Tag Archives: short-termism

Does the health of the economy depend on getting the role of shareholders right?

by Cydney Posner

Are shareholders really the “owners” of corporations? Even though shareholders have no responsibilities to the corporations they “own”? Should corporations be managed for the sole purpose of maximizing shareholder value?  Are shareholders even unanimous in that objective? Is shareholder centricity really the right model for good governance of corporations? What changes in corporate governance have been fueled by the shareholder primacy model?  Do those changes make sense?  What has been the adverse fallout from the current fastidious devotion to shareholder preeminence?  These are just some of the issues addressed in this terrific piece by two Harvard Business School professors, Joseph L. Bower and Lynn S. Paine, in the Harvard Business Review. In their view, the “health of the economic system depends on getting the role of shareholders right.”  Highly recommend. Continue reading

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Filed under Corporate Governance, Corporate law, Executive Compensation

Does a long-term view really pay off?

by Cydney Posner

In this February 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review, “Finally, Evidence That Managing for the Long Term Pays Off,” a team from McKinsey and associated consultants attempt to prove empirically what has often seemed intuitively must be true — that companies that manage for long-term value creation, those that can put aside the pressures of quarterly expectations, actually deliver superior results.  What did they find? That if the whole economy had performed at the same level as the companies in their study that followed a long-term strategy, “U.S. GDP over the past decade might well have grown by an additional $1 trillion [and the economy would have] generated more than five million additional jobs over this period.” Continue reading

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Just as the U.S. seeks to roll back regulations, the European Parliament adopts new corporate governance rules

by Cydney Posner

Just when the U.S. is looking at how to roll back its regulations on corporations (among others) (see, e.g., this PubCo postthis PubCo post and this PubCo post), the rest of the world seems to be headed in the opposite direction.  On Tuesday, the EU Parliament approved a Shareholder Rights Directive, which introduces, among other things, the concept of binding say-on-pay votes for companies listed in EU markets (over 8,000 of them). The Directive also includes some interesting measures intended to impede short-termism.  According to the press release fact sheet issued by the European Commission, the Directive must still be adopted by the European Council (expected shortly) and, assuming adoption, will become effective two years thereafter. Continue reading

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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 light of shifting assumptions, executive pay linked to long-term strategy, climate risk disclosure and human capital management.  According to BlackRock, its engagement process is designed to be constructive, and its goal is “to build mutual understanding and ask probing questions, not to tell companies what to do. Where we believe a company’s business or governance practices fall short, we explain our concerns and expectations, and then allow time for a considered response.” However, Blackrock’s approach is not limited to engagement; although, as a long-term investor, the firm will be “patient” as companies work to address concerns, in the absence of progress, BlackRock “will not hesitate to exercise our right to vote against management recommendations.” Continue reading

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SEC committee discusses multi-class common with unequal voting rights

by Cydney Posner

An interesting topic of discussion at a meeting last week of the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee was “unequal voting rights of common stock” — the trend over the last decade (plus) for a small number of IPO companies, particularly tech companies, to offer low-vote or, more recently, no-vote common shares to the public. (Of course, the concept of dual class common with unequal voting rights is not novel at all.  Many companies, particularly some that are family run, have in decades past had a class of common shares with 10:1 voting rights, not to mention the highly respected Berkshire Hathaway with a class holding voting rights of 10,000:1.)  The debate centered around whether these measures are a legitimate effort to protect companies from the pressures of short-termism exerted by hedge fund activists or are a mechanism that causes shareholders to cede power without providing accountability.  Of course, the answer depends on where you sit. Continue reading

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McKinsey study suggests alliances with sophisticated long-term investors can help blunt corrosive effects of short-termism

by Cydney Posner

In this study, consulting firm McKinsey raises the question of why so many companies seem to be ensorcelled by their short-term investors, which own only about 25% of the shares of U.S. companies, while failing to address — or perhaps even understand — the needs of their long-term holders, which own 75% of U.S. shares. While it’s true that short-term investors probably make the most noise, that noise, McKinsey contends, may be distracting managements from aligning with the types of investors that will have the greatest influence on share price over the long term.  Perhaps some of the pressures to emphasize short-term financial performance could be avoided or at least mitigated by building alliances with sophisticated long-term investors? Continue reading

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BlackRock CEO’s annual letter asks companies to address impact of changes in global environment

by Cydney Posner

This year, in his annual letter to corporate CEOs, Laurence D. Fink, CEO of asset manager BlackRock, challenges companies to address the impact of significant political, economic, societal and technological changes on their current strategies for long-term value creation: “As BlackRock engages with your company this year, we will be looking to see how your strategic framework reflects and recognizes the impact of the past year’s changes in the global environment. How have these changes impacted your strategy and how do you plan to pivot, if necessary, in light of the new world in which you are operating?”

What are these changes?  To Fink, dramatic changes — such as Brexit, global upheaval and the new administration in the U.S. — could affect assumptions underlying many companies’ long-term strategic plans, such as plans for continued international expansion.  At “the root of many of these changes,” he contends, is the “growing backlash against the impact globalization and technological change are having on many workers and communities.” Although he continues to believe that, on balance, globalization provides benefits, “there is little doubt that globalization’s benefits have been shared unequally, disproportionately benefitting more highly skilled workers, especially those in urban areas.” In addition, technology, while creating new jobs for highly skilled employees, is eliminating millions of jobs for other workers, many of whom face “retirement with inadequate savings, in part because the burden for retirement savings increasingly has shifted from employers to employees.” The political and economic consequences of these dynamics, he asserts, “impact virtually every global company.” Continue reading

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