Executive Compensation

On October 14, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued a proposed rule (the “Proposed Rule”) clarifying whether investments made by fiduciaries of plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) may take into account environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) concerns in selecting investments and investment courses of action, as well as fiduciary duties in exercising shareholder rights.[1]  The Proposed Rule aligns more closely with recent trends toward ESG-oriented investing and seeks to reduce any chilling effects introduced by the Trump administration’s regulatory and non-regulatory guidance on fiduciary duty-compliant ESG investing.
Continue Reading New DOL Proposal on ESG Investing and Fiduciary Exercise of Shareholder Rights

On June 18, 2021, the German Works Council Modernization Act (Betriebsrätemodernisierungsgesetz) entered into force.  This legislation aims at supporting and facilitating the establishment of new works councils in Germany.  In order to achieve this purpose, the new law improves, inter alia, protection against dismissal of employees who are initiating the establishment of a works council, and simplifies works council elections by expanding the possibilities for a simplified election procedure.
Continue Reading Germany Changes the Legal Framework to Increase the Number of Works Councils

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the “ARPA”), the much-debated $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus legislation. The ARPA includes a provision, added by Senate amendment on March 6, 2021, which will further limit the deductibility of amounts deemed to be “excessive employee remuneration” under

On Wednesday, March 10, after engaging in conversations with stakeholders, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration issued an enforcement policy statement in which it declined to enforce two DOL rules put in place by the Trump administration in 2020.

The first of these rules placed limitations on the ability of plans subject to ERISA to invest in environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) funds. In particular, it provided that a fiduciary’s duty of loyalty and prudence under ERISA would only be satisfied if investments were selected solely on the basis of pecuniary factors (defined as factors that have a material effect on the risk and return of an investment), and that ESG factors could only be considered to the extent they created economic risks or opportunities that qualified investment professionals would treat as material economic considerations under generally accepted investment theories. The ESG rule, which many regarded as making ERISA plan investments in ESG-oriented funds prohibitively difficult, received overwhelmingly negative comments from both financial institutions and the public at large. This latest development is not surprising, as the Biden administration had previously signaled that it would be reexamining this rule.
Continue Reading DOL Declines to Enforce Trump Administration Rules on ERISA Plan Investments, Proxy Voting

Over the past few years, many boards have expanded their oversight and consideration of human capital management (HCM) to encompass issues beyond executive hiring and compensation. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, technology and the culture change brought by a new generation of workers had already commenced an irreversible shift in paradigm that established HCM as a board-level issue with vital strategic and risk oversight implications.
Continue Reading Fulfilling the Board’s Expanded Oversight Role in Human Capital Management

Stakeholder attention to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues continued to grow throughout 2020 driven by the COVID-19 pandemic (health and safety), the Black Lives Matter movement (diversity and inclusion) and worldwide wildfires (climate change), to name a few. Prodded by investors and other stakeholders, companies have increasingly realized the importance to their businesses of managing human capital and monitoring human rights, whether in respect of their own workforces or their supply and customer chains. Further, disclosure and engagement around companies’ human capital management (HCM) practices have become more important and even the Securities and Exchange Commission, which had in the past largely avoided specific ESG disclosure mandates, has weighed in and now requires disclosure regarding human capital resources in annual reports on Form 10-K.
Continue Reading ESG Considerations for Incentive Compensation Programs

At the end of last year, Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) released a handful of updated FAQs on equity compensation plans and compensation policies as well as a slightly updated pay-for-performance mechanics statement; there were no substantive changes to the peer group FAQs.[1] In addition to providing the 2021 Burn Rate Benchmarks for ISS equity plan evaluation (which are effective for shareholder meetings on or after February 1, 2021), the updates address questions regarding the inclusion of a terminated equity plan’s existing share reserves in ISS’ Shareholder Value Transfer (“SVT”) analysis for new equity plan approval proposals, threshold passing scores for the Equity Plan Scorecard (“EPSC”) framework, quantitative pay-for-performance screens and how ISS will evaluate COVID-related pay decisions.
Continue Reading ISS Issues 2021 Updates to Certain Compensation Related FAQs and Policies

In 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) solicited comment on ways to modernize Securities Act Rule 701 (“Rule 701”), the registration statement on Form S-8 (“Form S-8”), and the relationship between the two regulations. Following up on this effort, the SEC recently published several amendments to Rule 701 and Form S-8 to simplify