Westpac: the issues, regulators and lessons to be learnt

It has been revealed that several banks have been involved in fraudulent and criminal conduct, one of them being Westpac Banking Corporation.

Since the Royal Commission was established to inquire and report on misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services industry in Australia (on December 2017 )[1], it has been revealed that several banks have been involved in fraudulent and criminal conduct, one of them being Westpac Banking Corporation.

One of the more egregious acts of misconduct, according to the Royal Commission, was Westpac filling out loan forms and documents on behalf of its clients. Westpac was quick to acknowledge that it was normal practice for staff to help clients fill out documents on their behalf. However, after further investigation, there was evidence to suggest that the bank falsely witnessed documents and marked documents without client approval and acknowledgement[2].

 

The case of Ms. Flanagan

A specific case for this issue was that of an elderly pensioner, Ms. Carolyn Flanagan. Ms. Flanagan became a guarantor for a business loan taken out by her daughter. Westpac, despite having knowledge of Ms. Flanagan’s numerous medical conditions such as being legally blind, deafness, depression and a previous battle with cancer, allowed her to become a guarantor of AUD 165,000 business loan while claiming her home as collateral. Unfortunately, her daughter’s business failed two years after the loan was taken out in 2010. Westpac sought to evict the pensioner to recoup funds, but allowed Ms. Flanagan to live in her home until her passing. However, if she decided to sell the property, even for the purpose of funding her aged care and medical bills, she would have been liable to pay AUD 170,000 from the sale, plus three per cent per annum accruing.

Westpac’s general manager has admitted that the bank had incorrectly filled out Ms. Flanagan’s daughter’s loan. The marked document suggested that Ms. Flanagan sought independent legal and financial advice regarding the business loan, when in fact, she had not. Westpac admits its staff had wrongly assumed that Ms. Flanagan would be seeing a lawyer after the meeting. The bank lacked due diligence in checking for the elderly’s sources of income, placing the loan at greater risk. Furthermore, a Westpac employee admitted to signing the loan documents as a witness even before Ms. Flanagan signed the document.

 

Westpac CEO apologizes and releases statement

After the scandal was released, Westpac Group’s CEO Brian Hartzer released a public apology and a guarantee that the bank will learn from its mistakes[3]. The introduction of low rate credit cards, lower transaction fees, amendment of remuneration structures and other initiatives are some of the measures taken by Westpac to remedy its misconduct[4].

 

Shareholders show distrust via remuneration report

Unfortunately, these initiatives were not enough to win back the trust and satisfaction of Westpac shareholders. During the 2018 Annual General Meeting (AGM), 64.16 per cent of shareholders voted against the adoption of the remuneration report[5]. This resulted in a first strike for the company. According to the Corporations Act 2001, a company will be given a first strike when 25 per cent or more vote “no” on the remuneration report. The company must be able to review and reform its remuneration structures before the next AGM[6]. The following AGM determines whether a company gets a second strike. This is when 25 per cent or more shareholders vote against its remuneration report for the second time. During the next AGM, shareholders will establish whether directors need to stand for re-election. If 50 per cent or more shareholders vote to pass a “spill” resolution, a “spill” meeting will be held within 90 days[7].

Despite the 25 per cent cut of short-term cash awards to executives, shareholders still showed concern of executives receiving large amounts of bonuses following the scandals revealed by the Royal Commission. Westpac Chairman Mr. Lindsay Maxsted pointed out that such misconduct was not limited only to Westpac, and he continued to defend via the decrease in short-term awards for executives. He further urged shareholders not to focus on the issues released by the Commission as this does not reflect the overall culture of the company[8]. Westpac has allotted AUD 281 million for customer compensation and litigation costs[9][10]. After the no-confidence vote on the company’s remuneration report, Mr. Maxsted said that the bank will be reviewing the remuneration structure and taking shareholder feedback very seriously[11].

 

Westpac’s Pay for Performance alignment compared to country and industry peers

CGLytics’ Pay for Performance analysis (using its Pay for Performance modeling application) shown below, has compared Westpac’s CEO total realized pay with the industry peer group’s three-year Total Shareholder Return (TSR). The CEO’s pay is in the 45th percentile compared to the three-year TSR being ranked in the 20th percentile which shows that the CEO’s pay is aligned to the TSR performance following the 25 per cent decrease in short-term cash awards.

