September 26, 2017

Tomorrow’s Pre-Conference Webcast: “How to Apply the SEC’s New Pay Ratio Guidance”

For those registered for the upcoming “Pay Ratio & Proxy Disclosure Conference,” tune in tomorrow – 2 pm eastern (audio archive goes up when the program ends; transcript available in a week or so) – for the third in a series of three monthly webcasts that serve as a pre-conference: “Pay Ratio Workshop: What You (Truly Really) Need to Do Now.” There will be a heavy emphasis on “what now” given the SEC’s new guidance.

The speakers for tomorrow’s webcast are:

Mark Borges, Principal, Compensia
Ron Mueller, Partner, Gibson Dunn
Dave Thomas, Partner, Wilson Sonsini
Amy Wood, Partner, Cooley

Register Now: This is the only comprehensive conference devoted to pay ratio – and it’s only three weeks away! Here’s the registration information for the “Pay Ratio & Proxy Disclosure Conference” to be held October 17-18th in Washington DC and via Live Nationwide Video Webcast. Here are the agendas – 20 panels over two days. Register today.

ISS Releases ’18 Policy Survey Results

Yesterday, ISS released the survey results for its upcoming policy changes – with findings including:

Unequal Voting Rights – ISS solicited respondents’ views on multi-class capital structures that carry unequal voting rights. Among investors, a large minority (43 percent) indicated that unequal voting rights are never appropriate for a public company in any circumstances. An equal proportion of investors (43 percent) said unequal voting rights structures may be appropriate for newly public companies if they are subject to automatic sunset requirements or at firms more broadly if the capital structure is put up for periodic re-approval by the holders of the low-vote shares.

Board Gender Diversity – ISS asked respondents if they would consider it problematic if there are zero female directors on a public company board. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of investor respondents said “yes.” The lion’s share of these respondents (43 percent) said that the absence of women directors could indicate problems in the board recruitment process, while 26 percent of investor respondents said that although a lack of female directors would be problematic, their concerns may be mitigated if there is a disclosed policy/approach that describes the considerations taken into account by the board or the nominating committee to increase gender diversity on the board.

Virtual Meetings – Survey respondents were asked to provide their views on the use of online mechanisms to facilitate shareholder participation at general meetings, i.e., “hybrid” or “virtual-only” shareholder meetings. About one out of every five (19 percent) of the investors said that they would generally consider the practice of holding either “virtual-only” or “hybrid” shareholder meetings to be acceptable, without reservation. At the opposite extreme, 8 percent of the investors did not support either “hybrid” or “virtual-only” meetings.

More than one-third (36 percent) of the investor respondents indicated that they generally consider the practice of holding “hybrid” shareholder meetings to be acceptable, but not “virtual-only” shareholder meetings. Another 32 percent of the investor respondents indicated that the practice of holding “hybrid” shareholder meetings is acceptable, and that they would also be comfortable with “virtual-only” shareholder meetings if they provided the same shareholder rights as a physical meeting.

Pay Ratio Disclosures – ISS asked respondents how they intend to analyze data on pay ratios. Somewhat surprisingly, only 16 percent indicated that they are not planning to make use of this new information. Nearly three-quarters of the investor respondents indicated that they intend to either compare the ratios across companies/industry sectors, or assess year-on-year changes in the ratio at an individual company or use both of these methodologies. Of the 12 percent of investors who selected “other” as their response, some of them indicated a wait-and-see approach while other comments indicated uncertainty or concerns regarding the usefulness of the pay ratio data. Among non-investor respondents, a plurality (44 percent) expressed doubt about the usefulness of such pay ratio data.

Say-on-Pay: Despite Few “Failures,” 12-14% Run Into Problems

Here’s the intro from this interesting blog by Davis Polk’s Ning Chiu:

Although the failure rate for 2017 say-on pay results achieved an all-time low of just 1.3%, the number belies the fact that more than 2,000 say-on pay proposals have either received negative recommendations from ISS or less than 70% support, or both, since say-on-pay resolutions started in 2011.

Approximately 12% to 14% of companies run into problems every year. As companies have become more proactive with shareholder engagement, the number of companies that received “against” recommendations from ISS and still achieved more than 70% support has increased in the last three years, while the number of companies with those negative recommendations that received less than 70% favorable votes have fallen. What may be most surprising to companies, however, is that about 10 to 15 companies each year received positive endorsement from ISS and still obtained less than 70% support.

Broc Romanek