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.

For public companies based in Germany, Glass Lewis’ assessment of a company’s remuneration practices balances quantitative data with a variety of qualitative considerations. Since its introduction in 2018, CGLytics’ data analysis has helped us understand the pay structure and identify both quantum-related and broader governance issues.

CGLytics’ analysis of main profitability indicators illustrate the link between pay and performance. The tools are particularly useful when assessing a company’s remuneration in relation to local and European peers. That’s all the more important in Germany, where large companies usually include a significant number of US companies in their benchmarks, leading to a potentially skewed context for remuneration decisions and ultimate payouts.

In the following discussion, we describe how CGLytics’ analytical tools informed Glass Lewis’ review of Deutsche Bank ahead of the 2019 AGM.

Overview of DBK

Annual Say-on-Pay won’t be mandatory in Germany until SRD II is implemented, allowing Deutsche Bank to omit any remuneration-related votes from its 2019 AGM agenda; the multinational last sought shareholder approval of its remuneration policy in 2017. Nonetheless, for large cap companies Glass Lewis provides a remuneration analysis comprising CGLytics graphs and tables and a write-up to summarise any material issues. Even when there is no proposal focused solely on remuneration, this analysis informs our assessment of overall governance practices and the performance of the board, its committees and directors. Beyond the Proxy Paper report and voting recommendations, the analysis helps us to shape our engagement agenda and identify areas for further research.

Deutsche Bank’s KPIs have been consistently negative in the past years due to a number of legal disputes and organisational issues. In 2017, the Bank posted its third consecutive loss. Awards for those three years would have partially vested, mostly due to the achievement of the CET1 capital ratio and relative TSR targets. However, the management board decided to waive all variable remuneration payments and grants for fiscal years 2015 to 2017, in order to demonstrate that shareholders’ experience was reflected in the pay of top executives.

In 2018, the Bank reported its first consolidated net profit since 2014 and resumed the payment and grant of short- and long-term awards to management board members.

Overview of CGLytics Remuneration Analysis

CGLytics’ relative indicators confirmed that the company’s performance was below peers, while payouts were above. Moreover, the  analysis raised concerns about an excessive use of upward discretion and costs related to executive turnover.

Using CGLytics’ data, our analysis showed a poor alignment between pay and performance during an ongoing period of subpar results. In recent years, the management board’s waiver of variable remuneration had demonstrated a good appreciation of shareholders’ concerns – but a return to profitability in 2018 prompted an immediate return to the payment of incentives which appeared excessive and premature. While we acknowledged an improvement in performance, CGLytics showed that Deutsche’s EPS, ROA and ROE were still negative and below peers. Similarly, CGLytics’ analysis of relative TSR and realised pay showed a disconnect between above-median CEO costs and shareholder returns that remained significantly below peers.

The awards granted last year aren’t reflected in the charts below due to their deferral structure – nonetheless, CEO remuneration was still higher than that of German and European peers, highlighting quantum concerns and a wider issue of executive succession planning and turnover costs. Last year, departed Deutsche executives, many of whom presided over a period of underperformance, received over €7 million in immediate non-compete payments, with additional severance payments totalling millions to be paid in tranches over the next few years.

Source: CGLytics Compensation Data and Models

Glass Lewis Perspective

The context for this quantitative analysis centred on Deutsche’s role as a multinational bank. In the case of large  financial institutions , we recognise that the use of US and international peers is – to a certain extent – reasonable. In addition, we recognise that banks subject to CRD IV must cap variable pay at 200% of fixed, which tends to inflate fixed pay levels. We also noted that 2018 awards were subject to extensive deferral requirements.

On balance, while cognisant of the competitive marketplace, we remained concerned by salary levels – and moreover by the high cost of severance, with some payments set to continue for years to come, along with the level of  variable pay awarded given shareholder returns.

Conclusion

Deutsche didn’t have any remuneration-specific proposals on its AGM agenda in 2019. Nonetheless, the executive pay, succession planning and broader governance issues raised by CGLytics’ analysis contributed to our overall assessment of the company’s governance, and our recommendation that shareholders vote against the ratification of supervisory board acts.

Access Glass Lewis’ Say on Pay analysis – Available through CGLytics

Glass Lewis uses CGLytics as it’s global compensation data provider. For the 2020 proxy season our data will provide the basis of Glass Lewis’ Say on Pay recommendations.