Westpac’s CEO Pay for Performance

Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Westpac’s assessment of culture, governance and accountability

After the 2018 AGM, the Australian Regulation Prudential Authority (APRA) requested that Westpac undergo an assessment of its culture, governance and accountability (CGA)[12]. The bank’s CGA self-assessment report stated that the company needs improvement of understanding non-financial risks. Westpac admitted that the bank’s management of non-financial risks was “generally less mature” than its management of financial risks[13]. The bank’s recommendations are focused around five streams, namely: governance, risk and compliance, customers, remuneration and accountability and culture. The CGA report was released in the hopes of avoiding a second strike during the 2019 AGM.

Towards the end of November 2019, Austrac, an Australian Government regulator for financial crimes, discussed legal actions against Westpac following an estimated AUD 23 million legal breaches worth over AUD 11 billion[14]. Among these breaches, the most detrimental is the one regarding transactions involved in child exploitation in the Philippines.

Austrac claims that Westpac failed to meet anti-money laundering and counter terror finance (AML-CTL) laws by allowing some 3,000 transactions, all valued less than AUD 500,000, made by twelve Westpac customers. Austrac stated that Westpac should have flagged these transactions, as they were consistent with child exploitation practices[15]. Such practices include: customers remitting small amounts of money to the Philippines and Southeast Asia despite having no familial or business connections in those countries, customers remitting money to a suspected “child exploitation arranger” in the Philippines, and customers with known prior child exploitation charges remitting money to the Philippines.

Westpac was accused of not conducting due diligence despite having knowledge of the aforementioned practices. Only 18 months after the transactions had occurred did Westpac take any action.

Westpac responds to scandal with changes to their board

After the release of this new scandal, shareholders of Westpac have been aggressive in wanting to terminate CEO Brian Hartzer[16]. However, the Board of Directors have expressed that there is no evidence that Mr. Hartzer was aware of these criminal transactions. As a result, Westpac again promised to cut down bonuses of its senior executives and promised to create a financial crime committee[17]. Despite these efforts, pressure and criticism from shareholders pushed CEO Mr. Brian Hartzer, Non-Executive Director and Chair of the Board Risk Committee Mr. Ewen Crouch, and Chairman Mr. Lindsay Maxsted to step down from the board and company[18].

After the awaited 2019 AGM on December 12, 2019, results were released that 35.90 per cent of shareholders voted against the adoption of the remuneration report, earning them a strike two. However, 91.26 per cent of shareholders voted no on the conditional spill resolution[19]. All directors except Mr. Ewen Crouch, who had withdrawn his re-election, passed the re-election and election on their positions[20]. Mr. Maxsted stated that the Board will be decreasing 20 per cent in executive pay, and deduct short-term awards to zero.

 

Westpac’s board skills matrix and expertise

Looking into Westpac’s board expertise and skills, one may want to deduce if the Board had the right skills set to manage the affairs of the Board. According to CGLytics’ Board Expertise application, Westpac has a significant number of directors that have experience in advisory which is timely and relevant during this turbulent time. Westpac has claimed that the Board is competent in finance, including financial risks. However, the Board lacks expertise in risk management, specifically in non-financial risk to account for risks such as reputational damage, for the next AGMs. Another expertise that is crucial in this time is legal, where compliance and governance is much needed to enforce regulatory frameworks provided by Austrac, APRA and other regulators [21].

Westpac's board expertise and skills

westpac_board
Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Westpac has responded by appointing a new Chairman, Mr. John McFarlane, who has over 40 years of experience in banking and is expected by shareholders to quickly settle current issues as well as appoint a new Chief Executive Officer[22]. Another step that Westpac has taken following the scandals is to appoint Accountability Review Advisory Panel members. The following members of the panel are: Mr. Colin Carter, Dr. Kerry Schott and Dr. Zygmunt Switkwoski[23]. The panel’s objective is to give recommendations on risk governance and accountability in response to Austrac.

Are you prepared for the 2020 proxy season? The CGLytics platform provides users with a wealth of governance insights. From executive remuneration, board composition and risk indicators, CGLytics empowers Companies, Boards, Investors and Third-parties to be one step ahead.

CGLytics executive pay data is trusted worldwide by leading independent proxy advisor Glass Lewis for research analysis used in their proxy papers. Access the same data in the CGLytics application.

