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Federal Court Reinstates Employee Pay Data Reporting Requirement

In an unexpected ruling, a federal court recently ordered the Trump administration to reinstate an Obama-era rule that will require employers to report pay data by employee gender, race and ethnicity.

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Absent a reversal on appeal, the court ruling means that covered employers will be required to report this pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on revised Form EEO-1 by September 30, 2019. Revised EEO-1 Disclosure Requirements Currently,…

Economic Value Added—New Governance Considerations

Starting this proxy season, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) will be disclosing in U.S. and Canadian company proxy reports Economic Value Added (EVA) metrics. These metrics will be shown for informational purposes only. However, we believe it is likely that ISS will incorporate EVA metrics into its CEO pay-for-performance analysis within the next two proxy seasons, subject to investor feedback.

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ISS’s introduction of EVA metrics is likely to foster discussion among compensation committees about the nature, merit and implication of these metrics. EVA may also be of interest among institutional investors as an additional lens to assess pay and performance…

Glass Lewis Launches New Service that Provides U.S. Companies the Opportunity to Give Feedback on its Vote Recommendations

On March 14, 2019, Glass Lewis announced the launch of a new Report Feedback Statement (RFS) service, which will allow a U.S. public company to provide feedback on Glass Lewis’ analysis of the company’s proxy proposals for its annual meeting. Glass Lewis will then disseminate these comments directly to its investor clients.

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The RFS service provides an opportunity for U.S. public companies1 to express their differences of opinion with Glass Lewis’ analysis on proxy proposals (e.g., Say on Pay proposal) to be voted on at their annual meeting. Glass Lewis will then…

House Passes Bill to Curb Potential Abuses of Rule 10b5-1 Trading Plans

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill that would require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to determine whether to adopt specified amendments to the rules governing 10b5-1 trading plans.

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Background SEC Rule 10b-5 prohibits securities fraud, including insider trading through the purchase or sale of securities on the basis of material non-public information. SEC Rule 10b5-1, which was adopted in 2000, allows insiders to transact in their company’s securities…

2019 Federal Budget: Changes to Tax Treatment of Stock Options

One of the proposed legislative changes in the Liberal government’s 2019 Federal Budget directly affects executive compensation.

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The government has proposed to limit the preferred tax treatment for stock options. Currently options are eligible for a deduction the effect of which is to tax them at one-half the ordinary income tax rate (similar to capital gains treatment).…

Will the New Year Bring Regulatory Oversight of the Proxy Advisory Firms?

The Senate and the SEC are operating on parallel paths toward the potential regulation of proxy advisory firms. However, the outcome remains uncertain.

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We have seen many false starts on the road to regulate proxy advisory firms. Several recent Congressional attempts to pass legislation to regulate the proxy advisory firms have failed. In 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills (the…

SEC Adopts Final Rules for Disclosure of Hedging Policies

On December 18, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted final rules that require companies to disclose in proxy statements their policies on hedging employer securities.

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In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”), which, among other things, directed the SEC to adopt rules requiring public companies to disclose their hedging policies. On February 9, 2015, the SEC issued proposed…

ISS Updates QualityScore Methodology

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recently announced that it has updated its Governance QualityScore (“QualityScore”) methodology, its governance-scoring tool. The key changes to the methodology include new factors related to board and C-Suite gender diversity and the levels of shareholder support for director elections and Say on Pay proposals.

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Overview of ISS Governance QualityScore ISS applies its QualityScore methodology solely to S&P 500 and Russell 3000 companies. According to ISS, QualityScore is intended to aid institutional investors in monitoring and evaluating portfolio company governance by providing such investors insights…

ISS Issues Final Policy Updates for 2019

On Monday, November 19, 2018, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) issued final updates to its proxy voting policies for 2019 – the most important of which relates to board gender diversity.

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ISS final policy updates cover four key areas: (i) board of directors, (ii) shareholders rights and defenses, (iii) capital/restructuring, and (iv) social and environmental issues. No updates specifically relate to executive compensation. Equally important, ISS chose not to issue a…

SEC Announces Agenda and Panelists for Roundtable on Proxy Process

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced the agenda and panelists for the SEC staff roundtable on proxy process to be held on November 15, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

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As we previously reported in our Client Update dated August 9, 2018, SEC Chair Jay Clayton announced that the SEC staff would be holding roundtable discussions with investors, public companies and other market participants about whether the SEC’s proxy rules…

ISS Issues Proposed Policy Updates for 2019

Last week, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) issued proposed policy updates.

