Diversity has long been a focus for both companies and stakeholders, but 2020 in particular saw diversity come to the forefront of stakeholders’ agendas. Against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its disparate impacts on human capital, alongside increased focus on racial equity and justice and related unrest, we have seen key players across the board push to broaden the scope and impact of diversity issues in the corporate space.
Continue Reading Emphasis on Diversity Initiatives Broadens in Scope and Focuses on Impact

The focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters at public companies continues to grow despite, or perhaps in part because of, the COVID-19 pandemic. ESG continues to mean many things, including company considerations around sustainability, diversity, human capital, corporate purpose and governance. While best practices, disclosure requirements and ESG ratings are developing, boards should continue to prioritize ESG issues, particularly as they relate to long-term company strategy and risk.
Continue Reading Increased ESG Focus Shows No Signs of Slowing Down in 2021

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, divisive politics and a historic social justice movement presented unprecedented challenges for boards. While the pandemic eliminated the concept of an in-person boardroom, as well as investor site visits, one-on-one meetings at conferences and strategy retreats, work did not slow, and most directors reported devoting significantly more time to their duties.
Continue Reading Shareholder Engagement Trends and Considerations

The EU Taxonomy Regulation, which entered into force on 12 July 2020, introduces an EU-wide taxonomy (or combined glossary and classification system) of environmentally sustainable activities, as well as new disclosure requirements for certain financial services firms and large public interest entities.

In short, the Taxonomy Regulation is intended to provide certain businesses and investors

The 2020 ‘perfect storm’ of global economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, renewed global political focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and the workers of the gig economy, plus the pall of smoke from unprecedented wildfires on five continents, is reinvigorating scrutiny from consumers, regulators and employees on ecological and social sustainability considerations,

On September 23, the SEC voted 3-2 to amend certain of the procedural requirements for the inclusion of shareholder proposals in a company’s proxy statement under Exchange Act Rule 14a-8. The amendments were adopted substantially as proposed in November 2019, except for the so-called “momentum” provision, which would have permitted companies to exclude shareholder proposals

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

For more than a decade, the SEC has been wrestling with whether and how to regulate the activities of the proxy advisory firms – principally ISS and Glass Lewis – that have come to play such an important role in shareholder voting at U.S. public companies.  On July 22, 2020, the SEC adopted rules and

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