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References

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/apr/20/banking-royal-commission-all-you-need-to-know-so-far

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/apr/20/banking-royal-commission-all-you-need-to-know-so-far

[3] https://www.westpac.com.au/about-westpac/media/media-releases/2018/28-september/

[4] https://www.westpac.com.au/about-westpac/media/media-releases/2018/28-january/

[5] https://thewest.com.au/business/banking/westpac-chiefs-brace-for-fiery-perth-agm-following-banking-royal-commission-revelations-ng-b881048164z

[6] https://aicd.companydirectors.com.au/resources/all-sectors/director-remuneration

[7] https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/what-is-the-two-strikes-rule-20121008-278us.html

[8] https://www.afr.com/companies/financial-services/westpac-gets-a-first-strike-at-agm-20181212-h190vn

[9] https://www.westpac.com.au/news/making-news/2018/12/strike-sends-a-strong-message/

[10] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/dec/12/disgruntled-westpac-shareholders-vote-down-executive-pay-over-bonuses

[11] https://www.sharecafe.com.au/2018/12/13/58152/

[12] https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/westpac-risks-second-strike-on-executive-pay-20190624-p520ns.html

[13]https://www.westpac.com.au/content/dam/public/wbc/documents/pdf/aw/media/Westpac_Self-Assessment_Report_.pdf

[14] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/nov/21/what-is-westpac-accused-of-and-how-is-this-related-to-child-exploitation-explainer

[15] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/nov/21/legal-breaches-allowed-westpac-customers-to-pay-for-child-sex-undetected-austrac-alleges

[16] https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/banking/calls-for-blood-over-westpac-money-laundering-and-child-exploitation-scandal/news-story/8f85b5a35cf033b08ab40d74c369f72b

[17] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/nov/28/more-directors-may-leave-westpac-as-investigation-seeks-board-accountability

[18] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-12/westpac-chairman-agm-protest-vote/11792010

[19]https://www.westpac.com.au/content/dam/public/wbc/documents/pdf/aw/ic/WBC_AGM_2019_Results.pdf

[20] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-12/westpac-chairman-agm-protest-vote/11792010

[21]https://www.westpac.com.au/content/dam/public/wbc/documents/pdf/aw/media/Westpac_Self-Assessment_Report_.pdf

[22] https://www.westpac.com.au/news/making-news/2020/01/sufficiently-battle-hardened-westpac-names-new-chair/

[23] https://www.westpac.com.au/about-westpac/media/media-releases/2019/20-december/

About the Author

Alex Co: APAC Research Analyst

Alex graduated from the S P Jain School of Global Management in Sydney with a degree in finance and entrepreneurship. She previously worked in the compliance division at a large financial institution and gained her experience as a research analyst.

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Concern over Wesfarmers’ executive pay?

Wesfarmers, which owns some of Australia’s most recognizable brands, sees concerns from shareholders and proxy advisors regarding its CEO and executive pay during the last proxy season

Wesfarmers, one of the biggest conglomerates in Australia, saw concern from its shareholders with a negative response during the recent 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) that was held last November 14, 2019.

Although all resolutions were passed, there was a large number of shareholders that voted against the adoption of the remuneration report, resulting in a 21.45 percent disapproval. One of the biggest causes of the pessimistic response from shareholders was due to proxy advisor ISS advising investors to go against the remuneration report because of an “excessive” compensation plan.

Although Wesfarmers’ demerger from Coles supermarket resulted in a 360 percent increase in after-tax profit to AUD 5.5 billion, the company will neither give incentive nor penalize its executives [1].

Shareholders were concerned over the pay for both Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Robert Scott and Independent Chairman Michael Chaney [2]. Mr. Scott has received over AUD 4 million in total realized pay and Mr. Chaney has received AUD 780,000 in total compensation, which ISS claims is higher than its industry peers.

CGLytics Pay for Performance Analysis

According to our CGLytics analysis, Wesfarmers has a higher CEO total realized pay over three years than its three-year increase in total shareholder return (TSR), when compared against its country and industry peers.

This misalignment of the CEO pay compared to company performance may have been the cause of the company almost undergoing a first-strike. A first-strike occurs when 25 percent of shareholders vote against the adoption of the remuneration report and the company would need to either amend or justify its remuneration policies before the next AGM [3].

Wesfarmers Limited's CEO Pay for Performance

wesfarmers CEO pay
Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Not only was there concern over the CEO pay for Wesfarmers, but the ambiguous changes in awards policies [4]. This was also seen as an issue for other proxy firms such as Glass Lewis and the Australian Shareholders’ Association (ASA).

What is the KEEPP bonus scheme?

The 2016 and 2017 Key Executive Equity Performance Plan (KEEPP) bonus had been cancelled following the demerger of Coles supermarket, but a bonus will be rewarded with the same principles as KEEPP, however with different performance conditions.

The 2017 KEEPP Allocation for the CEO and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) had the following performance metrics: 50 percent weighting on Wesfarmers relative to the TSR of the ASX 100 Index, 20 percent weighting on absolute Return on Equity (ROE) and 30 percent weighting on strategic measures.