 

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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 popularity of linking equity compensation to socially responsible practices

Social responsibility is an increasing priority for corporates, reflecting changing pressures from stakeholders and society. In this article CGLytics looks at the trend of linking executive equity compensation to responsible social practices.

Historically, the primary concern of shareholders and company executives has been to deliver returns on investments and ensure that the company meets or exceeds their quarterly earnings expectations. Inevitably this led to a more short-term view with any projects that didn’t contribute to the present quarter / yearly results being at risk of cuts.

However, as some of the leading shareholders continue to embrace their roles in ensuring that companies are held accountable for their impact on both the environment and society, a growing trend has emerged of remuneration committees coming under pressure to link equity and compensation awards to sustainable environmental and socially responsible business practices (E.g. Alphabet 2019 Proxy Statement – Proposal 13).

A number of studies [Project ROI] have been carried out that link social and environmental impact to attracting and retaining customers, increasing revenue and building a vibrant corporate culture, whilst also having significant brand impact in a landscape where simply achieving results may become secondary to the “how” they were achieved.

Linking social impact to executive compensation

One of the most significant hurdles of linking the social impact of a company to the equity based compensation of senior executives and directors has been the attempt to identify  quantifiable measures for what can be a very subjective definition of success.

As the topic has come under more scrutiny there has been a visible appetite for businesses to provide more reporting and demonstrate measures that have been taken to ensure they partake in socially responsible practices. This can include:

  • Auditing suppliers to ensure that they and their subcontractors adhere to the values that they wish to demonstrate,
  • Allocating employee time and resources to positively impact society, or
  • Specific metrics regarding health and safety at work.

An example of this trend is Alcoa. In their 2019 proxy statement Alcoa links 30% of incentive goals to non-financial measures such as safety at work and diversity in the workforce, up from 20% in 2018.

In addition to the individual metrics defined by organizations, there has also been a growing trend of executive compensation being linked to the performance of a company on a corporate responsibility index (e.g. Dow Jones Sustainability Index). By linking elements of incentive multipliers to performance against a wider set of peers and the index, companies are able to not only create quantifiable targets to base awards on but are also focused on ensuring that they take a long term view in order to outperform competitors.

Gathering momentum

By defining these criteria and linking to long term incentives, businesses are more able to demonstrate their roles in a socially responsible business world. The positive financial impact of a socially responsible business is only a relatively recent trend. However, with a growing number of large investors taking an active role in the stewardship and engagement of their assets (Blackrock letter to CEOs), it is a trend that is likely to continue to gain traction.

Conversely, organizations that are perceived to be failing to meet their obligations to society will increasingly impact the brand, reputation, and ultimately the bottom line. Hence companies that traditionally have been focused on their financial results are exploring how they can adapt to the new criteria.

The Glass Lewis Equity Compensation Model

Glass Lewis’ Equity Compensation Model (ECM) is 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 Effect of Executive Departures on Company Performance

The Executive Management Team plays a pivotal role in the performance of a company. The dismissal or exit of one or more executives is often accompanied by a change in strategy. However, this isn’t always perceived as a positive change by investors.

The Executive Management Team plays a pivotal role in the performance of a company. Collectively they make strategic decisions which steer the company in a certain direction. The dismissal or exit of one or more executives is often accompanied by a change in strategy. However, this isn’t always perceived as a positive change by investors.

Executive Turnover and Performance

Using CGLytics data and intelligence it is possible to assess how executive departures may affect the Total Shareholder Return (TSR) of a company. In constructing the graph, the average TSR is taken across all years for each different number of Executive departures. The results below reveal that having more than one executive (CEO, CFO or COO) depart in a year causes a decline in TSR, whereas having just one executive depart may be seen as less of a concern.

However, when three or more executives depart there is a stark contrast, and TSR decreases significantly. Three executive departures in one year may indicate the cause for concern to investors and subsequently diminish investor confidence and with it, shareholder value.

Executive Departures from S&P 500 Companies and Average 1-year TSR (2013-2018)*

*The average 1-year TSR is calculated across six years (2013-2018) and the number of departures is calculated across all S&P500 companies during these six years.

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

 

A change in leadership inevitably means that the way a company is managed will be altered. The extent to which this alteration will permeate the company and affect its performance is contingent on the influence of the leadership position.

