Companies that decide to defer their IPO plans in light of current market conditions would be wise to spend some time on efforts to improve the diversity of their boards. This WilmerHale memo (p. 13) addresses SEC & Nasdaq rules, proxy advisor & institutional investor policies, state law requirements and other drivers of increased board diversity that need to be considered in the IPO planning process. Here’s an excerpt on the growing number of state law initiatives addressing board diversity:
States are playing an increasingly active role in promoting board diversity among companies that are incorporated under their laws or satisfy other criteria. For example, California and Washington mandate specified levels and types of board diversity, while Illinois, Maryland and New York mandate disclosure regarding board diversity. Other states are considering mandatory board diversity legislation, or have adopted (or are considering) non-binding resolutions urging public companies to increase board diversity. This is a quickly evolving area; companies need to monitor developments in applicable states to remain in compliance.
The memo also points out Goldman Sachs’ decision not to underwrite deals for companies that don’t satisfy board diversity standards. While it says that other bulge-bracket banks haven’t as yet followed suit, it also emphasizes that the momentum created by various other stakeholders’ efforts to promote diversity is something that needs to be taken into account by IPO candidates.
– John Jenkins