Glass Lewis recently announced an update of its guidelines, which temporarily relaxes its standard policy against virtual meetings in light of COVID-19. The update provides that “[f]or companies opting to hold a virtual-only shareholder meeting during the 2020 proxy season (March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020), [Glass Lewis] will generally refrain from recommending to vote against members of the governance committee on this basis, provided that the company discloses, at a minimum, its rationale for doing so, including citing COVID-19.”[1]  This formal update of Glass-Lewis’s guidelines comes on the heels of statements by both Glass-Lewis and ISS indicating openness to relax their positions on virtual meetings, which we discussed here.
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This is an updated version of our prior post to address a new guideline issued by Glass Lewis.

With rising concerns around the spread of COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) in the United States and globally, in order to mitigate health risks, many public companies may consider adding a virtual component to the format of their annual shareholder meetings.  In the United States, state law generally governs the availability of a virtual meeting format.  At the federal level, the SEC regulates the filing and mailing of proxy solicitation materials.  While we have not seen direct guidance from state legislatures on virtual or hybrid meetings in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, on March 13, 2020, the SEC released guidance (“SEC Coronavirus Guidance”) addressing annual shareholder meetings[1] in light of recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and other public health officials to cancel, or explicitly state policies that prohibit, large, in-person gatherings[2] in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.[3]  Set forth below are various considerations that a company should take into account when determining whether to move from an in-person to a virtual or hybrid[4] annual meeting
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Although the main focus of Governor Cuomo’s executive orders over the past few days has been to cease operation of all non-essential businesses in New York state, the March 20th executive order provided temporary relief in a few additional respects, including with respect to shareholder meetings of New York corporations.  This relief is an example of the kind of flexibility various state governments and courts are adopting in an effort to address the needs of companies in this challenging environment.[1]
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In light of the growing concern about COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) in the United States and globally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and other public health officials have recommended cancelling large, in-person gatherings for the next several weeks.[1] As a result, some companies may be considering, or may in the coming weeks need to consider, postponing the date of their shareholder meeting.  While moving to a virtual or hybrid meeting, as discussed in our blog post, “Coronavirus & Virtual Annual Meetings,” may be a good solution for certain companies, other companies may determine (or due to a lack of vendor capacity may be forced to determine) that the better course of action for them is to postpone or adjourn their annual meetings.
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The following post was originally included as part of our recently published memorandum “Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2020”.

Shareholder engagement continues to be an important consideration for companies in communicating their long-term strategy and deepening relationships with their investors, and boards are becoming ever more involved in the process.

In

The following post was originally included as part of our recently published memorandum “Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2020”.

Investors and other stakeholders continue to focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues at public companies, both as a driver of financial performance and as a factor of social importance.

The

The following post was originally included as part of our recently published memorandum “Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2020”.

We foresee investors continuing to both refine and expand their demands on corporate boards in 2020. With the particular focus on board refreshment and diversity, significant pressure is placed on nominating and

On December 2, 2019, The Conference Board and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP hosted a panel discussion on key corporate governance considerations for the 2020 proxy season. The panelists were Sandra L. Flow, Partner, Cleary Gottlieb, Mary E. Alcock, Counsel, Cleary Gottlieb and William Ultan, Managing Director, Corporate Governance, Morrow Sodali. The panel was moderated by Paul Washington, Executive Director, ESG Center, The Conference Board.
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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