The most influential managerial position at a company is indisputably that of the CEO, closely followed by other executive positions such as COO or CFO. When there is a change in one of these positions it can be considered routine. Investors may not feel any apprehension over the future of the company as the majority of the executive team remains the same.

However, this is not the case when 3 or more executives depart the company. In such an event, investors may become uncertain over the future of the company. As aforementioned, this uncertainty is derived from investors losing their sense of familiarity with the management team. They may no longer feel they can comfortably predict the strategic decisions which management will undertake. This then casts doubt over the future performance of the company.

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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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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The Billionaire Battle Over Oil Part 2: The Oil Giant’s Resolve

In the second part of The Billionaire Battle Over Oil, we look at the outcome of the proposed deal between Occidental Petroleum and Anadarko.

After a contentious few weeks between Carl Icahn’s continuing proxy war against the Occidental Petroleum (Oxy)-Anadarko deal and the awaiting of the passing vote from shareholders in order for the acquisition to be completed, news has once again been made. Not surprisingly, the proposal passed with a 99% vote in favour of the deal that gives them $72.34 per share (based on last Wednesday’s price); Oxy and Anadarko secured the largest deal in the oil and gas industry since Royal Dutch Shell and BG Group.

However, with big deals come big costs, and the aforementioned is no exception. It adds over USD 40 billion to Oxy’s capital structure and leaves the company “with less flexibility to confront commodity price volatility” in the future. It is no surprise that Icahn chose to launch a proxy war and call for a replacement of board members in the wake of the deal.

Not to mention, Occidental Petroleum is selling USD 13 billion of debt to finance the acquisition after receiving more than USD 75 billion in orders for the deal at its peak. That’s the biggest demand for a debt sale since Aramco, but how will this play out?

Occidental will carry out the bond sale in 10 parts, the longest portion being a 30-year bond that yields around 2.25%. Further, to aid in the USD 10-15 billion divestment plan, Oxy has decided to sell off Anadarko assets in Africa to Total SA of France. The company is also searching for a buyer to hold majority control in the pipeline operator Western Midstream Partners LP, which Occidental is slated to inherit after the takeover.

The first week of August saw Occidental hedge nearly 40% of its combined oil production into 2020 as well, all in an attempt to reassure shareholders that dividend payouts will be possible while taking on an increased debt load.

While the deal may be a win from the company’s perspective, analysts and the market have voiced otherwise. Company ratings from analysts covering Occidental shifted, with the most telling from Evercore ISI “The company’s ‘Pledge’ for greater capital discipline and enhanced corporate governance proved fleeting with ROCE to decline significantly due to the Anadarko transaction. The commensurate decline in valuation places OXY at a 10-year low in the equity market.” The deal is claimed to be value-destructive, and the market bared its teeth towards Occidental and its antics; Year to date (YTD) shares are down nearly 26%, off more than 41% from the trailing twelve-month period, and down 30% since the acquisition was announced.

Generally, good financial stewardship hedges against overvalued, high-impact dealings. Thus, it begs the question: how could such a complex deal be so vigorously accepted internally, despite market kickback and open disagreement?

Viewing Occidental’s board of directors and their relevant skills and expertise within CGLytics’ platform, it is apparent that financial expertise and oversight is lacking.

Occidental Petroleum Corporation’s Board Expertise

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

It is possible that the lack of financial oversight was manifested when Occidental Petroleum decided to move forward with its acquisition and outbid Chevron for Anadarko. Increased financial responsibility may have produced different results, but the oil industry is ridden with mergers, acquisitions, and deals that walk a fine line in terms of good corporate governance practices.

It begs the question if the oil industry is in need of a corporate governance overhaul in the near future, as the story of Oxy-Anadarko is a tell-tale sign that a lack of expertise can lead to a less-than-stellar outcome.

Corporate boards and executive teams increasingly require insights and analytical tools to identify any potential areas of reputational risk. Without this oversight, companies may be targets of activist campaigns and cannot proactively prepare.

To learn more about how CGLytics’ deep, global data set and unparalleled analytical screening tools can potentially help you identify these areas of risk, click here.

Did you miss it? Read the article of The Billionaire Battle over Anadarko (Part 1) here.