Because of the demerger in 2018, the company has removed the performance condition on absolute ROE as it may have an impact on the targets of executives. The 2018 KEEPP allocation for the CEO and CFO is as follows: 60 percent weighting on the Wesfarmers’ relative TSR against the S&P/ASX100 Index, 20 percent weighting on Wesfarmers’ portfolio management and investment outcomes and 20 percent weighting on strategic measures. However, the company was not able to be fully transparent and clear in its disclosure of strategic measures and investment outcomes, only stating the improvement of data analytics and better progress in gender balance.

Wesfarmers underpays due to complications in payroll

After the release of the 2019 AGM results, another scandal arose when it came to light that Wesfarmers had underpaid up to 6,000 current and former employees of its industrial division, resulting in AUD 15 million or more in underpayments [5]. The company stated that its cause was due to a defect in a payroll system. The company plans to expedite the sending of payments into the banks of underpaid current and former employees before the end of 2019, but is hindered by the complication of its payroll system [6][7].

Linking director pay to competency and expertise

Companies not only link executive pay to performance, but more often than not, companies also link director pay to competency and expertise [8]. With the current events that Wesfarmers has experienced, it is suggested that the company would benefit from a board that can guide it towards its strategic direction, mitigate risk and oversee company performance.

According to our analysis (performend using the CGLytics application), Wesfarmers’ board has strengths in the areas of ‘advisory’ and ‘finance’. Wesfarmers recent acquisition of the Catch Group in 2019 (an e-commerce company that runs Catch.com.au, Mumgo, Grocery Run and Brands Exclusive), should see greater skills and expertise added in the area of ‘technology’, which is currently very low. ‘Governance’ experience, to spot and mitigate risks, is also worth looking at to ensure issues are resolved smoothly in the future.

Wesfarmers board's expertise and skills

Wesfarmers skills and expertise
Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

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The DOs and DON’Ts when rethinking incentive plans

Why have 75% of first-time say-on-pay votes failed in 2019? A large number of negative votes can be attributed to incentives. Companies need to rethink their incentive plans and make sure metrics truly benchmark performance.

Seventy-five percent of first-time say-on-pay (SoP) votes failed in 2019, and a large number of these negative votes focused on incentives.

There is an increasing need for companies to fully rethink their incentive plans, as the CGlytics whitepaper “How to take the testing of equity-based compensation plans into your own hands” points out.

“It is imperative that companies design their equity pay plans to ensure they receive shareholder approval first time, every time. In order to meet investor expectations, companies need to understand how they, and the proxy advisors they rely on, evaluate equity plans and make voting decisions.”

Marc Ullman, a partner with Meridian Compensation Partners explains what to do and what not to do in rethinking incentive plans.

First of all, companies need to fully rethink their compensation plans, and not to just tweak them. Making just a few cosmetic changes will not suffice to ensure that incentives are effective. At least every two years, a real restructuring is needed.

Often shareholder pushback will incite a rethink, but even with shareholder support, benchmarking for effectiveness is critical as priorities change and the business climate evolves. The plan must reflect the new realities the business faces.

Or the incentive plan may simply become too complicated to be useful, as continually including more metrics and other add-ons makes application confusing. This often happens as businesses try to simply tweak the plan instead of really rethinking it.

 

Here are the do’s and don’ts to achieve as near optimal alignment between pay and performance as possible:

– If you need a full-scale rethink, don’t settle for a mere tweak. Make sure that what you do matters, don’t nibble around the edges. Make sure the metrics truly benchmark performance.

– But don’t overdo it. Pick out the key metrics and focus on that; don’t try to transform the whole structure unless you really feel that you have to.

– As the rethinking process is underway, take note of the solid rationale that stems from the business model. This will be something to communicate at the end of the process, and one that can be used for grounding the basis of your thinking.

– Make sure you include all the right people: Finance, HR, Corporate leadership, corporate leadership and the business unit. Everyone should buy in to the metrics and the targets that are being set.

– Make sure your plan pays something in year one. After a big rollout you need to make sure that design provides results. Otherwise it could hurt your credibility.

– Take advantage of feedback from shareholder outreach. More and more companies are actively talking to shareholders, and their points of view should at least be considered as the design is taking shape. Consider investor relations and investor perspective and proxy advisors like ISS and Glass Lewis.

– Communicate internally and externally. You have multiple audiences internally.

