Harvey Norman AGM; Strike 2 in the making?

Harvey Norman’s Annual General Meeting is to be held this Wednesday November 27, 2019. With leading independent proxy advisor CGI Glass Lewis advising to vote against the reappointment of the company’s chief executive, Katie Page, and the remuneration report, the gloves are off.

Shareholders have braced themselves for the upcoming Harvey Norman Annual General Meeting (AGM) to be held on November 27, 2019. The meeting will not be taken lightly following the shocking results of the 2018 AGM. Here we take a look at the controversial corporate governance practices that has investors and proxy advisors concerned.

Votes against remuneration report in 2018

What happened in 2018? Majority of the shareholders voted against the adoption of the remuneration report, resulting in 50.63 per cent of shareholders disapproving the resolution earning the company a first strike. Not only did a large percentage of shareholders vote against the remuneration report, but an average of 27.76 per cent opposed the re-election of the following directors: Non-Executive Director Mr. Michael John Harvey, Non-Executive Director Mr. Christopher Herbert Brown, and Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Mr. John Slack-Smith. An average of 17.5 per cent of shareholders also voted against the grant of performance rights under the Harvey Norman 2016 Long-term Incentive Plan to the following Executive Directors: Executive Chairman Mr. Gerald Harvey, Chief Executive Officer Ms. Kay Lesley Page, Executive Director and COO Mr. John Slack-Smith, Executive Director David Ackery, and Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary Chris Mentis.

Questions over what will happen at 2019’s AGM

Harvey Norman is now in hot waters, especially if majority of the shareholders continue to vote against the adoption of the remuneration report in the 2019 AGM, leading to a spill resolution. The Corporations Act 2001 has been amended to include a “two-strike” rule [1]. A company will be given a first strike if 25 per cent or more vote against the remuneration report. Until the next AGM, the company is required to review and respond to the shareholders’ growing concerns regarding executive pay. The next AGM will determine whether a company gets a second strike [2]. This occurs when 25 per cent or more shareholders still vote against it. During the same AGM, shareholders will establish whether directors need to stand for re-election. If 50 per cent or more shareholders vote for to pass a “spill” resolution, a “spill” meeting will be held within 90 days. Proxy advisors Ownership Matters and CGI Glass Lewis have advised investors to vote against the remuneration report and face a spill resolution to effectively improve its corporate governance [3].

ASX’s Corporate Governance Principles comes into question

Minority shareholders are dissatisfied with the number of independent directors present in the board. The board is currently composed of: Executive Chairman Gerald Harvey, Chief Executive Officer Katie Page, Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer/ Company Secretary Chris Mentis, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer John Slack-Smith, Executive Director David Ackery, Non-Executive Director Christopher Brown, Non-Executive Director Michael Harvey, Independent Non-Executive Director Maurice Craven, Independent Non-Executive Director Kenneth Gunderson-Briggs and Senior Independent Non-Executive Director Graham Paton.

There are 10 board members and only three of which are independent. The company disregards the 4th edition of ASX’s Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendation that states majority of board members must be independent [5].

Data from CGLytics suggests that only 30% of the Harvey Norman board members are independent. Independent directors are vital members of the board because they provide more transparency to shareholders and fill the gap of skills required by the company [6]. The lack of independent directors poses a huge problem for minority shareholders especially when the board of directors have a total of 56.9 per cent stake in the company, making them the majority shareholders. This gives a disadvantage to minority shareholders that want to voice concerns regarding re-election of directors and the adoption of the remuneration report.

HN Board

Proxy advisory firm Ownership Matters even goes so far to propose the voting against the re-election of non-Independent Directors to force the company to make board changes [7]. In the Harvey Norman 2019 Annual Report, the company responded to the reason behind appointing fewer independent directors, stating that each executive director (including non-executive directors that are not independent) still provide quality independent judgment to the issues that arise.

