On November 5, the SEC released its widely anticipated proposed changes to some of the procedural requirements for shareholder proposals to be included in management’s proxy statement under Exchange Act Rule 14a-8. In this latest release, the SEC addresses procedural requirements that it has not revised in more than 20 years. The release proposes five

On November 5, a divided Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) proposed new rules about proxy advisory firms. The proposed rules would, if adopted, have three principal effects:

  • Before a proxy advisory firm distributes its recommendations for a particular shareholder vote to its clients, it would be required to give a company an opportunity to comment

On August 21, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) adopted (1) guidance on the proxy voting responsibilities of investment advisers under the Investment Advisers Act and related rules (the “Advisers Guidance”) and (2) interpretation and guidance on the applicability to proxy voting advice of the rules on proxy solicitation under the Securities Exchange Act (the “Solicitation Guidance”).
Continue Reading

On July 18, 2019, The Conference Board and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP hosted a panel discussion on the 2019 proxy season highlights and trends, including the considerations companies have been evaluating during engagement with investors. The panel also discussed the continuation of significant governance issues for companies, such as in the areas of board composition, diversity, environmental issues and the interrelationship between shareholder issues and those in the news cycle. The panelists were Pamela Marcogliese, Partner, Cleary Gottlieb, Elizabeth Bieber, Associate, Cleary Gottlieb and Theresa Molloy, Vice President, Governance and Shareholder Services, Prudential Financial. The panel was moderated by Paul Washington, the new Executive Director of ESG Center at The Conference Board.
Continue Reading

Recently, Vanguard updated its Vanguard Fund proxy voting guidelines, disclosing a proxy voting policy relating to what Vanguard considers to be overboarded directors, based on the evolving role of directors and its assessment of the time and energy required to effectively fulfill director responsibilities. 
Continue Reading

Following its 2019 benchmark voting policy consultation period, Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) recently released its updated voting guidelines for the 2019 proxy season.[1]

A summary of notable governance and compensation policy updates is provided below.  Most significantly, the updated guidelines suggest that ISS continues to be focused on enhancing shareholder rights through increased board responsiveness and accountability.  In general, the updated proxy voting guidelines will be in effect for annual meetings occurring on or after February 1, 2019.  In connection with their preparations for the 2019 proxy season, U.S. public companies should consider the applicability of the new guidelines in light of their individual facts and circumstances.
Continue Reading

As 2018 draws to a close, both Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”) and Glass Lewis are in the process of updating their 2019 proxy voting guidelines.

In mid-October, ISS launched its 2019 benchmark voting policy consultation period, pursuant to which ISS solicits feedback on certain of its proposed voting policies for the upcoming proxy season.  This year, ISS requested comment on proposed policies for U.S. public companies related to board gender diversity and its pay-for-performance model, as described in greater detail below.  ISS plans to announce its final policy changes in mid-November.

In addition, Glass Lewis recently released its 2019 shareholder initiatives and proxy voting guidelines, which include the implementation of previously announced policies that were in grace periods, new policies and codifications and clarifications of previously existing approaches to issuing vote recommendations.[1]

A summary of notable executive compensation and governance updates is provided below.  The recent policy updates, and in particular the new Glass Lewis guidelines, are fairly extensive.  In preparing for the 2019 proxy season, U.S. public companies should consider the applicability of the new and proposed policies in light of their individual facts and circumstances.
Continue Reading

One of the surprises of the 2018 proxy season was the use of Notices of Exempt Solicitation by shareholders that almost certainly did not meet the $5 million holding threshold that would require filing under Exchange Act Rule 14a-6(g).  Rule 14a-6(g) requires a person who owns more than $5 million of the company’s securities and engages in a solicitation without seeking to collect, or act as, a proxy to file solicitation materials with the SEC.
Continue Reading

Over the last few years, boards have come under mounting pressure to focus on board composition and refreshment, including length of tenure, individual and aggregate skills mix and diversity.  A few years ago, CalPERS’ revised its Global Governance Principles to call for companies to conduct rigorous evaluations of director independence after twelve years’ service, and ISS’ QualityScore metric rewards companies where the proportion of non-executive directors with fewer than six years tenure makes up more than one-third of the board, in addition to scrutinizing boards where average tenure exceeds 15 years.  Companies also face demands to justify the contributions of individual directors and to conduct rigorous evaluations to ensure that the board functions effectively and with the right mix of skills.  Correspondingly, refreshment is one of the top areas of continued governance focus from other investors and advocates.  This update is intended to provide boards with data that brings them up to date on developments in this area, since it is certain to be an area of continuing focus for various constituencies in the near future.
Continue Reading

On July 10, 2018, The Conference Board and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP hosted a panel discussion on the highlights of the 2018 proxy season and the key topics, including shareholder proposals trends, including with respect to environmental and social issues; the most surprising moments in the 2018 proxy season; the effect of the Staff’s release of Staff Legal Bulletin 14I; board composition, refreshment and diversity; shareholder engagement; and significant institutional investor developments. Participants in the panel discussion included Pamela Marcogliese, Partner, Cleary Gottlieb, Elizabeth Bieber, Associate, Cleary Gottlieb, Jason Alexander, Managing Director, Okapi Partners and Bill Ultan, Managing Director, Corporate Governance, Morrow Sodali.
Continue Reading