WeWork’s initial public offering

WeWork has had a tumultuous build-up to their IPO. Many investors were hesitant to back the company as their corporate governance policies did not meet their standards. CGLytics looks at some of the key factors that created controversy.

Preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) is often a strenuous undertaking. Companies strive to ensure that all their affairs are in order before they submit their S-1 filing to the SEC. This is done primarily to make sure that the initial public offering IPO is well received by investors.

WeWork

WeWork first filed its prospectus on August 14th 2019. Two main components of the filing prompted investor backlash. First and foremost, investors were alarmed at WeWork’s consecutive and increasing financial losses over the past three years. Secondly, investors took note of the company’s unusual governance practices. Although a justification could be provided for the financial losses, namely that they were essential to their growth strategy, no justification could be provided for the latter. With lazy governance practices increasingly linked to poor company performance, WeWork responded by making sweeping changes to assuage concerns.

Women on Boards

Gender diversity on boards has become a prominent issue in recent years. Some major investors, such as Blackrock, have even updated their voting guidelines to try and work towards a more equal representation. In light of this, investors were surprised and disappointed when WeWork’s initial filing included seven board members, all of which were male. In response, WeWork quickly recruited renowned culture coach Frances Frei to their board.

Frei earned her reputation when she was hired by Uber to help fix their “Bro Culture”. Although this a step in the right direction, WeWork might benefit from adding more women to their portfolio of directors. Using CGLytics data and intelligence a trendline can be made, in the S&P 500 real estate industry, between the percentage of women on boards and a company’s Average 1-year Total Shareholder Return (TSR).

Women on boards versus average TSR

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

CGLytics’ data and analytics are trusted and used worldwide by Glass Lewis, the leading independent proxy advisor, as a basis for their research on companies

 

Voting Rights

Also included in WeWorks initial filing were plans to award the company’s founders and early investors 20 votes for each share of Class Stock. This would grant unchecked power to the CEO. Moreover, in the event that the Chief Executive Officer, Adam Neumann, would become incapacitated, then his wife, Rebekah Neumann, and two directors would decide who the successor would be.

This plan has subsequently been scrapped and been replaced by a more contemporary policy where the Board of Directors holds the power to pick a successor. In regard to the voting rights, the number of votes for each share of Class A stock will now only account for 10 votes each.

WeWork has had a tumultuous build-up to their IPO. Many investors were hesitant to back the company as their corporate governance policies did not meet their standards. WeWork is just one example of many where Corporate Governance plays an integral role in the health and viability of a company, especially when third parties are involved.

For more information regarding how CGLytics’ deep, global data set and unparalleled analytical screening tools can potentially help you make better decisions, click here.

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The increasing trend of shareholder opposition to executive pay

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Deutsche Bank: How CGLytics Tools Inform Glass Lewis’ Pay and Governance Analysis

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Equity Incentive Schemes: Examining the rationale behind shareholder rejection

Two historical examples of organizations that have had their stock option plans rejected by shareholders include Red Lion Hotels and HomeAway. How could they have reduced the likelihood of rejected plans? Read to find out

The approval for equity-based incentive plans, or amendments to current plans, is a critical part of many organizations strategies to acquire and retain premium talent. Opposition or even rejection by shareholders can derail these efforts.

In this article we look at two historical examples of organizations that have had their equity incentive plans rejected and explore the reasons behind and impact of shareholder opposition.

When Red Lion Hotels was punished for lack of clear strategy

In 2019, Red Lion Hotels Corporation’s (NYSE: RLH) shareholders delivered a blow to the company by voting overwhelmingly (70% opposed) against the proposed amendment to the 2015 stock incentive plan.

Shareholders were troubled by, what they perceived, as the board’s continued inability to fulfil its obligations and the absence of a clear strategy (Vindico Capital LLC – letter to the board). Flat performance of the stock over time and significant underperformance against the market and industry peers were particular points of concern for shareholders.

When HomeAway was sent packing

In 2015, HomeAway (NASDAQ: AWAY) had their amended equity incentive plan rejected. Investors felt equity awards continued to be granted despite diminishing returns for investors over time. While the Market Capitalization of HomeAway had remained relatively steady over two years, the rest of the index saw significant gains. Total Shareholder Return was perceived as minimal in this context and the equity awards were seen to be rewarding poor performance. Ultimately HomeAway was acquired shortly afterwards and incorporated into one of the largest travel industry players, Expedia.

