Archives: Corporate Governance

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Corporate Sustainability Focus Continues to Trend Upward

Public company focus on environmental, social, and governance issues has been trending upward for years, largely at the insistence of investors, employee, regulators, and other company stakeholders. A recent report entitled Turning Point: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability does a nice job of quantifying, and providing context for, that trend. Ceres is … Continue Reading

Don’t Overlook the SEC’s Cybersecurity Governance Guidance

In late February, the SEC approved what it labeled “Guidance on Public Company Cybersecurity Disclosures.” And, sure enough, about three-quarters of its 24 pages focus on the various categories and locations of cybersecurity risk and incident disclosure obligations, as well as materiality determinations. Because the SEC’s much-anticipated guidance appeared right in the thick of calendar-year … Continue Reading

The DOJ’s Latest Compliance Program Warning

U.S Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recently announced the Department of Justice’s revised FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy. The revised Policy is based on the DOJ’s FCPA Pilot Program (in place since April 2016), which provided mitigation credit for voluntary reporting of wrongdoing and specified levels of cooperation and remediation in connection with the resulting investigation. … Continue Reading

Activist Versus Institutional Investors, and the Role of Sustainability

Sustainability concepts are now widely accepted as legitimate, mainstream considerations for boards of directors and corporate management. (See, for example, this Doug’s Note.) As a result, many companies now routinely consider the long-term impact on their entire universe of stakeholders of various environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Conversely, most boards of directors and C-suites … Continue Reading

The New Auditor Reporting Standards

Late last month, the SEC approved the new auditing standards adopted by the PCAOB back in June, which substantially modify the content of the auditor’s report. They also raise various concerns that public companies and the SEC will need to closely monitor going forward. Critical audit matters disclosure. By far the biggest and most controversial … Continue Reading

Evolution of the General Counsel—A TerraLex Report

TerraLex recently published The General Counsel Excellence Report 2017, which tracks the continuing evolution of the role of corporate general counsel to encompass important nontraditional areas of focus and responsibilities. TerraLex, a referral network of more than 150 law firms (including Parker Poe) in more than 100 countries, sponsored similar surveys in 2013 and 2015. … Continue Reading

The NYC Comptroller and Pension Funds Boardroom Accountability Project 2.0

Board composition is increasingly at the forefront of governance activists’ focus and initiatives. A recent, high-profile example of this comes from New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and the New York City Pension Funds via their Boardroom Accountability Project 2.0. This initiative builds on their 2014 initiative and, according to their press release, is … Continue Reading

Pay Ratio Disclosures are an Employee-Relations Opportunity … Really

Most companies are now devoting substantial resources and effort to ensuring compliance with the SEC’s new rules requiring disclosure of the ratio of the CEO’s and median employee’s respective annual total compensation. Because the disclosure is required for fiscal years beginning on or after January 1, 2017, calendar-year-end companies must include it in their upcoming … Continue Reading

New SEC Pay Ratio Disclosure Guidance

As everyone knows by now, the SEC amended Item 402 of Regulation S-K, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act, to state that all companies required to provide executive compensation disclosure under Item 402(c) of Regulation S-K must also provide new executive compensation disclosure regarding: the median of annual total compensation of all employees, the annual … Continue Reading

Join Us at the Fall 2017 GRC Forum, featuring NC Attorney General Josh Stein

You recently received an email invitation to our upcoming Governance, Risk & Compliance Forum. The GRC Forum is a half-day, interactive event devoted specifically to the issues faced by risk and compliance personnel at companies in all industries and at all stages of GRC development. The Fall 2017 session will be held on Thursday, September … Continue Reading

The SEC Approves More Amendments to NYSE’s Notice Requirements

Back in September 2015, the New York Stock Exchange amended the NYSE Listed Company Manual to: expand the pre-market hours during which NYSE-listed companies must provide prior notice of material news, expand the circumstances under which NYSE may halt trading, and provide guidance related to the release of material news after the close of trading. … Continue Reading

