Tag: Governance standards

Guiding Principles of Good Governance

Stan Magidson is President and CEO of the Institute of Corporate Directors and Chair of the Global Network of Directors Institutes (GNDI). This post is based on a recent GNDI perspectives paper, available here.

The Global Network of Director Institutes (GNDI), the international network of director institutes, has issued a new perspectives paper to guide boards in looking at governance beyond legislative mandates.

The Guiding Principles of Good Governance were developed by GNDI as part of its commitment to provide leadership on governance issues for directors of all organisations to achieve a positive impact.

Aimed at providing a framework of rules and recommendations, the 13 principles laid out in the guideline cover a broad range of governance-related topics including disclosure of practices, independent leadership and relationship with management, among others.


Three Pathways to Global Standards: Private, Regulator, and Ministry Networks

The following post comes to us from Stavros Gadinis of University of California, Berkeley Law School.

Scores of governments around the world have chosen to introduce international standards as domestic law, even though they were not legally obliged to do so. The drafters of these standards are not sovereigns or international organizations, but transnational regulatory networks: informal meetings of experts from various countries, some with government affiliations, and others without. Networks have puzzled scholars for years. Fascinated by the institutional novelty of the network phenomenon, some theorists praised their speed, informality, and lack of hierarchy. Others were not so enthralled. They were concerned about the influence of interest groups or the weight of big countries. This debate has examined both the inputs to the network phenomenon—preferences—and the outputs—global coordination—but has not discussed the mechanism: how do we get from preferences to standards? How do these networks come together, what is their strategy for their success? My new study, Three Pathways to Global Standards: Private, Regulator, and Ministry Networks, seeks to open up the black box of network standard setting and analyze these mechanisms. It proposes a new theoretical framework that distinguishes among private, regulator, and ministry networks, and presents empirical evidence that illustrates why these three network types appeal to different countries for different reasons.


How Stock Exchange Indices Can Advance Good Corporate Governance Practices

The following post comes to us from Pasquale Di Benedetta, Corporate Governance Specialist at the World Bank and Andreas Grimminger, Managing Director at PGS Advisors International, and is based on a World Bank/IFC study by Mr. Di Benedetta and Mr. Grimminger.

Since 2001, eight stock exchanges around the world have launched corporate governance indices (CGIs), sometimes as part of a broader environment, social, and governance (ESG) initiative. The comprehensive analysis of these indices is presented in our World Bank/IFC study: “Raising the Bar on Corporate Governance – A Study of Eight Stock Exchanges Indices”. The study is the first of its kind, and it reveals that CGIs may have a positive impact in enhancing legal and regulatory frameworks by contributing to the development of objective and measurable governance benchmarks. The study also shows that CGIs offer companies an opportunity to differentiate themselves in the market and be more attractive to foreign and domestic capital; and, ultimately, CGIs incentivize companies to adopt better governance practices. Nevertheless, as the process for vetting companies to access the indices continues to evolve, the scrutiny of underlying methodologies, the disclosure of company ratings or company self-assessments, and the on-going monitoring process have still room to improve.


Sustainability Disclosure in Annual Reports and Proxy Statements

The following post comes to us from Betty Moy Huber, co-head of the Environmental Group in the Corporate Department of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk publication by Ms. Huber.

Public interest groups and socially responsive investors have been for decades pushing for increased sustainability (also known as environmental, social, and governance or ESG) disclosure by public companies. Surprisingly, many mainstream investors (in the United States and worldwide) are now joining the call for better and more uniform sustainability disclosure, arguing that such disclosure is required for them to be able to make informed investment decisions. Some global stock exchanges have also thrown their support behind this campaign and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) appears to be listening, too.

Shareholder activism, specifically submitting shareholder proposals to U.S. public companies for inclusion in such companies’ annual proxy statements on form DEF 14A was one of the original tools of public interest groups to compel companies to disclose and consider sustainability matters. This strategy had manifold benefits to the public interest groups, including forcing companies to focus on their sustainability issues, generating helpful written statements from the SEC in response to company no-further action letter requests to exclude these proposals from their proxies, and gaining media attention for the cause. This activism proved to be a fertile training ground for the interest groups who continue to submit various sustainability shareholder proposals, but are now focusing their sights on the next frontier, i.e., binding sustainability disclosure requirements.