About the Author

Rollin Buffington

US Research Analyst

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Barrick Gold Corp, Acacia Mining and Turbulence in Tanzania

Issues involving the mining industry and corporate governance practices are nothing new. And Barrick Gold’s recently deal with Acacia Mining is no exception. After multiple negotiations and tradeoffs in the past, Acacia Mining has agreed to Barrick, the majority shareholder, buying out the remaining minority shareholders.

Barrick Gold Corporation, based in Canada, is one of the largest gold mining companies in the world. It currently holds 262,246,950 shares of Acacia Mining (64% stake in share capital). To gain the remaining 36%, Barrick has proposed a 24.2% premium on the closing price of Acacia shares on July 18. The deal comes in at USD 430 million and will take the company private.

The Acacia CEO, after finally reaching an agreement, stated: “Given all the circumstances, this is possibly the best outcome.”

Perhaps more importantly, is that the deal aims to resolve many of the longstanding public issues between the Tanzanian government and Acacia that have plagued the mining company’s operations.

Two years ago, the Tanzanian government banned the export of mineral concentrates. This movement was due in part because the government believed they had not received a fair share of profits from mining in the country. Two of Acacia’s units came under fire, being handed a USD 190 billion tax bill from the government. This tax bill has since been reduced to USD 300 million.

Additionally, Tanzania recently demanded that Acacia cease use of a waste-storage facility at a core gold mine. These disruptions have crippled operations and caused Acacia’s shares to fall 50% since 2017.

After facing external pressures and at the insistence of minority shareholders, Barrick CEO, Mark Bristow, proposed a higher offer than what was initially proposed to Acacia in May. This was recently accepted.

Shareholder awareness proved a worthy factor here; Acacia shares rallied 20% on the deal and a positive response was received from the Tanzanian government. This is a fine example of shareholders prioritizing the survival of a company.

Delving into Acacia Mining’s board composition, by utilizing CGLytics’ board effectiveness tools in the online platform, provides insights into why the company may not have managed issues as effectively as possible.

Acacia Mining plc’s Board Expertise

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

The board expertise and skills matrix from CGLytics show that experience in the area of governance severely lacks, however industry and sector, and financial expertise is heavily present. This may provide an explanation to the problematic relations they experienced with the Tanzanian governance. It generates a question of if more governance experience was present on the board, would the situation have been different? While the survival of the company and acceptance of the “best-we-can-get” deal could be attributed to the strong presence of industry and financial expertise.

The recent movements have rekindled, if only just, a better relationship with the government. Because of Barrick’s increased involvement, the Tanzanian government agreed to receive USD 300 million for the tax debt as a gesture of goodwill. The company was also given the option to pay in installments, with an upfront cost of USD 100 million to be paid out in addition.

Furthermore, Barrick was able to negotiate an agreement in which payment to the Tanzanian government is dependent on the export ban being lifted from Acacia and its subsidiaries in the country. In a “give and take” action, the Tanzanian government also claimed a 16% stake in Acacia in the form of Class B shares.

The complex strategy devised is a clear manifestation of the board leveraging its expertise and abilities to secure a better position. Had there been more Governance oversight, perhaps the company would not have encountered such trifles. The devastating government backlash will certainly continue to have an effect for years to come. Nonetheless the Board can rest easy knowing that it has found the best outcome to a longstanding battle, one that could’ve left Acacia and Barrick incapable of recovering.

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.

About the Author

Rollin Buffington

US Research Analyst

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Correcting Founder’s Syndrome: Executive Compensation Practices at Ralph Lauren

Ahead of the Ralph Lauren AGM, CGLytics looks at how CEO pay has changed since the founder’s exit, and how the nominations change the board composition.

Ralph Lauren Corporation, a global leader of premium lifestyle products, is scheduled to hold its 2019 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders (AGM) on August 1, 2019. Shareholders attending the AGM will vote on the following resolutions:

  • The election of 4 directors to serve until the 2020 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders;
  • The ratification of the appointment of Ernst & Young LLP as the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending March 28, 2020;
  • The approval, on an advisory basis, the compensation of the Company’s named executive officers and the Company’s compensation philosophy, policies, and practices;
  • The adoption of the Company’s 2019 Long-Term Stock Incentive Plan.