Trends in the opposition

When shareholders are considering the impact of diluting their holdings, they require that any potential value lost by the equity incentive plan is offset by the value the business gains by meeting the qualifying KPIs. Whether this is Market Capitalization, Total Shareholder Return, EBITDA or free cashflow, there has to be a compelling strategic rationale for the award of equity. Further, the remuneration committee must ensure that the organization behaves is a prudent manner, even after the plan is agreed to.

Test your equity compensation plans with Glass Lewis’ Equity Compensation Model

Reduce the likelihood of shareholder rejection on your stock option plans and proposals with Glass Lewis’ new  Equity Compensation Model (ECM) application. Now available exclusively via CGLytics. Providing unprecedented transparency to the U.S. market in one powerful online application, both companies and investors can use the same 11 key criteria as the leading proxy advisor to assess equity incentive plans.

Click here to experience Glass Lewis’ new application.

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The increasing trend of shareholder opposition to executive pay

Votes against executive remuneration are growing. In this article we look at this change in the European indices and the S&P500.

Deutsche Bank: How CGLytics Tools Inform Glass Lewis’ Pay and Governance Analysis

Glass Lewis’ assessment of executive remuneration reflects a balance of quantitative and qualitative considerations, with CGLytics’ suite of tools underpinning the quantitative component. In the following discussion, we review the quantitative assessment with respect to Deutsche Bank, using CGLytics’ analytical tools.

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Interlocking Directorates: Looking for signs of collusion, conflict of interest and overboarding

Conflicts of interest, collusion and the overboarding of directors have been known to grab the attention of the biggest media outlets. As many companies are unfortunately aware. How can this be avoided right from the start?

Conflicts of interest, collusion and the overboarding of directors on publicly listed companies have been known to grab the attention of the biggest media outlets. As many companies are unfortunately aware, this unwanted attention raises questions, creates risk to a company’s reputation, gains attention from activist investors, and can ultimately affect the value of company shares. However, there is a way that all of this can be avoided right from the start.

Interlocking directorates are nothing new. It occurs when two firms share a common director, and the tie or connections that he/she creates is also referred to as a board interlock.

Although lawful and not illegal, it does raise questions about the independence of decisions made in the boardroom and can be seen by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as an anti-competitive practice prompting an investigation.

As stated by the FTC it is their responsibility to, “take(s) action to stop and prevent unfair business practices that are likely to reduce competition and lead to higher prices, reduced quality or levels of service, or less innovation”.

WHEN INTERLOCKS BECOME A CONCERN

An example of where interlocks became a concern for the FTC was during 2009. During this year Apple’s director Arthur Levinson abruptly resigned his seat on Google board following pressure from regulators. Following the announcement FTC’s chairman praised Google and Levinson “for their willingness to resolve our concerns without the need for litigation”.

That same year also saw Google’s Eric Schmidt resign from Apple’s board, three years after accepting a seat.

Eric Schmidt
Eric Schmidt resigns from Apple’s board in 2009

It’s important to mention that prior to these resignations, the FTC had been looking into whether interlocking directorates between Google and Apple raised competitive issues. These competitive issues may have violated U.S. antitrust laws.

The only safe way for companies to avoid situations of interlocking directorates that prompt investigation is by having oversight of every board members’ seats on other companies. By gaining this oversight companies can instantly see any risks or red flags, which are likely already on the radar of investors with governance issues coming under greater scrutiny of late.

This is also hugely important when a company makes new appointments to their board, or an existing director takes on additional responsibilities. Without oversight, companies might be opening themselves up to governance risk and wider liability.

 

CGLytics online solution provides instant information about a company’s board composition, director skills and expertise, as well as interlocking directorates for corporations, investors and advisors.

 

Interlocking directorates are common. It is not new. Most directors will have other board positions across one or more industry, however with highly confidential information that they are privy to, it is vital to identify potential conflicts of interest.

That being said, interlocking directorates can be indicators of the following:

– Collusion: Two or more members of the board holding appointments on another board and using this connection to influence the decision-making away from the best interests of either company.

– Conflict of interest: Directors with specific industry experience will often sit on boards that could be in competition. This can lead to questions from investors on if these board members are performing their duties in the best interests of the company.

– Overboarding: Directors must have the adequate time to devote to their duties of providing oversight for a company. US Proxy Advisory standards state that a director is considered to be overboarded when he/she is a non-executive director and sits on more than five boards, or he/she is an executive director and sits on more than three boards.

– Chairmen of the board are expected to spend double the amount of time as a NED and are considered overboarded with one chair and three other NED roles.

By identifying whether a board member is also on the board of a potential competitor (sometimes inevitably in niche markets where experience is necessary), or if two or more members of the board sit on the same board of another company, is vital for the nomination and governance committees to be aware and ensure that they have the correct policies and procedures in place, as regulators, investors and activists are constantly monitoring.

