Tag: Proxy voting


Lessons Learned from a Highly Successful Proxy Contest Defense

M. Ridgway Barker is a partner focusing on corporate finance and securities law at Withers Bergman LLP. This post is based on a Withers memorandum by Mr. Barker, Clyde Tinnen, and Michael Rueda.

Recently, our client, a NYSE-listed publicly traded firm, successfully defended against a proxy contest brought by an activist fund that in the first part of this year acquired 5.5% stake in the company. Following on earlier indications that it would do so, the fund notified the company in September that it intended to nominate six individuals for election to the seven member board of directors at the 2015 annual meeting of stockholders to be held in November. At the meeting, stockholders elected all seven incumbent director nominees and flatly rejected all of the fund’s six nominees, despite ISS’s recommendation in favor of three of the fund’s nominees and Proxy Mosaic’s recommendation in favor of all six of the fund’s nominees. These results offer key lessons to companies under attack by dissidents, notwithstanding strong activist pressure with backing from ISS or other proxy advisors.

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2016 Proxy Advisor Policy Changes

Shirley Westcott is a Senior Vice President at Alliance Advisors, LLC. This post is based on an Alliance Advisors whitepaper. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

In preparation for the 2016 proxy season, proxy advisors Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis & Co. have issued updates to their proxy voting guidelines, which take effect for annual meetings held on or after Feb. 1, 2016 (ISS) and Jan. 1, 2016 (Glass Lewis). [1] The policy changes and their expected impact on issuers are discussed in more detail in Alliance Advisors’ November newsletter.

The key revisions deal with various situations where the proxy advisors recommend against directors. These include the following:

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SEC Guidance on Voting During M&A Transactions

Ettore A. Santucci and John T. Haggerty are partners and David W. Bernstein is counsel at Goodwin Procter LLP. This post is based on a Goodwin Procter publication by Messrs. Santucci, Haggerty, and Bernstein. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Bundling and Entrenchment by Lucian Bebchuk and Ehud Kamar (discussed on the Forum here).

On October 27, 2015, the Division of Corporation Finance of the SEC modified Section 201 of its Question and Answer guidance regarding SEC Rule 14a-4(a)(3) to require that if a material amendment to an acquiror’s organizational documents would require shareholder approval under state law, stock exchange rules or otherwise if presented on a standalone basis, if the change is effected by a merger (including a triangular merger) and is required by the transaction documents, the shareholders of both the acquiror and the target company must be given the opportunity to vote on the change in the organizational documents separately from their vote on whether to approve the merger or the merger agreement.

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ISS 2016 Voting Policies

Andrew R. Brownstein is partner and co-chair of the Corporate practice group, and David A. Katz is a partner specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and activism, and crisis management at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Brownstein, Mr. Katz, David M. Silk, Trevor S. NorwitzSabastian V. Niles, and S. Iliana Ongun.

[November 20, 2015], ISS announced its final U.S. voting policies for the 2016 proxy season. ISS had previously released draft proposals on several of the topics in October. Changes to non-U.S. policies were also announced, including with respect to Brazil, Canada, France, Hong Kong & Singapore, India, Japan, the Middle East & Africa and the U.K. & Ireland. ISS also released an updated equity plan scorecard “FAQ,” which contains a new model index for large companies that are newly public or emerging from bankruptcy, as well as other minor adjustments to scorecard factors.

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Glass Lewis’ Updated Voting Policy Guidelines

Andrew R. Brownstein is partner and co-chair of the Corporate practice group, and David A. Katz is a partner specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and activism, and crisis management at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Brownstein, Mr. Katz, David M. Silk, Trevor S. NorwitzSabastian V. Niles, and S. Iliana Ongun.

Glass Lewis has released updated U.S. proxy voting guidelines for the 2016 proxy season. Key areas of focus include: (i) nominating committee performance; (ii) changing the Glass Lewis approach to exclusive forum provisions if adopted in the context of an initial public offering; (iii) director “overboarding;” (iv) evaluation of conflicting management and shareholder proposals when both are put to a vote of shareholders; and (v) withhold recommendations in the context of failures of environmental and social risk oversight.