 

Election of Directors:

Ralph Lauren has two classes of directors, Class A and Class B. At the upcoming AGM, four Class A directors will be proposed for election: Frank A. Bennack, Joel L. Fleishman, Michael A. George, and Hubert Joly. We note that in 2018, Ralph Lauren increased the size of its Board with the appointment of three new directors, namely Michael A. George, Angela Ahrendts, and Linda Findley Kozlowski, ostensibly to expand the Board’s “diversity of skills and experiences”. These three directors bring to the Board Leadership, Executive, and Industry/Sector expertise, with Michael A. George and Linda Findley Kozlowski being active CEOs in two retail companies and Angela Ahrendts being a former executive of Apple, Burberry Group plc and Kate Spade & Company. In terms of skills, the three individuals bring about Marketing, Sales and Operations knowledge. Nevertheless, the Board still appears to lack Technology and Financial expertise.

However, in addition to the diversity of skills that the addition of the new directors has brought to the board, the company also now maintains a gender diversity level of 50%, well above the market standard for the United States.

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Executive Compensation:

The third resolution in the agenda is a shareholders’ advisory vote to approve the Company’s executive compensation.

After the Founder, Ralph Lauren, stepped down from his position as CEO, Ralph Lauren has gone through two CEO changes, with Stefan Larsson serving from November 2015 to May 2017, and Patrice Louvet serving since July 2017. As can be seen from the absolute comparison chart generated by CGLytics’ Pay for Performance module, there appears to be a misalignment between CEO compensation and one-year total shareholder return between 2008 and 2015. However, it appears that this misalignment has reduced since Mr. Lauren left the position of CEO. Furthermore, we also see that the total realized compensation for the CEO thereafter has been reduced significantly.

Source: CGLytics' P4P Modeler

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

CEO Compensation Package Breakdown

Historically, the CEO’s compensation package has primarily focused on his STI opportunity (between 2009 and 2012). However, since then, the CEOs compensation package breakdown has shifted towards long-terms incentives, which now form a greater component of the CEO’s compensation package.

Additionally, in 2017 the performance measures of LTI grants shifted from 3-year Cumulative Operating Margin and Operating Margin to 3-year Cumulative Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) and 3-year Relative Total Shareholder Return (TSR) in 2018. Ralph Lauren also added Global digital revenue as a new measure for STI grants, a modifying KPI that could result in an “adjustment of bonuses upwards or downwards by 10%.”

Source: CGLytics' P4P Modeler

Relative Positioning

In comparison to Ralph Lauren’s own disclosed peer goup, the Company’s CEO pay appears now to be line with its peers. Additionally, when reviewing the company’s relative positioning among its peers, there also appears to be a pay for performance alignment between Ralph Lauren’s 3-year TSR and compensation paid to its CEO.

RalphLauren4
Source: CGLytics' P4P Modeler

Ralph Lauren also proposes adopting a 2019 Long-Term Stock Incentive Plan, under which the Company awards equity compensation to executive officers, to replace the current Ralph Lauren Corporation 2010 Amended and Restated Long-Term Stock Incentive Plan. Under the new plan, LTI awards will be determined based on 3-year Cumulative Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) and 3-year Relative Total Shareholder Return (TSR).

Overall, we find that although the company has seen shifts in executive leadership over the past few years after Mr. Lauren left the reigns of the company to his successor, we also find that the company’s executive compensation programs have fallen more in line with market norms, correcting a former pay for performance misalignment that extended under Mr. Lauren’s leadership.

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.

Sources

CGLYTICS DATA AND ANALYTICS   RALPH LAUREN 2019 PROXY STATEMENT

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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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CSR Limited: Strike One on Remuneration Report

At the CSR Limited AGM in June 2019, the remuneration report received 34% of votes cast against which constitutes a first strike for the purposes of the corporations ACT 2001. CGLytics looks at the alignment of pay against performance and some of the key drivers behind the investor response.

CSR Limited, a major Australian industrial company held its Annual General Meeting on June 26, 2019. The board presented three ordinary resolutions and one special resolution to its shareholders. Included in the ordinary business proposal was to consider the re-election of non-executive director, Matthew Quinn, this year. The company also sought to receive shareholders’ support for the financial report, the director’s report and the auditor’s report for the financial year. Another ordinary resolution that was proposed by the board was to approve and adopt the remuneration report for the financial year ended March 31, 2019.

For the special resolution, the board advised shareholders to consider the granting of long-term incentives for Julie Coates, who will be taking up the position of managing director this September 2019.