 

Predict Shareholder Approval with Glass Lewis’ Equity Compensation Model

 

The Glass Lewis Equity Compensation Model (ECM) allows you to instantly test and review your incentives plan using the same key criteria and scoring system as leading proxy advisor Glass Lewis. The ECM supports testing of 4,300+ publicly-traded U.S. firms including the Russell 3000 and exclusively available via CGLytics.

With the ECM you can confidently engage, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your current and future equity plans. Ensure you get the votes to legally grant equity compensation to your executives, board members and staff.

Click here to learn more about the ECM application or request a no-obligation demonstration.

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Boeing: What has been done? And will that be enough?

Will changes to Boeing’s board be enough to sharpen focus on product and safety going forward? This article examines Boeing’s corporate governance practices and current board expertise, bringing to light some interesting findings.

This article examines Boeing’s corporate governance practices and current expertise on the board. This raises the question if recent changes will really be enough to sharpen Boeing’s focus on product and safety going forward.

Disaster strikes

Following the horrific plane crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in October 2018 and March 2019, a mounting crisis faces Boeing. As a result, Boeing has recently received a fair share of negative publicity, been the subject of investigations and named in lawsuits. Beyond the general public, shareholders and corporate governance experts are infuriated. They collectively question the effectiveness and transparency of the board and leadership—with good reason.

Various recent studies have shown Boeing’s quality of corporate governance.  Findings reveal Beoing ranks near the bottom of all S&P 500 company boards[1]. Even more interesting is the board’s compensation data.

CGLytics data reveals that of all S&P 500 companies, Boeing ranked 91st out of the 500 with the highest paid non-executive directors; receiving an average of $345,000 per director in 2018.

In addition, new developments at congressional hearings held in October 2019 have revealed that many concerns were warranted.  Boeing executives admitted to flaws in the design of its 737 Max. Pilot error was originally thought to be the main cause of the plane crashes, however that sentiment has changed and a “pattern of deliberate concealment”[2] is now suspected. Instead of pilot error, it is now alleged that insufficient information provided to the pilots regarding the new changes to the plane caused these unfortunate results. The Boeing CEO stated at the congressional hearings that, until recently, he was unaware of the apparent issues. It seems greater oversight and communication was, and is, needed within Boeing, its executives, and the Board.

Board takes steps to increase safety

We note that Boeing has taken various actions to ensure the future safety of its aircrafts. In August 2019, the board established a permanent Aerospace Safety Committee to assist the board in “the oversight of the safe design, development, manufacture, production, operations, maintenance, and delivery of the aerospace products and services of the Company.” Along with the establishment of the committee, the company also formed a Product and Services Safety organization, which is responsible for monitoring safety related events within the company’s major businesses.  These additional layers of oversight will hopefully strengthen Boeing’s safety focus and minimize unfortunate future safety issues on the consumer end.

The board also “amended the company’s Governance Principles to include safety-related experience as one of the criteria it will consider in choosing future directors.”[3] Following this amendment, the board appointed former Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson, whose prior positions included significant safety experience, as a director. Admiral Richardson,  along with Admiral Edmund Giambastiani,  appear to be the only director on Boeing’s 14-member board that has safety experience in aviation.  It also does not appear that the board currently contains directors with technical experience in aviation, except for CEO Dennis Muilenburg who was an engineer for Boeing. This could raise the question whether the board has enough expertise to address, both technical and safety issues, to challenge Muilenburg, who previously held a dual role as Chairman and CEO of Boeing for over three years.

Skills and expertise on Boeing's board

Changes for CEO Muilenburg

In October 2019, Boeing’s board decided to remove CEO Muilenburg from his role as Chairman. This action was taken to “enable Muilenburg to focus full time on running the company as it works to return the 737 Max safely to service, ensure full support to Boeing’s customers around the world, and implement changes to sharpen Boeing’s focus on product and services safety” and to “strengthen the company’s governance and safety management processes.”[4] It is still unclear, however, whether Muilenburg will receive any pay cut or even resign following his failure to address the 737 Max issues. When asked at the Congressional hearings about whether he would take any pay cut following this mistake, the CEO said: “Our Board will make those determinations.”

How Boeing could increase board oversight

Board oversight and transparency is a significant issue in corporate governance. It is important to be aware of board composition, executives, and the information that entails when viewing any company. CGLytics provides necessary data analytics that could lend a useful hand in analyzing boards, their efficacy, and transparency. In this case, a quick look at the board expertise, committee overview and individual profile of each director on the Boeing’s board on CGLytics would have drawn attention into the Board’s lack of safety committees and technical and safety experience and expertise.

