It is hard to gainsay the observation that business law practice has evolved significantly over the last three decades. Fields as distinct as corporate, securities and mergers and acquisitions law have substantially merged with a host of traditional “business school” topics, such as accounting, finance, strategy, project management and risk analysis. Although some law schools have endeavored to keep up with these changes in business law practice, their reaction has been somewhat sluggish. Indeed, many major law firms with sophisticated business law practices have expended significant resources on training their junior associates (or retraining their experienced attorneys) through “mini-MBA” courses, business boot camps, and similar programs offered either through third parties, partnerships or in-house expertise. Nevertheless, it is our view that law schools can and should continue to work to provide this type of training to students in partnership with efforts already under way at law firms. Such efforts are certainly key components to creating sophisticated lawyers for the next century.
Posts Tagged ‘Surveys’
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.
In our recent NBER working paper, The Value of Corporate Culture, we study which dimensions of corporate culture are related to a firm’s performance and why. Resigning from Goldman Sachs, vice president Greg Smith wrote in a very controversial New York Times op-ed: “Culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years.” He then adds “I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years.” In his follow-up book, Greg Smith seems to blame the demise of Goldman Sachs’s culture to its transformation from a partnership to a publicly traded company.
While highly disputed by the company, Greg Smith’s remarks raise several important questions. What constitutes a firm’s culture? How can we measure it? Does this culture—however defined and measured—impact a firm’s success? If so, why? And how can different governance structures enable or curtail the formation and preservation of a value-enhancing culture? In this paper we try to answer these questions.
Significantly expanding on the data in the Fenwick Corporate Governance Survey (discussed on the Forum here), Fenwick has published the first survey to analyze gender diversity on boards and executive management teams of companies in the technology and life science companies included in the Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150) compared to the very large public companies included in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100).  The Fenwick Gender Diversity Survey analyzes eighteen years of public filings regarding boards and management teams—beginning with the 1996 proxy season and ending with the 2013 proxy season—to better understand changes in the leadership of some of our most important companies, and the gradual gender diversity improvements taking place. The 70-page report includes detailed analysis of:
We analyzed the terms of venture financings for 128 companies headquartered in Silicon Valley that reported raising money in the third quarter of 2013.
Overview of Fenwick & West Results
Valuation results in 3Q13 showed a noticeable increase over 2Q13, including the greatest difference between up and down rounds in over six years. The software industry was especially strong, not only valuation-wise, but also in the number of deals.
Here are the more detailed results:
Since 2003, Fenwick has collected a unique body of information on the corporate governance practices of publicly traded companies that is useful for Silicon Valley companies and publicly-traded technology and life science companies across the U.S. as well as public companies and their advisors generally. Fenwick’s annual survey covers a variety of corporate governance practices and data for the companies included in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100) and the high technology and life science companies included in the Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150).  In this report, we present statistical information for a subset of the data we have collected over the years. These include:
- makeup of board leadership
- number of insider directors
- gender diversity on boards of directors
- size and number of meetings for boards and their primary committees
- frequency and number of other standing committees
- majority voting
- board classification
- use of a dual-class voting structure
- frequency and coverage of executive officer and director stock ownership guidelines
- frequency and number of shareholder proposals
- number of executive officers
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.
We are witnessing unprecedented change in the corporate governance world: new perspectives on boardroom composition, higher levels of stakeholder engagement, more emphasis on emerging risks and strategies, and the increasing velocity of change in the digital world. These factors, coupled with calls for enhanced transparency around governance practices and reporting, the very active regulatory and lawmaking environment, and the enhanced power of proxy advisors, are all accelerating evolution, and in some cases creating a revolution, in the boardroom.
In the summer of 2013, 934 public company directors responded to our 2013 Annual Corporate Directors Survey. Of those directors, 70% serve on the boards of companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. As a result, the survey’s findings reflect the practices and boardroom perspectives of many of today’s world-class companies. The focus of this year’s research not only reflects in-depth analysis of contemporary governance trends, but also emphasizes how boards are reacting to a rapidly evolving landscape. These are the highlights:
Many boards today are trying to figure out if they have the proper skills and experience to guide their companies now and in the future. Each board needs to consider whether the backgrounds and experience of its existing directors are appropriate or if new skills are needed. Recently, some critics have been outspoken about their perception of deficiencies in the current state of board renewal.
Some board members themselves are questioning the competency of their fellow directors. While a majority of directors at companies with annual elections are elected with at least 90% of the vote, there are still plenty of directors dissatisfied with their current board’s composition. Early results from PwC’s 2013 Annual Corporate Directors Survey (the “PwC Survey”) show that 35% of the 934 directors responding say someone on their board should be replaced; up from 31% a year ago. The top three reasons cited are diminished performance because of aging, lack of expertise, and lack of preparation for meetings.
Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”), the most influential proxy advisory firm, today launched its annual global policy survey. Each year, ISS solicits comments in connection with its review of its proxy voting policies. At the end of this process, in November 2013, ISS will announce its updated proxy voting policies applicable to 2014 shareholders’ meetings.
Results from the policy survey that ISS posted on its website today will be used by ISS to inform its voting policy review. The survey includes questions on a variety of governance and executive compensation topics, including: