Boards are increasingly confronted with the possibility of wrongdoing implicating the company or its employees. These situations can come to the attention of the board in a number of ways, including from private-party lawsuits, internal audits, whistle-blower tips and governmental inquiries.
After an uptick in activist campaigns in the last couple of years, followed by a recent minor plateauing, shareholder activism has entrenched itself in the modern climate of corporate governance. In particular, shareholder activists have entered industries that, until recently, have generally steered clear of such investors. One such industry is the energy sector, which has, until very recent times, often avoided prominent campaigns as a result of commodity price volatility.
One of the primary functions of a board of directors is to enhance shareholder value. Advocates argue and studies show that companies with greater board diversity outperform those companies with less diversity. This is one of the reasons that board composition (and, in particular, gender, race and ethnic diversity) is a topic of increasing focus among corporate governance groups, investors, and regulators in both the U.S. and Europe.
Akin Gump recently covered two important rulings made in Delaware courts in December that provide critical guidance to corporations and their boards. On December 14, 2007, the Delaware Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dell, Inc. v. Magnetar Global Event Driven Master Fund, Ltd., Case No. 565, 2016, the latest in a series of noteworthy “appraisal arbitrage” cases that made their way through Delaware Chancery Courts in 2017. For the second time in 2017, the court reversed a Chancery Court’s decision to assign little or no weight to deal price in appraisal cases, leaving some confusion as to whether or not deal price should be the default standard absent mitigating factors. Learn more by reading the client alert here.
This week we highlight a study by the EY Center for Board Matters, “Audit Committee Reporting to Shareholders in 2017.” EY reviewed audit committee-related proxy disclosures by Fortune 100 companies to examine trends in voluntary reporting and finds a continued increase in voluntary audit committee disclosures to shareholders.
This week we highlight PWC’s report on How your board can be ready for crisis, addressing key challenges for directors during a crisis and discussing how being prepared gives a company better odds of bouncing back smoothly. This analysis reviews the elements of effective crisis management plans and the importance of an escalation plan between management and the board, among other issues.
This week we highlight two analyses, one by J.P. Morgan and the other by Ernst & Young, reviewing the 2017 proxy season. The reports address board diversity; gender equality; environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues; and the normalization of shareholder activism as high priorities and key trends for many investors and boards.
This week we highlight Professor John Coffee Jr.’s article “Hobson’s CHOICE: The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 and the Future of SEC Administrative Enforcement”, analyzing the Financial CHOICE Act and in particular its impact on SEC enforcement. This post was published in the Columbia law school’s blog on corporations and the capital markets.