Tag archives: governance

A UK dispute sheds light on the duties of a dissident director

A recent decision of the UK’s High Court — Stobart v Tinkler [2019] EWHC 258 (Comm) — has been released following a dispute between directors of a large infrastructure company (the “Company”). The decision, and the circumstances preceding it, serve as a cautionary tale about the duties of a dissident director and of board members in the context of proxy contests.

The board dispute was initiated by a founder and significant shareholder of the company (the “Dissident Director”). After his resignation from the office of CEO in 2017, the Dissident Director remained with the Company as … Continue Reading

When defamation in hostile proceedings leads to serious consequences

It will come as no surprise to those who have participated in a proxy fight to learn that these disputes can be heated affairs.   Parties to a fight will routinely seek to discredit the other side to bolster their own narrative or otherwise gain a strategic advantage.  In such an atmosphere, it can be difficult to draw the line between behaviour that’s merely aggressive and behaviour that crosses into unethical or illegal territory.  A recent U.S. District Court case, Eshelman v. Auerbach et al, ­provides an example of the serious consequences that can ensue for those who cross this … Continue Reading

Webinar – Corporate governance, shareholder activism, and hostile M&A: Key developments in 2018 and a look ahead

Walied Soliman and Orestes Pasparakis, co-chairs of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Canadian Special Situations team, will host a 60-minute webinar on corporate governance, shareholder activism, and hostile M&A on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 12 p.m. EST. To sign up, please click here.

Our Special Situations team played a leading role in some of the most complex and high-profile corporate governance, shareholder activism and hostile M&A matters of 2018. The webinar will highlight some of the key trends and developments in 2018 and trends taking shape in 2019.

This will be essential viewing for directors and executives at public companies, … Continue Reading

CEO Activism: A Double-Edged Sword?

In a recent study published on SSRN by the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, authors David F. Larcker, Stephen Miles, Brian Tayan and Kim Wright-Violich argue that CEO activism – the practice of CEOs taking public positions on environmental, social and political issues not directly related to their business – is a “double-edged sword”: CEOs who take public positions might build loyalty with employees, customers or constituents, but these same positions can inadvertently alienate important segments of those populations.

The authors – who aimed to better understand the implications of CEO activism by examining its prevalence, the … Continue Reading

Activist Insight Monthly features interview with Co-Chairs of Canadian Special Situations team

This month’s edition of Activist Insight Monthly, which focuses on Canada, features an in-depth interview with Walied Soliman and Orestes Pasparakis, Co-Chairs of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Canadian Special Situations team. The interview focuses on recent trends our team is seeing in the Canadian marketplace, including activist short selling, settlements, and the continued rise of “nice” activists.

The publication can be found here (sign-up required).… Continue Reading

Governance Oversight – Is Your Board An Active One?

In a recent interview with Christopher P. Skroupa on Forbes.com, Walied Soliman (Chair of Norton Rose Fulbright Canada, LLP and Co-Chair of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Canadian special situations team) weighs in on what it means to be an active director. The interview can be viewed here.

Stay connected with Special Situations Law and subscribe to the blog today.Continue Reading

Overboard, under deliver?

We recently reported that Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) released its 2018 Americas Proxy Voting Guidelines Updates (the Policy Update), which, among other things, establishes modified guidelines for determining whether a director serving on the board of multiple public companies is “overboarded”.

Starting in 2019, ISS will recommend a withhold vote for (1) directors of TSX-listed companies who are CEOs and serve on two or more public boards and (2) any non-CEO director who serves on the board of five or more public companies.

Overboarding is a hot button topic in the realm of corporate governance. Questions arise … Continue Reading

Management diversity: will targets and quotas improve gender diversity?

On October 5, 2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) released Staff Notice 58-309 (Staff Notice) reporting findings of a review carried out by various Canadian securities regulators of disclosure regarding women on boards and in executive officer positions by TSX issuers, as prescribed in National Instrument 58-101 Disclosure of Corporate Governance Practices. We previously reported on the introduction of disclosure requirements in 2014.

The findings are generally positive, and have shown that gender diversity of boards is improving. The review has found that the total board seats occupied by women has increased from 11% in … Continue Reading

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices are paving their way into the mainstream

As discussed in our earlier blog post, the Kingsdale Advisors’ (Kingsdale) annual Proxy Season Review for 2017 identified ESG trends as one of several issues on the horizon for public companies. Kingsdale noted that heightened scrutiny from investors could translate into a demand for enhanced disclosure on the part of issuers.

