Tag: board engagement

Why have institutional investors become so outspoken on corporate governance issues at their portfolio companies?

The substantial increase in activism on corporate governance issues by large institutional shareholders and asset managers qua investors has been hard to miss. Now, joining the ranks of these other enormous asset managers and passive institutional investors—such as BlackRock and State Street (see, e.g., this PubCo post, this PubCo post and this PubCo post)—Vanguard has recently announced, in its Investment Stewardship Report for 2017, that it too has been taking a more active role in advocating for effective corporate governance at its portfolio investments. But what has triggered this shift?  After all, it’s not as though these institutional investors are new to the sport—they’ve been shareholders for many, many years, but mostly of the low-key variety.  Why this noisy advocacy now?

Framework developed by the Investor Stewardship Group establishes common set of investor expectations for corporate governance

The Investor Stewardship Group—a group of the largest, most prominent institutional investors and global asset managers investing, in the aggregate, over $20 trillion in the U.S. equity markets—has developed the Framework for U.S. Stewardship and Governance, a “framework of basic standards of investment stewardship and corporate governance for U.S. institutional investor and boardroom conduct.” The stewardship framework identifies fundamental responsibilities for institutional investors, and the corporate governance framework identifies six fundamental principles that “are designed to establish a foundational set of investor expectations about corporate governance practices in U.S. public companies. Generally, the principles “reflect the common corporate governance beliefs embedded in each member’s proxy voting and engagement guidelines,” although each ISG member may differ somewhat on specifics. The ISG encourages company directors to apply these basic principles—while acknowledging that they are not designed to be “prescriptive or comprehensive” and can be applied in various ways—and indicates that it will “evaluate companies’ alignment with these principles, as well as any discussion of alternative approaches that directors maintain are in a company’s best interests.” The framework does not go “into effect” until January 1, 2018, so that companies will have “time to adjust to these standards in advance of the 2018 proxy season,”  the implication being that failure to “comply or explain” by that point could ultimately lead to shareholder opposition during proxy season.  Check out the countdown clock at the link above!

Do board self-evaluations help produce a high-functioning board?

by Cydney Posner In this paper from the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, Board Evaluations and Boardroom Dynamics, the authors suggest that board self-evaluations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. While, based on a recent study, 89% of directors believe their boards have the skills and […]

BlackRock sets its priorities for board engagement

by Cydney Posner Asset management firm BlackRock (reportedly the largest, with $5.1 trillion under management) has identified its “Investment Stewardship” priorities for 2017-2018, intended to help companies prepare for engaging with BlackRock. Among the hot topics are governance (including board composition and diversity), corporate strategy for long-term value creation in […]