A compensation consultant recently conducted a spot survey of 135 companies which looked at the prevalence and type of environment, social and governance (ESG) metrics used in incentive compensation plans, including metrics relating to the environment, employee engagement and culture and diversity and inclusion. Efforts to link ESG factors to executive compensation have been a common thread in numerous shareholder proposals.
Italian corporate law establishes the liability of members of the board of directors of joint stock companies depending on whether they are chief executive officers or executive directors or independent and non-executive directors. Recent Supreme Court of Cassation and Milan Court of Appeal decisions focused on the liability of non-executive directors by affirming that they must be proactive and fulfil their duty to be as informed as possible to ensure a suitable standard of corporate governance.
With 70% of the Russell 3000 annual meetings completed, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has taken an early look at the 2019 proxy season. ISS found increases in opposition to director elections and say-on-pay proposals, as well as increases in the number of and withdrawal rates for environmental and social (E&S) proposals relative to governance proposals. In addition, the disparity between the levels of support for E&S proposals and the historically more popular governance proposals has narrowed dramatically.
Do companies that ignore long-term environmental or social costs in the pursuit of near-term profits pay another price in foregoing potentially long-term sustainable profit opportunities? A recent business case for environmental social governance from Stanford University's Rock Centre for Corporate Governance suggests that, properly analysed, sustainability can not only affect externalities, but also benefit businesses.
The Commercial Company Code allows representation by a supervisory board or proxy appointed by a resolution of a shareholders' meeting in contracts or disputes between companies and their management boards. In this context, the Supreme Court recently examined whether a limited liability company should be represented by a general partner or its management board when amending a limited partnership agreement, despite the fact that the limited partner was a member of the company's management board.
'Caveat emptor' or 'buyer beware' is a familiar concept. The effects and consequences of caveat emptor have been criticised over time and, as a result, commercial law has slowly developed more stringent protection for consumers and buyers. As such, the ramifications of a recent apex court's decision are far reaching. In short, liability can now be imposed on sellers even if the buyer has previously accepted the same product without qualification.
The Civil Code sets out specific rules which apply in the event that a chief executive officer (CEO) or director has extra-company interests. In the event that such a conflict of interests affects the position of a managing director, they cannot vote in the relevant board of director's resolution on the subject of the conflict. A recent Supreme Court of Cassation Decision has emphasised the duties of transparency and fairness to which company directors and CEOs in Italy must adhere.
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board recently published new guidance on auditors' communication of critical audit matters (CAMs) in auditors' reports. The guidance includes new frequently asked questions relating to how auditors should describe their principal considerations in determining CAMs, the relationship between CAMs and company disclosures and the treatment of recurring CAMs.
In a judgment which is likely to have wide-ranging implications for local companies subject to the '60/40 rule', the Privy Council recently held that local companies may confer on non-Bermudians "de facto control by commercial arrangements", provided that non-Bermudians have no control over the manner in which directors and shareholders vote.
With the deadline for implementing the EU Shareholder Rights Directive II (SRD II) fast approaching, the government recently published a ministerial draft of the Stock Corporation Amendment Act 2019, which addresses the rules on say on pay and related party transactions. The draft seeks to minimise the administrative burden on listed companies by avoiding any 'gold plating'. Further, it closely follows SRD II and takes advantage of business-friendly options.
California's new board gender diversity mandate is expected to fuel a greater effort towards board gender diversity. Under the new law, public companies will be required to have at least one woman on their board of directors by the close of 2019. That minimum increases to two women by 31 December 2021 if the company has five directors and to three women if it has six or more directors. While the first of its kind in the United States, this mandate may not be the last.
The Contracts Law provides the legal framework for establishing legally valid and enforceable agreements in Cyprus. However, in real-life commercial situations, parties may not always achieve the certainty required to ensure that an agreement or contract term is valid and enforceable. The pressure associated with reaching an agreement often causes parties to defer important contract terms in order to close a deal at the expense of certainty and, ultimately, enforceability.
The Supreme Court of Cassation recently examined the admissibility of a put option clause in a shareholders' agreement of a joint stock company by which one shareholder was committed to indemnify the other shareholders from any losses arising from payments to the company for stock capital contributions or other payments having a similar effect. The court's decision confirms that Italian company law admits shareholder agreement clauses in line with the international principles of lex mercatoria.
The draft Companies (Directors' Remuneration Policy and Directors' Remuneration Report) Regulations 2019 were recently published as part of the drive to encourage long-term shareholder engagement and to strengthen the governance and performance of traded companies. Most of the directors' remuneration reporting requirements inserted by the EU Shareholder Rights Directive II already apply under UK law and the draft regulations will implement most of the requirements that do not currently apply.
Appealing against shareholders' resolutions is one of the most controversial areas of Polish company law. A recent Supreme Court resolution found that the shareholders' resolution of a limited liability company could not be annulled by the courts just because it was contrary to the company's articles of association. This resolution appears to put an end to many years of controversy.
Simple legal transactions and contracts can often be completed at the click of a button. However, there are a growing number of investment rounds in start-ups based on Brazilian versions of Silicon Valley contracts that unfortunately have not benefited from the critical eye and practical expertise of experienced lawyers who can examine the contracts under Brazilian law.
To fulfil their oversight responsibilities, audit committees typically evaluate external auditors at least annually to determine, in part, whether they should be engaged for the subsequent fiscal year. The Centre for Audit Quality (CAQ) recently published an updated External Auditor Assessment Tool. Like many other helpful CAQ tools, this one provides a number of sample questions to help audit committees satisfy their oversight obligations with regard to external auditors.
A recent case suggests that there are limits to the way in which directors can act when taking steps to protect a company. The case is a useful reminder that while directors may avail themselves of the shield provided by the judicial management regime in order to allow a company time to regain its footing, the courts will not hesitate to put checks and balances in place to prevent the misuse of such legislation, albeit for the purpose of safeguarding a company's survival.
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board recently issued a staff inspection brief discussing its new strategic plan, which includes conducting an ongoing dialogue with audit committee chairs whose companies' audits are subject to inspection. The board reports that its 2019 inspections will focus on, among other things, firms' technological developments, procedures on new accounting standards and systems of quality control.
The rules concerning the corporate governance of limited liability companies were recently amended. The changes are twofold: some directly affect the bylaws of limited liability companies, while others affect the requirements for appointing professionals who perform auditing and supervisory duties for such companies. The new provisions must be adopted immediately by newly formed companies, whereas pre-existing companies must update their bylaws by 16 December 2019.