Tenure reveals a stale board

The board also appears to be stale. The average tenure of the board directors is 20 years. For some time now, corporate governance stakeholders; governance experts and shareholders alike have paid substantial attention to the issue of board refreshment or entrenched boards. Usually, when a board is stale, there is the concern that they may lack new perspectives, become complacent which may affect the long-term performance of the company as well as provision of effective oversight and management.

One more independent director added to the board

In March 2019, the company added John Craven who was an independent director to the board. This was the first time in 14 years that the board had appointed an independent director to its fold since Graham Paton joined the board in 2005.

Data from CGlytics shows that although there are 10 board members, most of their skills are concentrated on three areas: finance, advisory and technology. This shows that the composition of the skills matrix is not balanced between the members and is not aligned with the skills that the company requires. Having a skill such as risk is a vital key competency a board needs, especially in turbulent times that may make or break the company.

Harvey Norman's board expertise

What are the proxy advisors’ view?

Because of the criticism and frustration of stakeholders, proxy advisors such as ISS Governance and Ownership Matters  encourage investors to vote for the appointment of self-elected Mr. Stephen Mayne as a director. Mr. Stephen Mayne is a journalist and a shareholder activist that constantly offers himself up for election on boards. Executive Chairman Gerald Harvey has urged Australian regulators to question the credibility of the proxy advisors that advise shareholders to appoint someone who has no experience in the retail industry [8].

Different proxy advisory firms Ownership Matters and CGI Glass Lewis are also recommending against the re-election of Chief Executive Officer Katie Page [9].  The company is being questioned by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission regarding the high increase in pay for Ms. Page despite the decrease in the Total Shareholder Return (TSR) of the company [10].

Where does Harvey Norman’s CEO Pay for Performance rank?

The CGLytics Relative Positioning Pay for Performance tool compares Harvey Norman’s CEO pay with that of the industry peer group’s three year TSR. The performance evaluation shows that it is misaligned. The company’s total realized pay is in the 45th percentile while the three-year TSR ranks in the 15th percentile and shows that the CEO is compensated more than the increase in TSR.

HN P4P analysis

Changes in remuneration was included in its 2019 Annual Report, changing the short-term incentive financial metric from return on net assets to earnings per share adjusted for the after tax effect of property increments decrements. The short-term incentives will be measured 50 per cent on earnings per share adjusted for the after tax effect of property and 50 per cent as non-financial conditions. Short-term incentives will still be given in cash except when the executive directors have shares lower than the benchmark level. The STI pool will also be increased to the maximum level at 120%.

As to whether, these changes have the potential to avert a potential revolt at the upcoming AGM, it remains to be seen.

Would you like to gain instant insights into more than 5,500 globally listed companies’ board composition, diversity, expertise and skills? Or access the same CEO pay for performance insights used by Glass Lewis in their proxy papers?

Click here to learn more about CGLytics’ boardroom intelligence capabilities and executive remuneration analytics, used by institutional investors, activist investors and advisors.

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.

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

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.

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

SRD II and the implications on executive pay and corporate governance

Aniel Mahabier considers the ramifications of the extensive disclosure obligations required as part of the second iteration of the Shareholder Rights Directive and argues that knowledge is key to ensuring accountability.

SRD II and the implications on executive pay and corporate governance

SRD II feature article by Governance.co.uk

Aniel Mahabier considers the ramifications of the extensive disclosure obligations required as part of the second iteration of the Shareholder Rights Directive and argues that knowledge is key to ensuring accountability.

Download the article that considers :

– The drivers behind the new regime

– The aim of putting transparency first

– The problem of executive pay

– How boards can proactively address issues before they become problematic

 

Aniel Mahabier

Aniel Mahabier,
CEO and founder of CGLytics

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

Latest Industry News, Views & Information

  • All
  • Blog

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

SRD II and the ramifications for disclosure obligations

With the proxy season fast approaching SRD II is top of mind. Learn about the implications SRD II will have on disclosure of executive pay and corporate goverannce.

