Presentation on theme: "ELECTION AND QUALIFICATIONS OF DIRECTORS Robert D. Strahota, Assistant Director * SEC Office of International Affairs Prepared for the panel on Improving."— Presentation transcript:
ELECTION AND QUALIFICATIONS OF DIRECTORS Robert D. Strahota, Assistant Director * SEC Office of International Affairs Prepared for the panel on Improving Corporate Governance in Emerging Markets International Institute for Securities Market Development April 23, 2004 * The Securities and Exchange Commission disclaims responsibility for any private publication or statement of any SEC employee or Commissioner. This presentation expresses the author's views and does not necessarily reflect those of the Commission, individual Commissioners, or other members of the staff.
THREE ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION 1.Who should elect directors of a publicly owned company? A.Shareholders of record or beneficial owners? B.Should there be a one share – one vote rule? 2.Should there be a requirement for non-management or independent directors? If yes: A.How many? B.What independence and other qualifications should apply? C.What board of directors functions should be delegated to these directors? 3.Under what circumstances should shareholders be permitted to nominate candidates for election as directors in opposition to management’s nominees?
WHO SHOULD ELECT DIRECTORS OF A PUBLICLY OWNED COMPANY? US state corporate laws provide that the shareholders of record are entitled to vote for the election of directors. For US companies that are subject to the SEC’s proxy rules, SEC rules require broker- dealers, banks and others holding shares in a fiduciary capacity to forward proxy statements and annual reports to beneficial owners of the shares at the companies’ expense. Stock exchange rules require both US and foreign listed companies to solicit voting instructions from beneficial owners, including owners of American Depository Receipts, but the SEC’s proxy rules do not apply to foreign companies. If voting instructions are not timely received from beneficial owners, brokers et al may vote or give voting instructions, except in the case of election contests. Beneficial ownership is defined as the power to direct the voting or the disposition of securities. The US ownership/registration system is indirect; only executive officers, directors and more than 5% beneficial owners must publicly disclose their beneficial ownership. There is no one share – one vote rule. However, stock exchange listing rules prohibit non-voting common stock, voting caps, time-phased voting and super-voting stock, subject to certain “grandfathered” exceptions; e.g, media companies with Class A common with 10 votes per share and Class B. common with 1 vote per share.
SHOULD THERE BE A REQUIREMENT FOR NON- MANAGEMENT OR INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS? Before the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, no federal law (and no state corporate law) required independent directors, except for registered investment companies under the Investment Company Act of 1940. As required by SOX, the SEC, by rule, directed the stock exchanges and NASD to prohibit the listing of securities of any company, including a foreign company, that does not have an audit committee comprised entirely of independent directors. Independence, for these purposes, means that an audit committee member is not an affiliate of the issuer or any subsidiary and that the member receives no consulting, advisory or compensatory fee from the issuer except is his capacity as a member of the audit committee, another board committee or the board of directors. The stock exchanges and NASD have adopted additional requirements for audit committees, including the requirements that members be financially sophisticated and at least one member must be an expert in accounting/auditing matters. Audit committees will be discussed in more detail by a separate panel on April 26.
NYSE AND NASDAQ GOVERNANCE CHANGES A majority of the board of directors must be independent directors –More stringent definitions of “independent director” than used in SOX A compensation committee of the board and a nominating/corporate governance committee of the board must be comprised entirely of independent directors Except for the audit committee requirements mandated by SOX, the above requirements are not mandatory for foreign companies. NYSE will require disclosure of how a foreign issuer’s governance differs from these requirements Nasdaq will permit foreign issuers to be exempted from its requirements if they are contrary to home country requirements or business practices
ADDITIONAL NYSE AND NASDAQ CHANGES NYSE Corporate governance guidelines Separate meetings of non-management directors Audit committee charter Internal audit function Code of business conduct and ethics CEO certification of compliance with governance requirements Public reprimand letter Shareholder approval of equity compensation plans NASDAQ Separate meetings of independent directors Audit committee charter Code of business conduct and ethics Notification of noncompliance Public announcement of audit opinions with going concern qualifications Review and approval of related party transactions by audit committee or other independent board-level body Shareholder approval of equity compensation plans
UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD SHAREHOLDERS BE ENTITLED TO NOMINATE DIRECTOR CANDIDATES? Current Practice: Shareholders generally may nominate candidates for election as directors, but if they wish to solicit proxies from other shareholders, they must do so separately at their own expense. On October 14, 2003, the SEC proposed rules that would, under certain circumstances, require companies to include in their proxy materials security holder nominees for election as director. Proposed triggering events: More than 35% of votes are withheld for a company nominee at a prior year’s election. Prior passage by 50% of the votes cast of a shareholder proposal for direct shareholder access to the proxy machinery. The rules would not apply to contests for control or where the nominee has a financial relationship with the nominating shareholder. These proposals, which are still pending, have received both substantial support and substantial opposition from public commentators. On November 24, 2003, the SEC adopted amendments to its proxy rules that require companies to make more transparent disclosures regarding the operations of board nominating committees, including consideration of shareholder nominees.