independence from management. Such best practices have helped lower average board tenure, and have encouraged boards to focus on refreshment of director skills and plan for director succession in an orderly manner.
CEO Succession Practices, which The Conference Board updates annually, documents CEO turnover events at S&P 500 companies. The 2014 edition contains a historical comparison of 2013 CEO successions with data dating back to 2000. In addition to analyzing the correlation between CEO succession and company performance, the report discusses age, tenure, and the professional qualifications of incoming and departing CEOs. It also describes succession planning practices (including the adoption rate of mandatory CEO retirement policies and the frequency of performance evaluations), based on findings from a survey of general counsel and corporate secretaries at more than 150 U.S. public companies.
As we begin 2014, calendar-year companies are immersed in preparing for what promises to be another busy proxy season. We continue to see shareholder proposals on many of the same subjects addressed during last proxy season, as discussed in our post recapping shareholder proposal developments in 2013. To help public companies and their boards of directors prepare for the coming year’s annual meeting and plan ahead for other corporate governance developments in 2014, we discuss below several key topics to consider.
In our paper, Executive Pay Disparity and the Cost of Equity Capital, forthcoming in the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, we investigate the association between executive pay disparity and the cost of equity capital. Understanding the association is important because the cost of capital is one of the key considerations for managers in their capital budgeting and corporate financing decisions. In fact, the cost of capital is a more direct yardstick of corporate investment and financing decisions than firm valuation. A higher cost of capital means fewer positive net present value (NPV) projects, leading to fewer growth opportunities. In addition, the cost of capital summarizes an investor’s risk-return tradeoff in his resource allocation decision (Pástor, Sinha, and Swaminathan (2008)).
In general, there are two perspectives on executive pay disparity. The tournament perspective views the large pay gap between the CEO and other executives as the prize for a tournament in which players compete for the CEO position (Lazear and Rosen (1981); Kale, Reis, and Venkateswaran (2009)). A large pay disparity motivates non-CEO senior executives to work hard and to invest in firm-specific human capital. This, in turn, helps build a large pool of skilled internal candidates for the CEO position. The availability of skilled internal candidates not only reduces the entrenchment of the incumbent CEO by increasing the bargaining power of the board, but also reduces CEO succession risk. Therefore, this perspective predicts a negative association between executive pay disparity and the cost of capital.
Board oversight of risk and effective board and committee leadership are high priorities for virtually every board of directors. While success in these matters has always been essential to maintaining a high-performing board, how boards approach the risk oversight function and seek to maximize board and committee leadership continues to evolve. Strategic risks can threaten a company’s very existence and stakeholders continue to challenge traditional approaches to board leadership.
The Lead Director Network (the “LDN”) and the North American Audit Committee Leadership Network (the “ACLN”) met on June 4th and June 5th to discuss risk oversight and effective board and committee leadership. Following these meetings, King & Spalding and Tapestry Networks have published two ViewPoints reports to present highlights of the discussion that occurred at these meetings and to stimulate further consideration of these subjects. Separate reports address Board Oversight of Risk and Effective Board and Committee Leadership.
The following post provides highlights from the LDN and ACLN meeting, as described in the ViewPoints reports.
A review of the CEO succession announcements made by S&P 500 companies in 2012 showed that they typically included details on when the succession would take effect, why the departing CEO is leaving, and whether the incoming CEO will be named board chairman; a statement by the departing CEO on his/her belief that the board has selected a qualified replacement; a statement by the lead independent director that the incoming CEO is the right choice for the company, given its current position, and thanking the departing CEO for his/her service; a statement from the incoming CEO that the existing management team is strong, the company is well positioned for the future, and expressing appreciation that the board has selected him/her as chief executive; and a description of the incoming CEO’s professional qualifications, and, if necessary, details on other director or senior management changes that will take place.
A board’s decision as to whether, when and how to terminate the employment of a CEO and hire a successor is among the most critical decisions facing the board of any company—large or small, public or private, established or start-up. In most cases, however, a CEO termination is a rare event and one with respect to which—as would be expected—the board, the company’s general counsel and its human resources professionals may have little or no experience. In addition, the situation is further complicated by contractual, regulatory and personal factors.
This post describes the substantive and procedural considerations that boards will want to take into account when there is a change of CEO. In it, we assume that the board has made the business decision relating to CEO succession and is focused on strategy, implementation and minimizing potentially costly and/or embarrassing oversights and errors. Many but not all of the same considerations apply in respect of executive officers other than the CEO, and some additional considerations may apply to such other officers; in any event, their relative significance likely will differ from the case of the CEO.