With the next proxy season fast approaching the Shareholder Rights Directive (SRD) is top of mind. Extensive disclosure obligations are part of the second iteration and reliable information is key to ensuring requirements are met.

 

This article is part of the featured news report by governance.co.uk on SRD II. Click here to download the full article.

With the EU directive requiring transposition into domestic law in all Member States by September 2020, companies have a limited window to comply with the new requirements and ensure they have aligned their company’s structure in a way that encourages shareholder engagement long term.

The directive’s main aims involve long-term thinking and practices, transparency and increased engagement. However don’t think that this doesn’t also have implications for institutional investors, asset managers and proxy advisors. 

The new regime involves institutional investors and asset managers having to disclose their engagement  policies, and intermediaries to make sure they facilitate the transmition of information to shareholders in a transparent manner. This includes publicly disclosing what they charge for these services.

In short, the SRD II is aimed at reducing short-termism and excessive risk taking by EU companies, plus increasing transparency all-round.

The problem of pay

With executive pay being heavily scrutinized over the past few years, it comes as no surprise that SRD II calls for change to pay disclosures. Creating a better link between pay and performance of company directors, and bringing an end to short-term targets as a measure of success. With this aim brings requirements of providing greater detail and information to support pay policies, including what metrics are being used to measure executive performance. Decisions will have to be rationalized and justified in detail, and without data and facts showing exactly why these decisions were made, companies put themselves at risk of non-compliance.

For companies and investors to meet the requirements of SRD II and as they become effective in the 2020 proxy season (and for intermediaries to be fully compliant) there is no doubt that they need access to accurate and reliable data. CGLytics is already helping many companies, investors and intermediaries get up to speed with meeting obligations, including providing Glass Lewis with data for their Proxy Papers, and you can be fully prepared too.

If you would like to know more about the impact SRD II will have on your company or firm, click here to download the full article

Or reach out to us at CGLytics and receive a free explanation and assessment on how it’s likely to affect you. Click here

Aniel Mahabier SRD II quote

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

How can innovations in information technologies support the role of the board of directors?

How far should we go in terms of sophisticated algorithms in order to complement the usual dashboards? What type of data processing tools boards need while avoiding a big data overload? How can a board leverage data and AI for effective oversight and to make better governance decisions?

6 November 2019  14.00 – 15.00 Brussels time     

Companies have to monitor their environment according to defined objectives and integrate the collected data into real strategic and operational information. Business intelligence is there to support not only the management but also board members in making better decisions. In a more demanding environment, board members have to understand the drivers of value creation and develop the right metrics to articulate value. Actionable and real-time insights are therefore becoming even more critical for board members. How far should we go in terms of sophisticated algorithms in order to complement the usual dashboards? What type of data processing tools boards need while avoiding a big data overload? How can a board leverage data and AI for effective oversight and to make better governance decisions?

Our speakers will provide their input to the debate:

  • Aniel Mahabier, CEO at CGLytics;
  • Deepak Krishnamurthy,  Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer at SAP;
  • Michael Hilb, Entrepreneur, Board Member and Professor;
  • Rytis Ambrazevičius, Baltic Institute of Corporate Governance, President;

 

The webinar will be moderated by Suzanne Liljegren, ecoDa Communication Adviser.

Download the invitation here

ecoDa and CGLytics webinar

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

GlaxoSmithKline: Hampton’s departure gives a sense of unfinished business

CGLytics’ examines the board expertise and director interlocks of GSK both pre- and post-appointment of Mr. Jonathan Symonds, following Philip Hampton’s resignation as Chairman.

This article examines GlaxoSmithKline’s board expertise and director interlocks both prior and post the appointment of Mr. Jonathan Symonds; replacing Chairman Philip Hampton.

GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) announced in December 2018 the merger of its non-prescription drug and parapharmacy activities with those of the American giant Pfizer. The two labs are creating a GBP 10 billion joint venture, which will become the industry leader with GSK holding a majority of the shares – 68% and Pfizer a 32% holding. Within three years however, GSK plans to separate from this new entity and introduce it on the London Stock Exchange, placing Emma Walmsley as the CEO. There will therefore be a demerger project for GSK, aiming at separating their consumer health division (merged with Pfizer’s business) from their pharmaceutical and vaccines one. A lot of investors have been asking for this demerger over the past few years, however GSK is still in the middle of a transformation that is not quite complete.

The company intended, since 2015, to recover its Free Cash Flow (FCF) after the expenses arising from the costs of restructuration and integration of the Novartis deal. The company’s FCF is recovering quite well, with a GBP 5.7 billion in 2018 (+63% compared to 2017).

In January of this year, the Chairman of GSK, Philip Hampton, announced his decision to step down from his position after three and a half years and declared:

“Following the announcement of our deal with Pfizer and the intended separation of the new consumer business, I believe this is the right moment to step down and allow a new Chair to oversee this process through to its conclusion over the next few years.”

 

GSK announced their decision for a successor of Mr. Hampton, and it appears that Mr. Jonathan Symonds will be taking that role. Both individuals have different backgrounds and expertise. Mr. Symonds brings with him a strong pharmaceutical background together with corporate governance and corporate development experience. He was CFO of Novartis AG from 2009 to 2013 and prior to that CFO of AstraZeneca plc. He has been Deputy Group Chairman at HSBC Holdings plc since August 2018 and its Independent Non-Executive Director since April 2014. During his past experience, he has proven to be an expert of corporate changes. The most important transactions of Novartis (acquisition of Alcon) and AstraZeneca (acquisition of MedImmune) took place under his tenure. The experience Mr. Symonds brings with him added to his international finance knowledge make him a great fit for the upcoming challenges GSK will face.

The board expertise diagrams, produced directly from data and analytics in CGLytics’ platform, show GlaxoSmithKline’s board expertise matrix before and after Symonds’ appointment. The information used for producing CGLytics’ expertise and skills matrices in the SaaS offering is standardized and applied consistency to more than 5,500 companies globally for easy comparison, analysis and benchmarking of boards composition.

GSK board expertise prior to Symonds 4

Looking at the current board composition of GlaxoSmithKline, the Board’s strongest expertise are International, Governance, Leadership and Executive. The Board however currently has no director with Technology expertise. Five directors, including Sir Philip Hampton, have Financial expertise, having served as Finance Director of BG Group Limited. The Chairman nonetheless lacks Industry expertise which is in line with what market watchers have said.

The chart below displays the company’s expertise with the coming of the new Chairman Mr. Symonds. Jonathan also brings with him Non-Executive, Financial, Executive, Governance expertise among others. However, he also brings with him Industry expertise having served as CFO of Novartis AG. With his addition, the board will still lack in the area of Technology expertise.

GSK board expertise with Symonds 4

Another interesting insight is that Hampton is not currently sitting on any other company’s board, unlike Symonds who is currently sitting on four different boards (including HSBC Holdings plc). One could easily argue about the effectiveness of that choice when it comes to availability and focus/time dedication for the heavy incoming agenda.

The UK Corporate Governance Code advises:

“Additional external appointments should not be undertaken without prior approval of the board, with the reasons for permitting significant appointments explained in the annual report. Full-time executive directors should not take on more than one non-executive directorship in a FTSE 100 company or other significant appointment.”

Glass Lewis, in their UK 2019 Proxy Paper Guidelines, recommends:

“Voting against a director who serves as an executive officer of any public company while serving on a total of more than two public company boards, and any other director who serves on a total of more than five public company boards.”

On the other hand, investment management company BlackRock Inc., top shareholder of GSK’s capital, shares in their 2019 Proxy Voting Policy document that they would:

“Expect companies to provide a clear explanation in situations where a board candidate is a director serving on more than three other public company boards; or a Chairman serving on more than two other public company boards (or only one if this is an additional chairmanship).”