THINK LIKE AN ACTIVIST

Activist investor campaigns are continuing to show a year-on-year increase with more focus being placed on the composition of the board and the board members existing commitments. Leading investors are voting against the re-appointment of directors who are perceived to be overboarded. In addition, never before has there been as much scrutiny on the skills that a director brings to the board.

Activist investors are using CGLytics’ data and analytics for assessing the board effectiveness of listed companies worldwide.

 

With deep insights into how boards are composed in the CGLytics platform, and a skills matrix applied consistently across all companies in its universe, activist investors easily benchmark a board and assess if its compliant with regulatory and stewardship codes, hence see if there is any reputational risk.

Companies can access these very same insights in the CGLytics platform.

Corporate issuers, their boards and stakeholders can see exactly how they are perceived by activist investors. CGLytics is helping to promote good governance through transparency to the market. View director interlocks, see how board composition compares to competitors and raise concerns of any red flags. Identify any potential skills gaps and be proactive in succession planning, with access to a database of 125,000+ executive profiles draw from 5,500+ publicly listed companies across 40 indexes and 24 countries.

Curious to see how companies are viewed through the eyes of an activist investors? Click here

 

RESOURCES

https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/anticompetitive-practices

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-google/arthur-levinson-quits-google-board-appeasing-ftc-idUSTRE59B2R120091012

https://techcrunch.com/2009/08/03/google-ceo-eric-schmidt-resigns-from-apple-board-surprised/

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Glass Lewis’ assessment of executive remuneration reflects a balance of quantitative and qualitative considerations, with CGLytics’ suite of tools underpinning the quantitative component. In the following discussion, we review the quantitative assessment with respect to Deutsche Bank, using CGLytics’ analytical tools.

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FirstGroup Take Another Ride on the Activist Train

Over the past nine months, FirstGroup plc has been the target of an activist campaign from New York-based hedge fund, Coast Capital. One of the main critiques by the activist investor was regarding the governance structure, specifically the composition of the board. Utilizing CGLytics’ analytics and tools in its platform, we show how FirstGroup could have spotted governance red flags to possibly avoid this situation.

As the dust settles from FirstGroup plc’s latest engagement from activist investor Coast Capital, CGlytics looks at the timeline and the reasons why the company was a target of shareholder activism. This was not FirstGroup’s first experience as a target of activism. In 2013, Sandell, which owned a little over three percent of FirstGroup, wrote to the directors urging them to spin off and list the U.S. business unit separately on the stock market. Sandell, at the time said the break-up would enable the company to fund a much-needed investment program in its British bus business. FirstGroup fended off the proposal, with the notion that it contained structural flaws and inaccuracies.

Where this activist ride began

Over the past nine months, FirstGroup has been the target of activism from New York-based hedge fund, Coast Capital. The back and forth between the issuer and the investor date back to November 2018 when the Non-Executive Chairman of FirstGroup’s board, Dr. Wolfhart Hauser, responded in a letter written to the latter. The letter from Coast Capital included demands for management change and included criticism over the company’s failure to pay a dividend.

On May 17, 2019, FirstGroup received a letter from Coast Capital requesting an EGM to remove six of the current directors, increase the size of the board by one seat, and elect Coast Capital’s seven nominees. Coast Capital criticized the board saying that its directors lacked sector and industry expertise with reference to the CEO, Matthew Gregory, and Chairman of the Board, Hauser. Again, the activist investor pushed for a separation of the US and UK businesses, having declared FirstGroup’s strategy – and particularly its UK rail investment – as “extraordinarily destructive of capital”.

In June 2019, FirstGroup seemed to be taking heed to the investor pressure and announced that it will be selling off its bus division and possibly withdrawing from UK rail operations. The company also announced that it will focus on the US, although stating that it plans to sell off the famous Greyhound coach line.

The board’s expertise

One of the main critiques by Coast Capital was regarding the governance structure, specifically the composition of the board. Utilizing the Board Expertise functionality in CGlytics’ platform, insights are revealed as to the current board’s skills and expertise makeup. In particular, the Skills Matrix functionality in CGLytics’ solution aids companies to identify any skills gaps within their current board.

For FirstGroup, of the 11 directors currently sitting on the board, the graph shows that the strongest levels of expertise present on the board are International, Leadership and Executive. According to the Skills Matrix, it appears that the company lacks directors with expertise in the areas of Finance and Technology.