Would you like to learn more about how, you too, can have instant insights into more than 5,500 globally listed companies’ board composition, diversity, expertise and skills? Click here to find out about CGLytics’ boardroom intelligence capabilities and obtain the same insights used by institutional investors and advisors.

About the Author

Thao Nguyen: U.S. Research Analyst

Thao completed her Bachelor of Science in International Business Management at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and spent a semester abroad at the University of Washington, Foster School of Business. She gained work experience as a Research Analyst in previous internships.

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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.

About the Author

Jaco Fourie: U.S. Research Analyst

Jaco holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Reading. He has gained experience as a research analyst from his enrollment at the Henley Business School and the International Capital Market Association Centre.

Latest Industry News, Views & Information

AGMs: Tactics for a Plague Year

In a time of crisis and confusion, shareholders are more eager than ever to get answers from their boards and management. Yet holding traditional AGMs is nearly impossible. What are the best options for running AGMs during a plague year?

A diverse supervisory board: This is how to unlock a wealth of talent

Aniel Mahabier, CEO of governance data specialist CGLytics, welcomes the fact that selection committees are using corporate governance analytics to assess the diversity of their own supervisory board. Technology is bridging the gap between the available talent and the knowledge and experience that committees already have in-house.

What’s your flavor? Companies get a taste of CEO pay for the proxy season

This article, originally published in Dutch in Mgmt. Scope, CGLytics examines CEO compensation issues going into the 2020 proxy season

Capri Holdings – A Glass Lewis Use Case into Executive Compensation Benchmarking

In this use case, Glass Lewis examine the “additional considerations” regarding the quantitative examination with respect to Capri Holdings, Inc. (formerly Michael Kors Holdings Ltd.) using CGLytics’ analytical tools.

Glass Lewis’ two-pronged approach to executive compensation analysis in the North American market is delineated between the quantitative analysis and a qualitative assessment. The quantitative portion, while anchored by the pay for performance grade, incorporates additional considerations to supplement the standardized pay for performance analysis.

CGLytics’ suite of tools is fast becoming an integral part of the quantitative analysis for the North American market. In July 2019, the Compensation Analysis section became a part of Glass Lewis’ Proxy Paper for S&P 1500 companies in the U.S. and Canada. The page illustrates total realized compensation of CEOs based on data provided by CGLytics. Covering the past three years, realized CEO pay is presented on both an absolute basis and relative to country and industry peer groups developed by Glass Lewis using CGLytics tools.

In the following discussion, we examine the aforementioned “additional considerations” regarding the quantitative examination with respect to Capri Holdings, Inc. (formerly Michael Kors Holdings Ltd.) using CGLytics’ analytical tools.

Review of Capri Holdings’ Compensation Program

On August 1, shareholders gave their appraisals of executive pay practices at Capri Holdings, casting votes in favor or against the compensation packages of its named executive officers. The company is one of the few in the broader markets where multiple named executive officers receive pay at the CEO level or higher. Michael Kors as chief creative officer (CCO) and honorary chair and John Idol as CEO have received largely equivalent pay packages for most if not all of Capri Holdings’ history as a publicly traded company.

Multiple CEO-level pay recipients at individual companies have drawn the ire of shareholders in the past and no doubt will continue to do so in the future. However, executives from the apparel industry who engaged with Glass Lewis note that the industry is distinct in that the parity between chief executive and chief creative officer pay is not uncommon, but CCO pay is rarely reported on the Summary Compensation Table as these officers are not typically considered executives. In Capri Holdings’ case, however, perhaps because of his additional title of honorary chair, Mr. Kors is thus a named executive officer whose pay is subject to scrutiny at the Company’s annual advisory say on pay vote.

Overview of the Pay For Performance Grade and the Compensation Analysis Page:

Despite its dual CEO pay level executives, Capri Holdings received a “C” grade under Glass Lewis’ pay for performance model in each year from fiscal years 2015 to 2018, indicating adequate alignment. But in fiscal 2019, the company received a “D” grade after a jump in equity compensation to Messrs. Kors and Idol pushed Capri Holdings’ three-year weighted average compensation levels up – a move unsupported by the company’s weighted average performance that dipped in this year’s analysis. The analysis concluded that the company paid moderately more than its peers but performed moderately worse compared to peers.

Unique situations such as Capri Holdings’ case demonstrate the benefits that additional quantitative  analyses have had in Glass Lewis’ approach to executive compensation. One might contend that the pay for performance grade penalized Capri Holdings for common industry pay practices of chief creative officer pay, boosting total named executive officer pay above peers that do not also list their chief creative officer as a top executive.