Finally, the recommendations of GSK’s second largest shareholder – asset management group Vanguard – state that:

“A fund will vote against any director who is a Named Executive Officer (NEO) and sits on more than one outside public board.”

Additionally,

“A fund will also vote against any director who serves on five or more public company boards.”

Mr. Symonds is sitting on one other public company’s board (from which he will be stepping down from at the beginning of 2020) and does not hold any executive position, which means that he satisfies the previous recommendations. But at the same time, Symonds remains on the board of three private companies: Proteus Digital Health Inc. (Chairman), Genomics England Limited (Chairman) and Rubius Therapeutics Inc. (Non-Executive Director). Despite the fact that he’s satisfying all guidelines, we can question if his agenda will allow him to dedicate the optimal amount of time for all the changes GSK is about to face.

As a conclusion, we can obviously always find a rational explanation to Hampton’s resignation and highlight the benefits of Symonds’ arrival. But at the end of the day, we must remember everything Hampton has done since joining the company: he has replaced the CEO, has reorganized the Board of Directors and led one of the biggest corporate restructuring projects seen these past years.

What makes this resignation a big event, is that GSK is currently in a timeframe where it needs as much stability as possible on a management level. The massive projects that are being led rely on the company to be extra cautious with its many moving parts. Considering the time needed for the restructuring and demerger to be concluded, we can think Hampton should have ideally stayed until the very end and then recruited a board for each entity.

All the reasons lead to thinking of the possibility of activities being overshadowed to keep investors from worrying. However, GSK has been clear about the fact that Hampton decided to leave once the Pfizer deal was announced. There may never be light over the other possible reasons that pushed Hampton to resign.

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

About the Author

Amine Chehab: European Research Analyst

Amine completed his Master’s degree in International Financial Analysis at INSEEC Bordeaux, France. As part of his studies, he also attended the University of California, Riverside as an exchange student. Previously, he gained experience in the field of finance as a Finance Business Analyst and Financial consultant. Most recently he worked as a Credit Manager Assistant.

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

Equity Incentive Schemes: Examining the rationale behind shareholder rejection

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

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

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

When Red Lion Hotels was punished for lack of clear strategy

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

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

When HomeAway was sent packing

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

Trends in the opposition

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

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

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

Click here to experience Glass Lewis’ new application.

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

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/

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

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

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

Bed Bath & Beyond: Cleaning House

New Jersey-based company Bed Bath & Beyond has recently become the target of an activist campaign. CGLytics examines the drivers, the response and the outcomes of this campaign.

New Jersey-based company Bed Bath & Beyond operates 1,533 retail stores as of March 2, 2019. The company has recently become the target of an activist campaign initiative led by a trio of activist investors: Legion Partners Asset Management LLC, Macellum Advisors GP LLC and Ancora Advisors LLC. Jointly, this group of investors owns about 5.2% of the company.

After initially filing for a potential proxy fight, in late April 2019, the activist campaign at Bed Bath & Beyond kicked off with a lengthy presentation from the above entities to the company’s investor base. This presentation criticized almost every facet of the company’s management; from executive pay to individual store design.  The presentation focused particularly on their CEO Steven Temares’ compensation package, which totaled USD 14,605,042 in 2018, while the remaining Named Executive Officers collectively made USD 30,271,726. Temares, who had served in the role since 2003, resigned shortly thereafter.