FirstGroup plc's Board Expertise and Skills Matrix
FirstGroup's Board Expertise and Skills Matrix
Source: CGLytics Executive Compensation Models

Pay for Performance

According to the pay policy of FirstGroup, the company aims to align its pay with performance and also with best corporate governance global practice. The company currently uses three performance criteria in the determination of its long-term incentive plans:

– Total Shareholder Return (TSR),
– Earnings Per Share (EPS), and
– ROCE.

Of which, the first two are equally weighted at 40% and the latter accounts for the remaining 20%.  The CGlytics Absolute Positioning tool sheds light on the relationship between the EPS performance component and the CEO’s realized compensation from 2013 to 2018.

CGLytics’ data and analytics are trusted and used worldwide by Glass Lewis, the leading independent proxy advisor, as a basis for their research on companies

 

As indicated in the graph below, there exists significant volatility in the movements of EPS and CEO pay. From 2016 to 2018, although both indicators fell, there seems to suggest that EPS had a much steeper fall compared to that of the CEO pay.

Specifically, while CEO pay reduced by 20% over the period, EPS fell by 43%. The CGlytics Relative Positioning Pay for Performance Evaluation tool compares FirstGroup’s CEO Realized Compensation with that of the company’s own peer group disclosed in the 2019 annual report against the peer group’s one year TSR.

The Pay for Performance evaluation reveals that the CEO’s Total Realized Compensation appears aligned with its performance indicator relative to its peers. The company’s Total Realized Pay ranks at lower decile at 18th percentile while TSR ranks in the 32nd percentile. It is also worth noting that the low pay stems from the fact that the company failed to meet its performance measures, and so the LTI part of the Total Compensation vested at only 12.5%.

Source: CGLytics Executive Compensation Models

Before, During and After the EGM

With Coast Capital’s request for an EGM, FirstGroup published a notice for the shareholders’ meeting to vote on the removal of six directors of the current board (including the Chairman, CEO and four other independent Directors). Additionally, appoint seven directors who are nominees of Coast Capital. Expectedly, in the EGM notice of meeting, the board recommended to vote against all the resolutions, believing that they the right strategy to take the company forward.

They added that Coast Capital’s director nominees do not have current relevant experience and also put forward plans that will leave the group with higher debts.

Interestingly, the movement and arguments garnered support from other leading shareholders.

Columbia Threadneedle, with a 10% stake, said it will join in voting against the reappointment of Wolfhart Hauser, the FirstGroup chairman since 2015. Schroders, with a 9% holding, was also seen to have taken sides with Coast Capital.

In a rather unexpected turn of events, one of the director nominees by Coast Capital, David Martin, missed the nomination affirmation deadline and was withdrawn ahead of the general meeting. Speculations suggested that David Martin, who is the former boss of Arriva, a transport company rival and one of the fund’s key nominees, decided not to run for a board seat because he had other projects under consideration.

At the general meeting which was held on June 25, 2019, the shareholders (on average) voted more than 20% in favor of the resolutions. The resolution to remove the Chairman Wolfhalt Hauser was supported by 29.33%, the resolution to remove the CEO was also approved by 25.15%. The resolutions to remove independent directors Imelda Mary, Stephen William Lawrence Gunning, James Frank Winestock and Martha Cecilia Poulter received votes of 31%, 25%, 46% and 25% respectively.

Not one of the directors put forward by the activist investor received the requisite votes to be appointed to the board.

Aftermath: Searching for a New Chairman

Despite receiving enough support to stay on the board, Wolfhart Hauser announced that he will not be seeking re-election to the board during the AGM, which is expected to come off on July 25, 2019. According to the company, senior independent director David Robbie will take on the role of chairman on an interim basis with effect from July 25, overseeing the search for a new chair.

To learn how companies can become proactive and support modern governance decision-making, with access to the same insights as activist investors and proxy advisors, click here.

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Glass Lewis’ assessment of executive remuneration reflects a balance of quantitative and qualitative considerations, with CGLytics’ suite of tools underpinning the quantitative component. In the following discussion, we review the quantitative assessment with respect to Deutsche Bank, using CGLytics’ analytical tools.

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A glance into Slack’s CEO pay

Slack Technologies recently started trading on the NYSE. In the company’s S-1 statement, the company does not disclose precisely what the pay structure will be for the coming year. Utilizing CGLytics’ Peer Composer tool, a hypothetical peer group from a data universe coverage of over 5,500 global companies was constructed for Slack, to determine the possible pay structure.

Slack Technologies recently started trading on the NYSE on June 20th, 2019. In the company’s S-1 statement, the company does not disclose precisely what the pay structure will be for the coming year, as this responsibility will be held by the incoming board of directors. However, it is expected that all such information will be disclosed at the company’s first AGM.