The board’s expertise ahead of the AGM

CSR’s corporate governance states that the company seeks to maintain a board composed of directors that have a range of collective skills and experience to ensure corporate development. CSR also elaborates that it considers individuals that are highly-experienced in manufacturing, finance, law and other sectors that the company seeks to pursue in the future.

CSR Board Skills Matrix
Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Using the Board Expertise functionality of CGLytics’ platform, we were able to gain insight on the current skills of the members of the board. The Skills Matrix functionality also aids companies to identify any skills gaps in its current matrix. For CSR, of the six directors currently sitting on the board, the graph shows that CSR’s strongest expertise is Finance. The second strongest suits of expertise include Corporate Development, Operations, Project Management and Sales. One area where the company is missing a director with specific expertise is in Governance. The company also lacks directors that have any relevant company Industry and Sector experience. However, the upcoming appointment of a new managing director on September 2019, Julie Coates, may be able to alleviate this missing element to the board’s skill set.

Julie Coates’ Expertise from the CGLytics platform

Board Expertise

Pay for Performance

Another board resolution the company was seeking approval on was the remuneration report and financial report. CSR promotes consistency in the remuneration of senior executives by ensuring that the company and individual performance are aligned with their incentives. The company focuses on compensation that generates long-term value for senior executives. The company only uses two performance criteria in the determination of executive compensation: Total Shareholder Return (TSR) and Earnings Per Share (EPS) for the long-term incentive plan in which both have equal weight of 50 percent.

The board states that absolute TSR instead of relative TSR helps align shareholder interests by keeping senior executives focused on increasing earnings and share price. On the other hand, the EPS helps measure the continued growth in earnings of the company and is parallel to the interests of the shareholders.

The CGlytics Absolute Positioning tool allows insight into the relationship between the two performance conditions and the Managing Director’s granted compensation from 2013 to 2018. As indicated in the graph below, there exists significant volatility in the movements of all performance criteria used in the determination of executive pay: TSR and EPS. From 2015 to 2016, CEO pay, EPS and TSR increased. The latter especially increased by 91.6%. From 2017 to 2018, CEO pay increased by 48% and TSR fell by 46.5%.

CSR CEO pay vs EPS and 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. Find out more.

The CGLytics Relative Positioning Pay for Performance Evaluation tool compares CSR’s CEO compensation with that of the company’s own peer group against the peer group’s three-year TSR. The Pay for Performance evaluation demonstrates that CSR’s Total Realized Compensation appears misaligned compared to its peers. The company’s Total Realized Pay ranks above median at 69th percentile while three-year TSR ranks in the 15th percentile.

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Granting of Rights

In the Annual report for the financial year ended March 31, 2019, CSR disclosed that it developed a performance-related pay which includes both the Short-Term Incentive (STI) and Long-Term Incentive (LTI) plans, both of which are measured against performance conditions.

The plan would utilize the same performance criteria as mentioned above: TSR and Earning Per Share (EPS) over a three-year performance period (April 1, 2019- March 31, 2022) in financial year-end 2020. The two performance conditions will be weighted at 50 per cent of the overall grant.

The board uses an annual growth rate of 14 percent for 75 percent vesting and an 18 percent stretch for a full vesting of rights for the TSR condition. The board also uses a compound growth rate of 5 percent target for a 50 percent vesting and 10 percent stretch for a 100 percent vesting for EPS condition. There was no change in the hurdles applied in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The board is seeking for the granting of 360,241 performance rights for Julie Coates, the newly appointed managing director. The amount is pro-rata of her one-year long-term incentive remuneration based on her date of appointment on September 2, 2019. The board also proposes that Ms. Coates is entitled to a maximum LTI award of up to 120 percent of her total fixed remuneration.

Highlights of the AGM

At the AGM which took place on June 26, 2019, all the resolutions were passed as ordinary resolutions. However, as suggest in the potential Pay For Performance misalignment demonstrated above, the remuneration report received 34% of votes cast against which constitutes a first strike for the purposes of the corporations ACT 2001.

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.

For more information on how CGLytics’ can support modern governance decision-making and potentially identify any areas of risk, click here.

 

Sources:

CGLYTICS DATA AND ANALYTICS

CSR LTD 2019 NOTICE OF MEETING

CSR LIMITED ANNUAL REPORT

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