Insider Trading: Five Reminders From the SEC Division of Enforcement

A recent litigation release from the SEC Division of Enforcement, though seemingly unremarkable, highlights five basic principles that sometimes slip off a company’s insider trading compliance radar. The SEC’s complaints. According to the SEC’s complaints against two former employees and the spouse of a former employee of Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which develops and markets drugs … Continue Reading

Sustainability Reporting After the Paris Climate Accord

It’s fair to say that President Trump’s June 1 announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord has been widely reported. It’s also fair to say that the announcement triggered a host of passionate reactions, positive and negative, around the world. Within corporate America, a number of high-profile corporations (for example, Apple, … Continue Reading

Long-Term, Principles-Based Governance–A New Paradigm

Last August, I wrote about the Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance recently advocated by a group of executives at thirteen major companies and investor institutions for the purpose of providing “a basic framework for sound, long-term-oriented governance.” (See this Doug’s Note.) At the time, they reminded me of the U.K.’s long-standing emphasis on principles-based governance, … Continue Reading

It's Time to Consider Virtual Annual Meetings

More and more companies are moving to virtual-only or hybrid (both virtual and physical) annual shareholder meetings, though they remain in a substantial minority. Other companies sometimes pause to consider virtual meetings as they begin the annual proxy season sprint, then abandon the notion due to the press of time. Many (most?) companies haven’t yet … Continue Reading

Quiet Period Best Practices

The insider trading policies of almost all public companies contain closely monitored “black out” periods that prohibit trades by designated classes of employees during certain periods in the company’s SEC reporting cycle. Less prevalent, and less rigidly enforced, are “quiet period” policies, which generally forbid management from discussing financial results, business outlook or other material … Continue Reading

The Rise of Principles-Based Corporate Governance

In late July, executives at thirteen major companies and investor institutions published and widely advertised their “Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance” for public companies, boards of directors and shareholders. According to its introduction, the Commonsense Principles’ intent is to “provide a basic framework for sound, long-term-oriented governance,” which is certainly a commendable undertaking. As I … Continue Reading

The NLRB Continues to Monitor Social Media Policies

According to this EmployNews report, the National Labor Relations Board continues to interpret the National Labor Relations Act to prohibit social media policies that restrict employees’ ability to publically complain about their working conditions, even when those communications may be disparaging to their employer. Most recently, Chipotle Mexican Grill bore the consequences of the NLRB’s efforts. … Continue Reading

The Quiet Demise of Director Meeting Fees

As director duties have become increasingly burdensome and complex, companies have responded with variations on, and additions to, the traditional fee arrangements. It is now common to see equity awards of various descriptions, deferred fee arrangements, fee differentials between committees and between regular members and chairpersons, and minimum stock ownership requirements, just to name a … Continue Reading

New SEC Guidance on Proxy Card Descriptions

Amazingly, the SEC staff continues to scrutinize Securities Exchange Rule 14a-4(a)(3)’s proxy card parameters. As you may recall, the staff recently grappled with the ever-murky “unbundling” aspect of that rule: first via three C&DIs issued in January 2014 (see this Doug’s Note) then again in October 2015 in the form of Q&As dealing specifically with … Continue Reading

The Next Level of Investor Communication

Last year about this time General Electric made a splash with its revamped Form 10-K, which it augmented with a short video introduction from its CEO, Jeff Immelt. (See this Doug’s Note.) This year, GE launched what it calls an Integrated Summary Report, which it describes as “the latest step in contemporizing…investor communications” and is … Continue Reading

The Fundamentals of Social Media Communication Compliance

Communication via social media is now standard practice, to some extent, at almost all public companies. What once seemed limited to technology and other “forward-thinking” companies has now made its way into even the most traditional businesses. The SEC, and other affected agencies, have long struggled to stay on top of the breakneck pace of … Continue Reading

Considering Stewardship and Corporate Governance in the UK

A recent announcement regarding the UK’s Stewardship Code serves as a reminder of the current similarities and differences between the US and UK corporate governance schemes, as well as their ongoing convergence. By way of background, the UK Stewardship Code is a product of the UK’s Financial Reporting Council (the “FRC”) that has been around … Continue Reading
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