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These proposed updates would modify ISS proxy voting policies for U.S.-listed companies as follows: ■ The quantitative pay-for-performance assessment1 would replace the currently used GAAP-based metrics with Economic Value Added (“EVA”) metrics, and ■ A board gender diversity policy that…

Summary of Key Results from ISS 2019 Annual Policy Survey

ISS’s recent Policy Survey previews potential changes in its 2019 proxy voting policies.

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Each year, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) surveys institutional investors, public companies (“issuers”) and the consulting and legal communities on emerging corporate governance and executive compensation issues as part of its annual policy formulation process (the “Survey”). Issuers and their advisors…

California Enacts Law Requiring Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards

On September 30, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a first-in-the nation requirement that public companies include a minimum number of women on their boards. The law solely applies to those publicly held corporations whose principal executive offices are located in California.

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Requirements of Gender Diversity Law The law’s requirements will be phased-in over a multi-year period, with compliance initially required by the close of the 2019 calendar year. A public company found to be in noncompliance with the gender diversity requirements…

Treasury Department and IRS Issue Guidance on Code Section 162(m)

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have issued initial guidance under Notice 2018-68 (“Notice”) on the amendments to Internal Revenue Code Section 162(m) made under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (“TCJA”). The Notice provides guidance on the definition of “covered employee” and the transition rule.

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Section 162(m) Prior to TCJA Prior to its amendment under TCJA, Section 162(m) generally prohibited a public company from taking a deduction for compensation that exceeded $1 million during a taxable year that was paid to a “covered employee”. However,…

Institutional Shareholder Services Releases its 2019 Policy Survey Questionnaire

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recently issued its 2019 policy survey questionnaire, which previews potential changes in ISS’s proxy voting policies.

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Through its annual policy survey, ISS seeks feedback from institutional investors, public companies, corporate directors and the consulting and legal communities on emerging trends in corporate governance, executive compensation and other matters as part of its policy formulation process. The…

SEC Chair Announces Staff Review of Proxy Process

On July 30, 2018, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Jay Clayton announced that the SEC staff will be holding roundtable discussions with investors, public companies and other market participants about whether the SEC’s proxy rules should be refined.

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The last time that the SEC engaged in a wholesale review of the proxy rules was in 2010, at which time the SEC issued a concept release seeking public comment on whether the U.S. proxy system as a whole operates…

Report on Say on Pay and Select Shareholder Proposals For the 2018 Proxy Season

Meridian Compensation Partners, LLC is pleased to provide this periodic report on key voting results for the 2018 proxy season.

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Executive Summary Meridian Compensation Partners, LLC is pleased to provide this periodic report on key voting results for the 2018 proxy season. Specifically, this report will cover the following areas: ■ Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 Say on Pay (SOP)…

Two Companies Settle Director Pay Lawsuits

Recently, two biotech companies (Clovis Oncology, Inc. and OvaScience, Inc.) agreed to settle director pay lawsuits, one of which is pending court approval1. The settlements, which are remarkably broad and prescriptive, set specified director pay levels (or pay range), mandate certain proxy disclosures and require the reformed director pay policies to be submitted to a binding shareholder vote.

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Clovis Oncology, Inc. and OvaScience, Inc. were subject to substantially similar shareholder derivative lawsuits brought by the same law firm. The lawsuits alleged that non-employee directors breached their fiduciary duties to shareholders by awarding themselves “excessive” compensation under non-shareholder approved…

ISS Evaluation of Director Pay Could Lead to Negative Vote Recommendation on Select Board Members in 2019

Beginning this proxy season, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) began to examine the reasonableness of non-employee director pay. The outcome of this examination could lead ISS to issue a negative vote recommendation on incumbent directors serving on the board committee responsible for setting director pay who are standing for election in 2019.

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Under its new proxy voting policy on non-employee director compensation, ISS will generally recommend shareholders vote AGAINST members of the board committee that are responsible for approving or setting non-employee director (NED) compensation if there is a pattern (i.e., 2…