Tag: Shareholder proposals


2015 Year-End Activism Update

Barbara L. Becker is partner and co-chair of the Mergers and Acquisitions Practice Group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and Eduardo Gallardo is a partner focusing on mergers and acquisitions, also at Gibson Dunn. The following post is based on a Gibson Dunn M&A Client Alert. The full publication, including charts and survey of settlement agreements, is available here.

This post provides an update on shareholder activism activity involving domestically traded public companies with market capitalizations above $1 billion during the second half of 2015, together with a look back at shareholder activism throughout 2015. While many pundits have suggested shareholder activism peaked in 2015, shareholder activism continues to be a major factor in the marketplace, involving companies of all sizes and activists new and old. Activist funds managed approximately $122 billion as of September 30, 2015 (vs. approximately $32 billion as at December 31, 2008). [1] In 2015 as compared to 2014, we saw a significant uptick in the total number of public activist actions (94 vs. 64), involving both a higher number of companies targeted (80 vs. 59) and a higher number of activist investors (56 vs. 34). [2]

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2016 Proxy Season: Engagement, Transparency, Proxy Access

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; the complete publication, including footnotes and appendix, is available here. 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).

While shareholders have a wide spectrum of views on corporate objectives, the time horizon for realizing these objectives and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, there is an emerging consensus that—regardless of size, industry or profitability—public companies must achieve greater accountability to their shareholders, through engagement and transparency, than ever before. Corporate engagement and transparency now take two forms: direct dialogue, increasingly involving directors, and enhanced proxy statement and other public disclosure that sheds light on the company’s strategy and the performance of its board, board committees and management, demonstrates responsiveness to shareholder ESG concerns, and justifies the composition of the board in light of the company’s present needs. Throughout this post, we offer practical suggestions about “what to do now” to meet shareholder expectations about engagement and transparency and to address a host of other new developments for the 2016 proxy season.

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Corporate Governance Survey—2015 Proxy Season

David A. Bell is partner in the corporate and securities group at Fenwick & West LLP. This post is based on portions of a Fenwick publication titled Corporate Governance Practices and Trends: A Comparison of Large Public Companies and Silicon Valley Companies (2015 Proxy Season); the complete survey is available here.

Since 2003, Fenwick has collected a unique body of information on the corporate governance practices of publicly traded companies that is useful for Silicon Valley companies and publicly-traded technology and life science companies across the U.S. as well as public companies and their advisors generally. Fenwick’s annual survey covers a variety of corporate governance practices and data for the companies included in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100) and the high technology and life science companies included in the Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150). [1]

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Activist Hedge Funds, Golden Leashes, and Advance Notice Bylaws

Matteo Tonello is managing director of corporate leadership at The Conference Board. This post relates to an issue of The Conference Board’s Director Notes series authored by Jason D. Schloetzer of Georgetown University. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. For details regarding how to obtain a copy of the report, contact matteo.tonello@conference-board.org. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here), and The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here).

The tactics used by activist hedge funds to target companies continue to command the attention of corporate executives and board members. This post discusses recent cases highlighting activist efforts to replace directors at target companies. It also examines the use of controversial special compensation arrangements sometimes referred to as “golden leashes,” the arguments for and against such payments, their prevalence, and the parallel evolution of advance notification bylaws (ANBs) to require disclosure of third party payments to directors.

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Ten Topics for Directors in 2016

Kerry E. Berchem is partner and head of the corporate practice group at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. This post is based on a summary of an Akin Gump publication authored by Ms. Berchem, Rick L. Burdick, Tracy Crum, Christine B. LaFollette, and J. Kenneth Menges, Jr. The complete publication is available here.

U.S. public companies face a host of challenges as they enter 2016. Here is our annual list of hot topics for the boardroom in the coming year:

  1. Oversee the development of long-term corporate strategy in an increasingly interdependent and volatile world economy
  2. Cultivate shareholder relations and assess company vulnerabilities as activist investors target more companies with increasing success
  3. Oversee cybersecurity as the landscape becomes more developed and cyber risk tops director concerns
  4. Oversee risk management, including the identification and assessment of new and emerging risks
  5. Assess the impact of social media on the company’s business plans
  6. Stay abreast of Delaware law developments and other trends in M&A
  7. Review and refresh board composition and ensure appropriate succession
  8. Monitor developments that could impact the audit committee’s already heavy workload
  9. Set appropriate executive compensation as CEO pay ratios and income inequality continue to make headlines
  10. Prepare for and monitor developments in proxy access

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ISS Proxy Access FAQs: Problematic Proxy Access Provisions

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, Joanna Jia, and Kaitlin Descovich.

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has published revised FAQs for its U.S. Proxy Voting Policies and Procedures, including two new FAQs directly related to proxy access. This post provides an update to our Alerts dated October 21, 2015 (available here) on Navigating Proxy Access and November 23, 2015 (available here, and discussed on the Forum here) on ISS and Glass Lewis Updated Voting Policies.

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SEC Guidance on Unbundling in M&A Context

Nicholas O’Keefe is a partner in the Corporate Department at Kaye Scholer LLP. This post is based on a Kaye Scholer memorandum authored by Mr. O’Keefe. The complete publication, including Annex, is available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about bundling includes Bundling and Entrenchment by Lucian Bebchuk and Ehud Kamar (discussed on the Forum here).

On October 27, 2015, the SEC issued new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (the 2015 C&DIs) regarding unbundling of votes in the M&A context. The 2015 C&DIs address the circumstances under which either a target or an acquiror in an M&A transaction must present unbundled shareholder proposals in its proxy statement relating to provisions in the organizational documents of the public company that results from the deal. The 2015 C&DIs replace SEC guidance given in the September 2004 Interim Supplement to Publicly Available Telephone Interpretations (the 2004 Guidance). According to public statements of the SEC, and contrary to perceptions created by the news media, [1] the 2015 C&DIs represent a slight change from, and clarification to, the 2004 Guidance. The following is a brief overview of the unbundling rules, a summary of key differences between the 2015 C&DIs and the 2004 Guidance, and some observations about the practical implications of the changes.

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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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ISS and Glass Lewis Updated 2016 Voting Policies

Ellen Odoner and Lyuba Goltser are partners in the Public Company Advisory Group of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. This post is based on a Weil publication by Ms. Odoner, Ms. Goltser, and Reid Powell. The complete publication, including appendices, is available here.

ISS and Glass Lewis have released updates to their proxy voting policies for the 2016 proxy season. [1] ISS has also modified its QuickScore 3.0 Technical Document and Equity Plan Scorecard. [2] In this post we provide guidance for U.S. public companies on addressing these developments.

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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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