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Proxy Access: Preparing for the 2016 Proxy Season

Thomas W. Christopher is a partner in the New York office and Ryan J. Maierson is a partner in the Houston office of Latham & Watkins LLP. This post is based on a Latham publication by Mr. Christopher, Mr. Maierson, Tiffany Fobes Campion, and Charles C. Wang. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Lucian Bebchuk’s The Case for Shareholder Access to the Ballot and The Myth of the Shareholder Franchise (discussed on the Forum here), and Private Ordering and the Proxy Access Debate by Lucian Bebchuk and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forum here).

As the 2016 proxy season approaches, every public company should consider its position on proxy access and should have a plan for responding to a shareholder proxy access proposal. Based on lessons learned from the 2015 season, this post summarizes:

  1. Actions a public company can take to prepare for receipt of a proxy access proposal.
  2. Whether a company should wait and react to a shareholder proxy access proposal or preemptively adopt its own proxy access regime.
  3. Alternatives available to a company following receipt of a proxy access proposal.

Proxy access is a mechanism that gives shareholders the right to nominate directors and have those nominees included in the company’s annual meeting proxy statement. Proxy access gained significant momentum in 2015, with approximately 100 proposals submitted to shareholders and approximately 58% of those proposals being approved by shareholders. [1] Very likely a number of public companies will be subject to proxy access proposals during the 2016 proxy season.

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ISS Proposed 2016 Policy Changes

Howard B. Dicker is a partner in the Public Company Advisory Group of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. This post is based on a Weil publication by Mr. Dicker, Lyuba Goltser, and Megan Pendleton. The complete publication is available here.

Yesterday [October 27, 2015], Institutional Shareholder Services released its key draft proposed proxy voting policy changes for the 2016 proxy season. ISS is seeking comments by 6:00 p.m. EDT on November 9, 2015. ISS expects to release its final 2016 policies on November 18, 2015. [1] The policies as updated will apply to meetings held on or after February 1, 2016.

Proposed Amendments to ISS Proxy Voting Policies for 2016

ISS’s proposed voting policy changes for U.S. companies would:

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SEC Rulings on Shareholder Proposals and Ordinary Business Rule

Elizabeth Ising is a partner and Co-Chair of the Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Ms. Ising, Sarah E. Fortt, Julia LapitskayaRonald O. MuellerKasey Levit Robinson, and Lori Zyskowski.

On October 22, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC” or “Commission”) Division of Corporation Finance (the “Division”) issued Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14H (“SLB 14H”), setting forth a dramatically different standard for when it will concur that a shareholder proposal that conflicts with a company proposal can be excluded from the company’s proxy statement under Rule 14a-8(i)(9). The Division also reaffirmed its views on the application of the “ordinary business” standard in Rule 14a-8(i)(7). SLB 14H is available here.

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Recap of the 2015 Proxy Season

Avrohom J. Kess is partner and head of the Public Company Advisory Practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. This post is based on a Simpson Thacher presentation by Mr. Kess, Yafit Cohn, Arthur B. Crozier and Lissa Perlman. The complete presentation is available here.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP recently released a PowerPoint deck, titled “Recap of the 2015 Proxy Season: What Happened, Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead to 2016.”  The deck (available here) provides an overview of the 2015 proxy season, as well as in-depth analysis regarding key developments, proposals and trends from the proxy season.

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Getting Ready for Proxy Access

Nicolas Grabar is a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP focusing on international capital markets and securities regulation. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb publication by Mr. Grabar & associate Leah LaPorte Malone. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about proxy access include Lucian Bebchuk’s The Case for Shareholder Access to the Ballot and The Myth of the Shareholder Franchise (discussed on the Forum here), and Private Ordering and the Proxy Access Debate by Lucian Bebchuk and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forum here).

Proxy access will be a leading issue in the 2016 proxy season, and now is the time to make a plan. We have a detailed deck on these questions, available here, but in a nutshell this is what’s happening:

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