January 28, 2020

Board Diversity: Goldman Says No More “Boys Club” IPOs

Goldman Sachs’ CEO David Solomon made news at Davos last week by announcing that his firm would no longer help companies go public unless they had “at least one diverse board candidate, with a focus on women.” I knew women were underrepresented on IPO boards, but Solomon’s statement made me wonder exactly what the gender composition of IPO boards was like. So, I did a little digging, and now I’m kind of sorry that I asked.

Last May, this Quartz article looked at the gender diversity of the 10 biggest IPO filings of 2019. While it was early in the year, the list included Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, Slack, Chewy, WeWork & CrowdStrike – so the kind of unicorns that banks like Goldman court were all in the mix. The results were pretty dismal:

Of the 10 biggest companies that have gone public or filed to go public this year, none is led by a woman, and the average number of women on their boards is less than two. Excluding WeWork, which filed its registration confidentially, the average number of women on the list of the highest paid executives, disclosed in each company’s S-1 filing, is 0.56.

WeWork’s public filing disclosed one woman on the list of its highest paid executives, but it also didn’t have a single woman serving on its board. Uber and Lyft were the medalists in the group, with both companies having 3 women on their board. In terms of overall percentage of women board members, Pinterest topped the list with 2 women serving on its 6 member board.

This isn’t just a problem among tech unicorns. According to this Equilar report, in 2018, the 4 most popular IPO industry sectors all averaged fewer than 2 female board members. Tech & Consumer companies led the way with an average of approximately 1.3 women on their boards, while Financial companies averaged 1.0 women and Healthcare companies brought up the rear with an average of less than one woman per board.  Healthcare’s not necessarily an outlier.  A 2018 Equilar report said that only about 60% of recent IPOs had a woman on their boards.

It remains to be seen how scrupulously Goldman Sachs will stick to its pledge and whether any of its cohorts in the “bulge bracket” will follow its lead, but the numbers indicate that there’s a lot of work to be done. Check out this Cydney Posner blog for more on Goldman’s decision.

This Bloomberg Law analysis says that Goldman’s decision has the potential to cost it more than $100 million in underwriting fees – and that’s nearly 1/3rd of the fees that it earned from underwriting U.S. IPOs last year.

Brexit: FAQs

I guess I’ve been paying a lot more attention to Megxit than to Brexit lately. But while Harry & Meghan sip on free Tim Horton’s coffee & plot to seize the Canadian throne, Britain’s withdrawal from the EU becomes effective on Friday – and that means after the end of an 11 month transition period, the Continent will be cut off!

In case you haven’t been paying as much attention to Brexit as you should, then you’ll find this Hogan Lovells memo helpful. It’s a series of FAQs designed to help businesses sort out the legal consequences of the UK’s departure from the EU. Topics include the provisions of EU law that will continue to apply during the transition period, the consequences of a failure of the UK & EU to reach a trade agreement before the end of the transition period, and the impact of Brexit on the enforceability of UK judgments in EU states.

The NYSE’s Annual Compliance Letter

The NYSE has sent its “annual compliance letter” to remind listed companies of their obligations. There aren’t any new rules this year – but the letter highlights the enhanced functionality of the NYSE’s “listing manager” app, which replaced the website last spring & is now the way that companies submit materials to the Exchange.

John Jenkins