In response to this campaign, the company’s board has recently seen a significant reshuffle. In May 2019 alone, nine new directors joined the board, five being appointed on May 1, 2019 : Harriet Edelman, Harsha Ramalingam, Andrea Weiss, Mary A. Winston and Ann Yerger. In addition to these new members, another four were appointed to the board effective May 29, 2019, pursuant to an agreement with the activist group: John E. Fleming, Sue E. Gove, Jeffrey A. Kirwan and Joshua E. Schechter. The addition of these new members results in an almost complete board turnover during the past two years, with 12 of the 13 members having joined within that timeframe. Moreover, former directors and co-founders, Warren Eisenberg and Leonard Feinstein were displaced from their positions as co-Chairmen of the board, and granted the status of co-Chairmen Emeriti, with no entitlement to attend board meetings and no voting powers at such meetings.

While the activist campaign calling for an increase in value creation is not new in the field of corporate governance, conflicting ideas about how to best create that value has been a core issue between boards, executive teams, and investors across the business world for years. So why, in this particular case, was the activist campaign successful?

We do note that the company reported its first decrease in sales in conjunction with its first net loss for the FY 2019. However, the company has been lagging behind the median of its own disclosed peer group in several key financial performance indicators such as net income, enterprise value, three-year TSR, and economic profit since at least 2016. Moreover, the CEO’s compensation has outpaced that of the median of the company’s peer group, as displayed in the graph below:

Bed Bath and Beyond’s Disclosed Compensation Peer Group (2018)
Dillard’s, Inc. AutoZone, Inc.
Burlington Stores, Inc. Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. Nordstrom, Inc.
Big Lots, Inc. Macy’s, Inc.
Advance Auto Parts, Inc. L Brands, Inc.
Tractor Supply Company Kohl’s Corporation
Ross Stores, Inc. The Gap, Inc.
O’Reilly Automotive, Inc. Foot Locker, Inc.
Dollar Tree Dollar General Corporation
Office Depot, Inc.
Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

Moreover, we find that the activists’ criticisms of the CEO’s remuneration may have gained traction when comparing the company CEO’s Total Realized Pay versus its own disclosed peer group for FY 2018. Bed, Bath and Beyond’s Total Realised Pay appears to be out of alignment with the company’s performance.

 

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

bedbath&beyond2
Source: CGLytics Data and Analytics

The CGLytics research team has also taken a deeper look to evaluate the current board. Utilizing CGLytics’ governance and data analytics platform we find that after all changes recently undergone to the board, Bed Bath & Beyond scores extremely well in nearly every category, except for the Director Interlocks and Nationality Dispersion metrics. The board does have several director interlocks, and diversity of nationality also appears low, as 92% of the board is local to the US.

All other effectiveness attributes score high, with most of them having a score of 100, driving the overall health score of the company at 85 points (Excellent), 10 points above the sector average.

These metrics show that the board contains an age gender diverse group of directors with experience and expertise in all areas measured by the CGLytics platform.

bedbath&beyond3
bedbath&beyond4
Source: CGLytics Data

The effectiveness attributes in the chart above are based on the company in question’s governance practices compared to the corporate governance code of the market in which it is primarily based (in this instance, the NYSE Governance Guidelines). The thresholds above are set by empirical research performed by CGLytics. Each attribute receives a score from 0 to 100, with a score of 100 reflecting the best governance practices

In summary, as Bed Bath & Beyond’s stock price has fallen approximately 80% over a five-year span due to potential mismanagement, ineffective business strategy, and a lack of innovation, the recent changes within the structure of the management and advisory team provide a potential clean slate for the company. Interim Chief Executive Officer, Mary Winston will be at the helm looking to captain the ship as the company searches for stability after an intense period of significant upheaval.

Corporate boards and executive teams increasingly require a broader range of analytical tools to identify potential areas of reputational risk, even for controlled companies, which could make them the target for activist campaigns. For more information regarding how CGLytics’ deep, global data set and unparalleled analytical screening tools can potentially help you identify these areas of risk, click here.

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.

Sources

CGYLTICS DATA AND ANALYTICS

Proxy 2018       Proxy 2017       Fox Business       Business Insider       Wall Street journal      Motley Fool

Header Image: Bed Bath and Beyond store by Anthony92931  licensed under the Creative Commons license.

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