The CGLytics-powered Compensation Analysis page in Glass Lewis’ research provided additional perspective to help consider Capri Holdings’ executive pay situation. Its focus on CEO pay underscored concerns flagged by the pay for performance analysis. In the same year that the company granted $7.5 million in equity incentives to each of Messrs. Kors and Idol, Mr. Idol’s fiscal 2019 total realized pay increased by 210% from $22.2 million to $68.9 million. At the same time, the Compensation Analysis reported that the median CEO total realized pay among industry peers remained relatively stagnant, highlighting the stark difference in realized pay levels for the CEO position at Capri Holdings compared to peers. While many companies often cite retention concerns due to low realized or realizable pay as reasons for significant increases in equity grants, the analysis using CGLytics indicated this to not be the case, at least for realized pay to the CEO.

Additional Perspectives Through CGLytics:

Beyond the Compensation Analysis page, by focusing on CEO pay using the CGLytics’ broader suite of tools, Glass Lewis found evidence to suggest deeper concerns with pay-setting for the short-term incentive. While the company provided Mr. Idol with no LTIP award in 2018 and only $1 million in 2017, the company’s incentives focused on short-term performance made up for the deficiency. Using CGLytics we can observe the following short-term incentive payout comparison to the industry peer median for most of Capri Holdings’ history as a publicly traded company where 2018 represents the most recently completed fiscal year for the company:

In our view, excessive upside opportunities under a bonus plan may unduly incentivize short-term performance and may undermine a long-term focus on company performance among executives. In fact, Mr. Idol received his maximum payout opportunity under the short-term incentive every year since 2012.

Switching gears in 2019, the Company decided to grant Mr. Idol $7.5 million in long-term incentives. Indeed, the grant resuscitated the level of Mr. Idol’s outstanding compensation following the exercise of a significant number of stock options. Mr. Idol exercised options to acquire 906,076 shares in fiscal 2019 – a value of $58.3 million according to the company’s proxy statement. The following chart shows the change in Mr. Idol’s total outstanding awards with the 2018 data representing the company’s fiscal 2019 and showing the net effect of his exercise of options and increased levels of long-term incentive grants during that year:

The effects of the long-term grant on total CEO pay was quite pronounced as seen in the graph below:

Review of GL recommendation:

In the end, an 89% year-over-year jump in Mr. Idol pay placed it at the 85th percentile of CEO compensation compared to the company’s self-disclosed peer group. The pay decisions for fiscal 2019 degraded the alignment between pay and performance in our analysis. Additional analysis into in the quantum of pay for Mr. Idol through CGLytics compounded our concerns. That Mr. Kors’ pay presented similar issues as Mr. Idol’s was also considered.

A deeper dive beyond our initial pay for performance analysis into the CEO’s total direct compensation uncovered a history of over-focus on short-term performance. Capri Holdings’ short-term incentive payouts rose well above the industry median since 2013. Due to the equity grants made to Mr. Idol during the most recently completed fiscal year, his pay spiked 1.2 times the median industry peer level, according to CGLytics’ multiple of median analysis.

As a result of these concerns, and following a qualitative assessment of the pay program, Glass Lewis recommended against supporting Capri Holdings’ executive compensation proposal for the 2019 annual meeting.

Conclusion:

Overall, the additional quantitative analysis using CGLytics underscored the concerns initially highlighted by Glass Lewis’ pay for performance grade by illustrating issues with pay regardless of the impact of Mr. Kors’ compensation on total NEO pay.

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.

 

Learn More

Latest Industry News, Views & Information

AGMs: Tactics for a Plague Year

In a time of crisis and confusion, shareholders are more eager than ever to get answers from their boards and management. Yet holding traditional AGMs is nearly impossible. What are the best options for running AGMs during a plague year?

A diverse supervisory board: This is how to unlock a wealth of talent

Aniel Mahabier, CEO of governance data specialist CGLytics, welcomes the fact that selection committees are using corporate governance analytics to assess the diversity of their own supervisory board. Technology is bridging the gap between the available talent and the knowledge and experience that committees already have in-house.

What’s your flavor? Companies get a taste of CEO pay for the proxy season

This article, originally published in Dutch in Mgmt. Scope, CGLytics examines CEO compensation issues going into the 2020 proxy season

The Billionaire Battle over Anadarko

Much noise has been made around the USD 38 billion hard-fought acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum by Occidental Petroleum and the hotbed of disagreement. An analysis of Occidental’s board, using CGLytics board insight tool, yields telling results.

