On July 23, 2020, The Conference Board and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP hosted a panel discussion on the 2020 proxy season highlights and trends, including the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 proxy season and offseason engagement. The panelists were Francesca L. Odell, Partner, Cleary Gottlieb, Helena K. Grannis, Counsel, Cleary Gottlieb and Rick E. Hansen, Assistant General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, General Motors Company. The panel was moderated by Paul Washington, Executive Director, ESG Center, The Conference Board.
Continue Reading Cleary Gottlieb Participates in Panel Discussion on Highlights of the 2020 Proxy Season

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und EnergieBMWi), led by federal minister Peter Altmaier, announced a major revision of Germany’s foreign direct investment control regime (FDI Regime) to come into force in 2020, in what would become the third amendment of the FDI Regime since 2017. This announcement was made as part of the introduction of the BMWi’s “National Industry Strategy 2030”. The aim of this new industrial policy is to “protect and regain Germany’s commercial and technical expertise, competitiveness and industrial leadership at national, European and global level”.

Continue Reading Changes to the German Foreign Direct Investment Control Regime Take Shape Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely a watershed moment for the traditional structure of America’s business workforce.  Although there is much uncertainty and opaqueness about the future, it seems clear that in the short term “remote” work arrangements – remote from large commercial office complexes and from concentrated city centers – will become more common for a substantial part of the workforce.

In the medium and longer terms, the pandemic may also support trends toward a more gig-based workforce in sectors of the labor market that are not currently significantly gig-based, specifically for workers in white-collar, business service industries.  We lay out below a few of the reasons to anticipate that result and briefly explore the principal legal implications for business.  As virtually all companies are considering the impact of the pandemic on their businesses, and specifically the cost-saving potential tied to remote work where feasible, they should take the opportunity now to also consider the possibility that gig-based workforce trends will impact them and how the steps they take in the short term may influence any such impact.  For many public companies, the trends and issues discussed below fall under the umbrella of human capital management strategy, as to which the board of directors may be expected to exercise oversight.[1]
Continue Reading The Gig is Up? COVID-19 & Remote Work Trend Toward Growth in Gig Labor*

On May 18, 2020, partners Michael Albano and Jennifer Kennedy Park participated in a webcast hosted by The Conference Board entitled “Reopen Ready: Managing Governance and Legal Risks in the New Normal.” Michael Ullmann, Executive Vice President, General Counsel of Johnson & Johnson, also participated on the panel.
Continue Reading Cleary Partners Participate in Panel Discussion on Reopening Considerations

The COVID-19 pandemic has created market conditions ripe for increased cross border investment as businesses scramble for capital and investors target distressed assets.  The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is focused on the trend.  Senior Department of Defense officials have recently and repeatedly stressed the need for the active

While much of the focus today is on restarting segments of the economy and developing action plans to reopen businesses, history outside of corporate America teaches us important lessons on how incentives can play a role in driving effective outcomes.  It shows us that incentives, not just rules, may be the solution businesses need.  Consider the British prisoner dilemma over two centuries ago as a powerful lesson in incentives and how these lessons can be applied to the current pandemic.
Continue Reading Incentives in the Pandemic

This is an updated version of our prior post to address Governor Cuomo’s most recent Executive Orders.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Cuomo declared a disaster emergency and ceased operation of all non-essential businesses in New York state with the March 7 Executive Order 202 and its successor Executive Orders.  In particular, the March 20th Executive Order 202.8 provided temporary suspension of several state law regulatory requirements, including with respect to shareholder meetings of New York corporations.
Continue Reading UPDATE: Cuomo Executive Order Gives New York Corporations Relief on Physical Annual Meetings

On April 8, Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) published additional guidance on application of its benchmark voting policies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] ISS had previously issued its 2020 benchmark policies update to be applied for shareholder meetings on or after February 1, 2020.[2] Noting the societal and economic uncertainty wrought by COVID-19 since its prior update, ISS provides further guidance focused on four key areas:

  • Annual General Meeting (“AGM”) Issues;
  • Poison Pills, Shareholder Rights and Boards/Directors;
  • Compensation Issues; and
  • Capital Structure and Payouts.


Continue Reading ISS Issues Additional Voting Policy Guidance in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Last month, we described the increased threat of activists and acquirors seeking to capitalize on the COVID-19 sell-off to build positions in high-value companies at depressed prices.  Even before the current crisis emerged, we recommended that all U.S. public companies regularly review their defense profile and have a shareholder rights plans “on the shelf.” For companies uniquely impacted by the crisis—especially those whose market capitalization has fallen below $1 billion—we suggested they re-assess their vulnerabilities in this new environment and consider whether now was the right time to adopt a rights plan to ward off potential opportunistic behavior. Some companies have done just that—since March 1, 2020, 24 U.S. public companies have adopted a defensive shareholder rights plan (6 other U.S. public companies have adopted NOL rights plans).
Continue Reading ISS and Glass Lewis Issue Guidance for Poison Pills in COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread in the U.S. and abroad, public companies are grappling with the ramifications (real or potential) of a senior executive(s) contracting the virus.  Together with senior management, boards of directors should be actively reviewing their emergency preparedness plans, including their emergency succession plans for key executives.  Boards also need to proactively address the possibility that one or more directors become sick, including by reviewing the board’s contingency plans to ensure the board will be able to continue to perform its duties.
Continue Reading The Keys to Emergency Succession: Planning For Boards and Senior Management During a Health Pandemic