Preserving Balance in Corporate Governance

Holly J. Gregory is a corporate partner specializing in corporate governance at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. This post is based on a Weil Gotshal alert by Ms. Gregory, Ira Millstein and Rebecca Grapsas.

In our annual missive last year, we wrote about the need to restore trust in our system of corporate governance generally and in relations between boards of directors and shareholders specifically. We continue to be troubled by the tensions that have developed over roles and responsibilities in the corporate governance framework for public companies. The board’s fundamental mandate under state law – to “manage and direct” the operations of the company – is under pressure, facilitated by federal regulation that gives shareholders advisory votes on subjects where they do not have decision rights either under corporate law or charter. Some tensions between boards and shareholders are inherent in our governance system and are healthy. While we are concerned about further escalation, we do not view the current relationship between boards and shareholders as akin to a battle, let alone a revolution, as some media rhetoric about a “shareholder spring” might suggest. However, we do believe that boards and shareholders should work to smooth away excesses on both sides to ensure a framework in which decisions can be made in the best interests of the company and its varied body of shareholders.


Business Ethics in Emerging Markets and Investors’ Expectations Standards

George Dallas is Director of Corporate Governance at F&C Investments. This post is based on an article by Mr. Dallas that first appeared in the International Corporate Governance Network’s 2012 Yearbook.

Ethics is in origin the art of recommending to others the sacrifices required for cooperation with oneself.” Bertrand Russell

Since the publication of its Statement and Guidance on Anti-Corruption Practices in 2009, the ICGN has actively advocated the fight against bribery and corruption as a fundamental component of the corporate governance agenda. The Statement and Guidance takes a global perspective, making clear that anticorruption is a priority in all markets.

But is it appropriate to set the same standards for anticorruption in all jurisdictions, particularly in emerging markets, where many underlying conditions are different and where bribery and corruption are particularly acute in both the public and private sectors? This was the question posed as the main discussion point at ICGN’s “Town Hall” meeting on business ethics in its June 2012 conference in Rio de Janeiro. Meeting participants, from a range of developed and emerging markets, expressed a resounding consensus that investors should not compromise their standards on anticorruption in emerging markets, even if corruption may be a more deep-rooted problem. However, while absolute standards on anticorruption should remain undiluted — beginning with a “zero tolerance” position — there may be different anticorruption strategies to apply in emerging markets, reflecting economic, cultural and legal differences.


Sustainability Practices in 2012

Matteo Tonello is managing director of corporate leadership at the Conference Board, Inc. This post relates to a Conference Board report authored by Dr. Tonello and Thomas Singer of the Conference Board. For details regarding how to obtain a copy, contact matteo.tonello@conference-board.org.

According to a new study recently released by The Conference Board, U.S. corporations continue to lag far behind their counterparts in other developed economies—notably , the European Union and Japan—in transparency of environmental and social practices. In particular, the overall disclosure rate of this type of information by U.S. companies in the Russell 1000 is 10 percent, compared to 19 percent for a global sample of 3000 business organizations tracked by Bloomberg’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) database.

The new report, Sustainability Practices: 2012 Edition—a collaboration between The Conference Board, Bloomberg, and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Focal Point USA—covers a total of 72 environmental and social practices including: atmospheric emissions, water consumption, biodiversity policies, labor standards, human rights practices, and charitable and political contributions. For benchmarking purposes, Bloomberg ESG data is compared with the S&P 500 and the Russell 1000, and further analyzed across 11 business sectors and four revenue groups.

The following are some of the other major findings discussed in the paper.


The Clearing House Association Issues Draft Governance Principles

Michael M. Wiseman is managing partner of the Financial Institutions Group at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. This post discusses the Guiding Principles for Banking Organization Corporate Governance, developed by the Clearing House, available here (with an introductory memorandum from Sullivan & Cromwell). Mr. Wiseman and Sullivan & Cromwell acted as advisers to the Clearing House, but the views expressed here are his and do not necessarily represent those of the Clearing House or the drafters.