Much noise has been made around the USD 38 billion hard-fought acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum by Occidental Petroleum (Oxy). Occidental’s CEO Vicki Hollub, in her race to beat Chevron for the acquisition, secured funding from Warren Buffett—USD 10 billion to be exact at 78% cash and 22% stock. This then allows Buffett to acquire 100,000 shares of cumulative perpetual preferred stock and an 8% dividend payout annually.

The deal was born out of Occidental’s board preferring to bypass an extraordinary shareholder meeting, wherein which the initial deal would have required a change of the Company Charter and a slim chance at a passing vote. Enter the second billionaire to the mix: Carl Icahn.

After getting wind of the deal, Icahn launched a lawsuit against Oxy on the grounds that the proposed acquisition was “fundamentally misguided and hugely overpriced.” There may be some truth to his assertion, with Oxy opening nearly 6% lower after the acquisition announcement.

Icahn accused Buffett of exploiting Oxy’s need for cash. Buffett is set to receive an 8% yield, far above Oxy’s pre-bidding 4.7%. This equates to a pre-tax cost of debt of around 10%, which is three times Oxy’s bond yield, and would put the company debt up to USD 40 billion.

In addition, Chevron decided against a counteroffer for Anandarko; thus, the company must now pay USD 1 billion in breakup fees to Chevron. It is also critical to note that this comes at a time when shareholders are calling for spending cuts and improved dividends.

As such, and perhaps the most glaring issue in the governance field, is the clear bypassing of shareholders’ voice by attempting to avoid an Extraordinary General Meeting of Shareholders (EGM).

Because of Buffett’s funding, Hollub and Oxy were able to exclude shareholder votes (as aforementioned). According to Icahn, this move was “disturbing” and “usurped the fundamental and critical role of the stockholders.”

Icahn, acting as the poster child for agitated shareholders, is calling for a restructuring of the board with seats of his own in order to ensure that Oxy acts in the best interest of shareholders. It seems apparent that the market and shareholders alike strongly disagree.

In current market conditions, Icahn has stated that the deal is a bet on the price of oil. Should oil prices fall below USD 45 per barrel, Occidental could be forced to cut dividends and once again defy shareholders. In turn, both Icahn and T. Rowe Price have agreed that the potential to put stockholder dividends at risk should first be cleared with the stockholders themselves.

An analysis of Occidental’s board, using CGLytics’ board effective and insights tool, yields telling results.

Occidental Petroleum Corporation’s Board Expertise

Source: CGLytics’ Board Effectiveness and Insights

Occidental’s board lacks significant expertise in two key areas extremely relevant to the recent deal; Financial and Industry/Sector. While there are a few financial experts, Audit and Capital Management skills particularly stand out as lacking in board discussions. Further, the lack of Financial expertise may certainly have ineffectively prepared the board to examine management’s agenda as well as properly evaluating the financial implications that come with the deal. Additionally, the Industry and Sector expertise appears inadequate; especially when considering the size of this acquisition.

The hotbed of disagreement over the deal is sure to play out in the coming weeks. It is possible that Hollub and Oxy avoided shareholder approval of such an acquisition of this scale because of the risk of disapproval at an EGM. Notwithstanding, Oxy resolved this issue by consulting Buffett.

Buffett saw opportunity arise out of the Company’s dilemma and divvied out premium funding. Now, Icahn demands a justification and correction of this supposed breach in shareholder rights. Following Icahn’s demand, Oxy will be holding a shareholder meeting on August 8th to determine the sentiment on this year’s biggest oil and gas deal. It is improbable that Icahn will win out on a lawsuit of this magnitude, especially when asking to gain seats on the board to prevent such deals in the future; but then again, it was equally unexpected that Occidental would attempt a merger with Anadarko.

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.

SOURCES

THE MARKET REALIST
YAHOO FINANCE
CNBC

Latest Industry News, Views & Information

AGMs: Tactics for a Plague Year

In a time of crisis and confusion, shareholders are more eager than ever to get answers from their boards and management. Yet holding traditional AGMs is nearly impossible. What are the best options for running AGMs during a plague year?

A diverse supervisory board: This is how to unlock a wealth of talent

Aniel Mahabier, CEO of governance data specialist CGLytics, welcomes the fact that selection committees are using corporate governance analytics to assess the diversity of their own supervisory board. Technology is bridging the gap between the available talent and the knowledge and experience that committees already have in-house.

What’s your flavor? Companies get a taste of CEO pay for the proxy season

This article, originally published in Dutch in Mgmt. Scope, CGLytics examines CEO compensation issues going into the 2020 proxy season