In Slack’s S-1 report, they make it clear that they intend to prioritize pay for performance as stated:

“Although we do not have a formal policy with respect to the grant of equity incentive awards to our executive officers, we believe that equity grants provide our executives with a strong link to our long-term performance, create an ownership culture, and help to align the interests of our executives and our stockholders”.

Slack’s S-1 does not disclose their own selected peer group for compensation. Utilizing CGLytics’ Peer Composer tool, a hypothetical peer group from a data universe coverage of over 5,500 global companies was constructed for Slack.

As the company is regarded as an enterprise technology company, parameters were defined to select comparable companies’ as reference points, namely 8×8 Inc. Using this approach, the following peer group of 20 companies was constructed:

Selected Peer Group for Slack:

Pegasus Systems, Inc. Nutanix, Inc.
Brightcove, inc. Blackline, Inc.
8×8, Inc. PROS Holdings, Inc.
Agilysys, Inc. Benefitfocus, Inc.
LivePerson, Inc. Instructure, Inc.
Synchronos Technologies, Inc. MobileIron, Inc.
Yext, Inc. Telenav, Inc
Cloudera, Inc. Varonis Systems, Inc.
FourScout Technologies, Inc. Q2 Holdings, Inc.
FireEye, Inc. Model N, Inc
Box, Inc. Carbon Black, Inc.
FireEye, Inc. Model N, Inc.
A10 Networks, Inc.

Source: CGLytics’ Peer Composer

Although Slack’s product can be regarded as novel, 8×8 is regarded as a suitable peer due to both companies specializing in providing communication solutions to corporates.

CGLytics’ data and analytics are trusted and used worldwide by Glass Lewis, the leading independent proxy advisor, as a basis for their research on companies.

 

As displayed in the chart below, this hypothetical peer group was used to gain insights into the average CEO remuneration breakdown, benchmarked against key performance indicator such as TSR, EBITDA and free cash flow.

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

The groups free cash flow and EBITDA appear somewhat of a divergent relationship where as TSR has remained relatively constant. The stacked bar chart above breaks down the average CEO group remuneration for each year and identifies LTI as the biggest contributor to CEO pay. Moreover, as the above bar chart illustrates, there exists in total seven components of pay which Slack may consider taking into consideration.

The components are:

– Base Salary; generally cash compensation levels for executives will increase after the IPO in somewhat of a “re-balancing act” to account for the equity offered up in the IPO. This is particularly true for venture backed start-ups where the majority of cash at hand will be spent on the operations of the business. Slack listed their 2018 fiscal salary compensation for their CEO as USD 356,952, comparatively, the average base salary for the peer group was USD 437,130.

– STIs; short-term incentives are typically benchmarked using operationally based performance measures and are subject to annual change. The compensation committee will need to take into consideration the specific company strategy as well as market conditions when determining what these will be.

– LTIs; these are most commonly equity-based incentives which take the form of stock options, restricted shares/RSUs and performance share plans. Both before and following an IPO, most companies rely on stock options as a means to incentivize the executives to drive the company share price above the exercise price. After a few years when companies have established themselves in the marketplace they tend to introduce a cyclical executive LTI plan. Slack has already detailed a “2019 Stock Option and Incentive Plan” which will allow the company the authority to grant equity to their executives.

Since Slack commenced trading, its share price has failed to gain momentum. It remains to be seen precisely how Slack’s pay structure for its executives will evolve post-IPO, and if future changes to the company’s executive incentive plan will push towards share-price based KPIs in order to swing the company’s low momentum out of its current doldrums.

CGLytics offers the broadest, up to date global data set and powerful benchmarking tools to conduct comprehensive analysis for executive compensation decisions and risk oversight. CGLytics is Glass Lewis’ source for global compensation data and analytics. These analytics power Glass Lewis’ voting recommendations in both their proxy papers and their custom policy engine service. To find out more click here.

Sources:

CGLYTICS DATA AND ANALYTICS   SLACK TECHNOLOGIES S-1  

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The increasing trend of shareholder opposition to executive pay

Votes against executive remuneration are growing. In this article we look at this change in the European indices and the S&P500.

Deutsche Bank: How CGLytics Tools Inform Glass Lewis’ Pay and Governance Analysis

Glass Lewis’ assessment of executive remuneration reflects a balance of quantitative and qualitative considerations, with CGLytics’ suite of tools underpinning the quantitative component. In the following discussion, we review the quantitative assessment with respect to Deutsche Bank, using CGLytics’ analytical tools.

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