The corporate governance of banking organizations has become the focus of intense examination in the wake of the financial crisis. Because of the complexity that surrounds both the causes of the financial crisis and the weaknesses and vulnerabilities it exposed in the banking system and financial markets, it is manifestly unreasonable to suggest that better corporate governance practices at banking organizations alone could have prevented, or even substantially ameliorated, the crisis. That said, good corporate governance, including a well-functioning board of directors, is critical to a financial institution’s ability to manage its risks prudently, while operating profitably and contributing to economic growth.

In recognition of the importance of good corporate governance in the banking system, the Clearing House, an association comprised of some of the world’s largest commercial banks, has developed and submitted for public comment its Guiding Principles for Banking Organization Corporate Governance (the “Guidelines”). These principles focus on the role of the board of directors, as a cornerstone of the governance structure.

The U.S. banking system is unusual in that banking organizations in the United States, especially larger ones, are typically organized in a bank holding company structure. There is a holding company, organized as an ordinary business corporation, as the top-tier entity, which in turn owns one or more commercial banks and other operating subsidiaries. The Guidelines address governance at both the top-tier entity and bank subsidiary levels, but recognize that many risk management and governance issues may be best addressed on an organization-wide basis at the top-tier entity level.


Nonprofit Corporate Governance: The Board’s Role

Lesley Rosenthal is the general counsel of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the author of Good Counsel: Meeting the Legal Needs of Nonprofits. Bart Friedman, senior partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, contributed to this post.

Governing boards in the for-profit and nonprofit contexts share many legal precepts: the oversight role, the decision-making power, their place in the organizational structure, and their members’ fiduciary duties. But in the nonprofit setting, misconceptions about corporate governance abound. Are board members primarily fundraisers? Cheerleaders? A rubber stamp to legitimize the actions and decisions of the executives? Do they run the organization to the extent staff is unable? Are they window-dressing to spruce up the organization’s letterhead? If they are rich or famous, must they attend board meetings? How do they know whether they are doing a good job, or when it is time to go? Despite the common ancestry and legal underpinnings, nonprofit corporate governance places heightened demands on trustees: a larger mix of stakeholders, a more complex economic model, and a lack of external accountability. This post explores how substituting a charitable purpose for shareholders’ interests affects the board’s role.

In organizations of all kinds, good governance starts with the board of directors. The board’s role and legal obligation is to oversee the administration (management) of the organization and ensure that the organization fulfills its mission. Good board members monitor, guide, and enable good management; they do not do it themselves. The board generally has decision-making powers regarding matters of policy, direction, strategy, and governance of the organization.


Analyzing Global Proxy Voting Practices

Michael McCauley is Senior Officer, Investment Programs & Governance, of the Florida State Board of Administration (the “SBA”). This post is based on an excerpt from the SBA’s 2012 Corporate Governance Report by Mr. McCauley, Jacob Williams and Lucy Reams. Mr. Williams and Ms. Reams are Corporate Governance Manager and Senior Corporate Governance Analyst, respectively, at the SBA.

Fiscal year 2011 witnessed the SBA’s shift from domestic and foreign asset classes, to a combined global equity portfolio, with a heavier international equity weighting and a more balanced U.S. exposure. With the recent structural changes, the proportion of SBA assets invested in foreign equity markets will continue to rise, and a significant proportion may be managed internally. In 1998, for foreign equities was 7.6 percent, rising to 12.7 percent by 2003, and 18.8 percent by the end of fiscal year 2010. Upon completion of the transition to a combined global equity asset class, foreign equities composed 33 percent of FRS assets as of October 2011. As a percent of the equity asset class, foreign shares account for 56 percent and U.S. shares for 44 percent.

Coinciding with this shift, the SBA realigned its international proxy voting practices, bringing foreign voting decisions ”in-house” to match domestic SBA voting practices.

Previously, external asset managers were responsible for voting international proxies associated with SBA shares held in their funds. Since the SBA assumed this responsibility, votes are now cast by SBA staff—based on our own Corporate Governance Principles & Proxy Voting Guidelines and meeting specific research from our proxy research providers.