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SEC May Scale Back Proxy Advisory Firm Regulation

The Financial Times recently reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expected to eliminate the requirement that proxy advisory firms (PAFs) preview their vote recommendations with companies for feedback, as would be required under a proposed rule regulating PAFs. The SEC has not confirmed this report.

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On November 5, 2019, the SEC issued a proposed rule which would require PAFs to give companies either three or five days (depending on the number of days the proxy is filed in advance of the annual shareholder meeting) to…

The $2 Trillion CARES Act Imposes Limits On Employee Pay

As seen in Corporate Board Member - The largest stimulus bill in U.S. history conditions the granting of federal loans and loan guarantees on companies’ agreement to limit employee compensation.

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On March 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (‘‘CARES Act”) which passed both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives earlier last week with bipartisan support. The CARES Act…

Proxy Advisors Issue Policy Guidance on COVID-19

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis recently issued guidance on the application of their proxy voting policies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Since we are now in the heart of proxy season, corporate boards and management teams have raised questions regarding whether ISS and Glass Lewis would consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in either their proxy voting policies or the…

Congress Passes $2 Trillion Stimulus Bill that Limits or Reduces Pay for Employees of Certain Companies Receiving Federal Loans or Loan Guarantees

The largest stimulus bill in U.S. history conditions the granting of federal loans and loan guarantees on recipient companies’ agreement to limit (or in some cases reduce) employee compensation for up to a six-year period.

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On March 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (‘‘CARES Act”) which passed both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives earlier last week with bipartisan support. The CARES Act…

COVID-19

The Meridian family is cognizant of the extraordinary challenges facing our clients, friends and others in these unprecedented times.

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First and foremost, we hope you, your families and your colleagues are staying safe and healthy during this global health crisis. We appreciate normal business operations for many companies have been upended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only through the…

Drafting a Modern Equity Incentive Plan

With the 2020 proxy season approaching, many public companies are readying new or amended equity plans for shareholder approval.

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These plans are a ubiquitous feature of public companies’ compensation programs. They allow companies to grant various types of equity and equity-based awards to their non- employee directors, executives and other key employees. Although equity plans are broadly similar, companies…

Compensation Committees: Good Governance Process Leads to Effective Decision-Making

Compensation Committees (“Committees”) are held to the highest legal standard when setting the compensation of executive officers.

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That is, Committee decision-making must pass muster under fiduciary standards to be defensible and withstand judicial scrutiny. To meet these fiduciary standards, Compensation Committees should have in place a robust governance process from which to develop sound compensation determinations and…

Top Ten Design Considerations When Drafting a Modern Equity Incentive Plan

With the 2020 proxy season approaching, many public companies are readying new or amended equity plans for shareholder approval.

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These plans are a ubiquitous feature of public companies’ compensation programs. They allow companies to grant various types of equity and equity-based awards to their non- employee directors, executives and other key employees. Although equity plans are broadly similar, companies still…

ISS Issues Final Policy Updates for 2020

On November 11, 2019, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) issued final updates to its proxy voting policies for 2020 and on November 21, 2019, ISS issued further guidance in its preliminary FAQs for 2020 compensation policies. The updates represent an incremental change to existing ISS policies and the implementation of phased-in policies related to non-employee director compensation and board gender diversity.

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Final Policy/Process Updates for 2020 ISS has made the following modifications to its U.S. pay-for-performance assessment for 2020: ■ Easing the quantitative concern thresholds under its initial three-part comparative quantitative analysis of CEO pay and company performance, and ■ Using…

SEC Issues Proposed Rules Regulating Proxy Advisory Firms

On November 5, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued proposed rules that would impose a new regulatory regime on proxy advisory firms (“PAFs”).

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Since the SEC held its roundtable discussion on the proxy voting process in November 2018, the SEC has indicated that it was poised to issue proposed rules regulating PAFs. The issuance of the proposed rule represents the culmination of a…

Managing Disclosure on Personal Use of Corporate Aircraft

Personal use of corporate aircraft remains a popular perquisite among many of the largest public companies.

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In addition to getting executives to important business destinations and enabling them to work proactively while traveling, many companies provide top executives the opportunity to use the corporate aircraft for non-business purposes, including travel to outside company board meetings, spousal…

Report on Say on Pay and Select Shareholder Proposals For the 2019 Proxy Season

Meridian Compensation Partners, LLC is pleased to provide this periodic report on key voting results for the 2019 proxy season.

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Executive Summary Specifically, this report will cover the following areas: ■   Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 Say on Pay (SOP) Vote Results and Analysis, ■   Russell 3000 SOP Vote Results and Analysis, and ■   Analysis of Vote Results on Select…

Council of Institutional Investors (CII) Overhauls its Policy on Executive Compensation

On September 17, 2019, the Council of Institutional Investors (CII) announced an overhaul of its policy on executive compensation, urging public companies to reduce the complexity of their executive compensation plans and set longer service-based periods for time-based equity awards.

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CII is an influential advocacy group for institutional investors. Its membership includes a wide range of asset managers with over $35 trillion in assets under management. To advance the interests of its members and reflect changes in the corporate governance…

Summary of Key Results from ISS 2019 Annual Policy Survey

ISS’s recent Policy Survey previews potential changes in to 2020 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…

Corporate Share Repurchase Programs Draw Increasing Criticism

Since 2009, corporate share repurchase programs have been a ubiquitous feature of many public companies’ capital allocation strategies. Generally, these programs have been applauded by institutional shareholders, while raising little concern by other parties. That dynamic is now changing with share repurchase programs drawing sharp criticism from politicians, state and union pension funds, and others.

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Recently, politicians, the media, academics and governance experts have criticized company stock buyback programs as a mechanism for enriching shareholders and executives through short-term boosts in a company’s stock price, while harming employees and misallocating capital to the detriment of…

SEC Issues Guidance on Proxy Advisory Firms

On August 21, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued guidance covering the role that proxy advisory firms play in the proxy voting process and the use of proxy advisory firms by investment advisers.

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Despite reports to the contrary, the guidance (which does not carry the weight of law) does not represent meaningful federal oversight of proxy advisory firms. In fact, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis already largely comply with the guidance.…

Institutional Shareholder Services Releases its 2019 Policy Survey Questionnaire

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recently issued its 2019 policy survey questionnaire, which generally 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…

Investor Group Seeking Greater Disclosure on Workplace Equity Policies

A group of 99 institutional investors are requesting “that companies increase investors’ accessibility to information related to their workplace equity policies and practices across gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other federally protected classes.”

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Through a yet-to-be launched letter campaign, so far, a group of 99 institutional investors representing over $1.6 trillion of assets owned, advised or managed are signatories to an “Investor Statement” calling for public companies to provide enhanced disclosure on workplace…

Report on Say on Pay and Select Shareholder Proposals For the 2019 Proxy Season

Meridian Compensation Partners, LLC is pleased to provide this periodic report on key voting results for the 2019 proxy season.

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Executive Summary Specifically, this report will cover the following areas: ■ Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 Say on Pay (SOP) Vote Results and Analysis; ■ Russell 3000 SOP Vote Results and Analysis; and ■ Analysis of Vote Results on Select…

Illinois’ Proposed Board Diversity Law Stripped of Diversity Mandate

Earlier this month, the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate passed legislation that requires certain public companies to report diversity data and information, but excludes the requirement that these public companies’ board of directors meet racial and gender quotas (which were a part of the initial proposed legislation).

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As we previously reported in our Client Update dated May 22, 2019, the Illinois House of Representatives and Illinois Senate were both considering separate bills that would have required subject corporations’ boards of directors to include at least one female…