The three factors that form ESG are integrated into investment analyses to determine the sustainability and future financial performance of companies. These factors are also used as tools by companies to analyze, evaluate and to better understand the overall risks and opportunities that their businesses are … Continue Reading

Board watch: more complexity, more committees

As a result of the increasing and ever-evolving responsibilities falling on the shoulders of boards of directors, the traditional three key committee model (covering audit and financial reporting, executive compensation, and director nominations and board succession planning) can be inadequate. The creation of additional committees has been one way to manage the burden.  According to EY in its recent Board Matters post entitled “Board committees evolve to address new challenges”, the prevalence of additional committees reflects “changing board priorities and pressures, boardroom needs and company circumstances.”

The statistics support this: more than 75% of S&P 500 companies have … Continue Reading

Institutional investors managing US $17 trillion announce new corporate governance framework

In a move likely to have significant impacts on corporate governance, a group of institutional investors managing upwards of US $17 trillion has announced the formation of the Investor Stewardship Group (the Group). The Group has adopted a framework of certain non-binding investor-friendly principles, many of which are either common or already legally recognized in Canada, illustrating one of Canada’s greatest attractions as an investment destination: its strong protections of investor rights. On the other hand, the Group takes a skeptical view of a common practice in Canada: dual-class share structures.

The Group

The Group is a collective of … Continue Reading

An age of shareholder empowerment

In a corporate directors survey (the Survey) entitled “The swinging pendulum: Board governance in the age of shareholder empowerment”, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) presents current trends in investor influence and their impact on governance practices of boards and management teams.

Conducted amongst 884 company directors in the summer of 2016 with respondents representing over 24 industries, the Survey highlights the increasing influence of investors and board sentiment in this “new age of shareholder empowerment”.

Board composition

When recruiting new board members, investor recommendations appear to carry increasing weight. The Survey notes that there has been an … Continue Reading

How corporate governance reforms spread

Recent research on the adoption of majority voting rules provides some insight on how corporate governance reforms are adopted and change company behaviour, and suggests that reforms may have the greatest impact on firms that are late to adopt them.

The push for majority voting, which requires that directors receive a majority (rather than a plurality) of the votes cast in order to be elected, has been highly successful, with over 90% of S&P 500 companies adopting some form of majority voting by January 2014. Majority voting is intended to make boards more accountable to shareholders.  A recent paper by … Continue Reading

Better boards through better risk management practices

Prior to 2008, it was not uncommon for a bank to assign its risk oversight responsibilities to the audit committee of its board of directors, or in some cases, to even divide those tasks between a number of other committees. Since then, a number of policies and guidelines have been enacted (including, notably, the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision’s Corporate Governance Principles for Banks in July 2015) that set new standards and procedures with respect to how financial institutions are to monitor and moderate risk.

PricewaterhouseCoopers recently completed a study entitled Board Governance: Higher Expectations, but Better Practices?, which … Continue Reading

ISS Updates its Proxy Voting Guidelines for the 2015 Season

On November 6, 2014, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) released updates to its Canadian proxy voting guidelines for the 2015 proxy season.  The voting guidelines are effective for meetings held on or after February 1, 2015.  The following is a summary of the most significant changes.

Director Elections

  • Director Independence: ISS has made several changes to their definition of “independence” including:
    • that former CEOs will now be subject to a five year “cooling off” period, after which ISS will classify him/her, on a case-by-case basis, to be independent unless other relationships exist with the issuer or executive officer. Factors taken
Continue Reading

Dual-Class Shares May Increase Value for Shareholders

A significant issue regarding the corporate governance of public companies arises from questions regarding the optimal role of shareholders in navigating a company’s direction.  The one share, one vote view of the world posits that shareholder democracy is best achieved when the division of control amongst shareholders holds true with the division of economic ownership.  In contrast, a number of major corporate players have governance and share ownership structures that allow certain classes of shareholders a disproportionate amount, relative to their economic ownership, of control with respect to strategic decision-making.  While these kinds of structures may initially appear contradictory to … Continue Reading

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