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Discussion notes for Corporate Secretary Think Tank Canada Panel, 2 October 2013: Panel: Shareholder Activism, 9:30-10:45am

There have been a number of activist situations in Canada recently, including CP, Agrium, Telus, BlackBerry, Tim Hortons and others. Is your board a siting duck or otherwise vulnerable? Here is what the red flags are for defective governance, below.

Methodology

The following reflects, in no particular order: (i) my work in advising regulators (e.g., OSFI, OSC, AGCO, FiCom, others) in respect of governance; (ii) interviews with 40 activists, private equity leaders, members of the NACD 100, and top 100 CEO listing in 2013; (iii) my advisory work in two activist situations above (both advising the activist in the first, and board under attack in the second); (iv) my work with governance enhancements in companies that have been accused of fraud, bribery, corruption, stock manipulation and otherwise (ten in total); and (v) my advising and assessing award-winning boards (nine in total), who have strengthened their governance. The data collection has included individual director interviews and observing the board in action. For the full paper, published in the International Journal of Disclosure and Governance, November 2013, Special Issue: Enhancing the Effectiveness of the 21st Century Board of Directors: Part II, edited by myself, please contact me and I will email it to you.

Governance red flags, for activist attack and board bulletproofing, especially board composition, leadership, value creation and compensation, include the following, in no particular order

1. Captured, owned directors (trips, gifts, friends, company office, interlocks, school together, jobs for kids, donations, Directors economically dependent on fees): not objectively independent and/or owned in the boardroom, and Board refuses to have heightened independence standards or address the foregoing;

2. Directors with reputational, adverse publicity, integrity, independence, other board performance, egregious action or failure baggage, or inadequate experience and track record, and Board does not cure the distraction or adverse inference (i.e., promptly remove the Director);

3. No or little industry (market / geography, customer, supply chain) expertise on Board, and Board incapable of providing strategic control and direction to Management;

4. Legacy, pedigree, over-boarded (>2), over-tenured (>9 years), or otherwise ‘zombie’ Directors without new blood, diversity and renewal. Evidence is: busy boards with busy directors (>2 boards) “consistent and convincing” worse long-term performance and oversight (Stanford researchers); >9 years directorship reduces firm value (“board tenure has an inverted U-shape relation firm value” – Huang, July 2013); and gamed majority voting returns ‘zombie’ director to board. Global regulatory director tenure converging on 9-10 years (UK, India, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, other). Management-beholden, cozy, over-tenured, or legacy service providers (law, audit, compensation): no renewal or freedom to be adverse: regulators now addressing;

5. Management who unduly influence independent oversight functions (internal audit, chief risk officer, chief compliance officer, chief actuary, or equivalents) or external assurance advisors (external audit, governance lawyer, compensation consultant, search firm) from Board or Committee oversight, by preselecting, starving or otherwise unduly influencing. Regulators are becoming clear these functions are to be independent of senior and operational Management, and accountable to the Board and/or relevant Committee directly;

6. Weak, legacy, not independent, not effective, or unskilled Chair (Board or Committee): specifically, a Chair owned by Management or a dominant Shareholder, or both, or who does not understand obligations, capital markets, lacks leadership, credibility, cannot implement strict management accountability standards, and lacks subject matter or industry expertise; A Chair who should not be Chair, in other words;

7. A Board Chair who cannot lead value creation: An activist Board does the following:

  • Board, led by Chair, sets standards for vigorous value creation process, establishes ambitious value creation criteria, and leads Management to develop optimal value creation plan;
  • Deep dives and due diligence by all Directors into company, business model, industry and markets to understand value drivers, innovation opportunities and associated risks;
  • Board approves plan and its milestones, monitors progress regularly, calling for prompt corrective action to ensure goals are met, including increased goals as new unplanned/unanticipated opportunities arise;
  • Value maximization plan clearly and simply spells out key timelines, milestones, targets, and individuals accountable for each key plan component and specific results;
  • Reporting format and information flow provides frequent, timely and accurate information to Board on plan progress and any variances;
  • Board addresses plan variances quickly and directly: Management provides concrete responses on how shortfall will be corrected, by whom and when;
  • Chair adopts a primary role in foregoing;
  • Maintenance of ‘day to day’ management by CEO and rest of executive team;
  • Highly engaged level of functioning by Board and a shift in primary focus towards value creation; and
  • Robust debate and review of plan execution is primary board meeting agenda item; and at least one presentation each board meeting from key personnel below the senior level, on that particular individual’s role in the value maximization plan and a full discussion of progress to date in that regard.

9. CEO and other management information/personnel funneling, channel blocking, and starving of the Board; a weak Chair who does not cure; buy-in to “nose in fingers out” drinking of the Kool-Aid promulgated by Management and even director associations (see item 8 above), without an activist Director who can move the room;

10. Lack of executive/in camera sessions without any Management (including General Counsel / Corporate Secretary) in the room (i.e., executive sessions of and with: the Board; each Committee; each independent oversight function (see item 6); each external assurance provider (item 6); and key Shareholders, without Management);

11. Lack of regular meetings with Directors and major long-term Shareholders, and Board Chair directing counsel not to interfere; and failure of Board to understand/appreciate, or be misinformed about, shareholder base, and their concerns, behaviors, styles and preferences, including dissident activity by insurgents and activists: no early warning system or rapid response, experienced fight team, and being caught flat-footed;

12. Not listening to, or acting upon, advisory, precatory or withhold proposals, resolutions, votes, the will of shareholders, or listening to advisors, or having conflicted advisors, and curing the underlying issue(s) promptly;

13. Lack of value creation plan, with focus on innovation or strategy by the Board, or a separate board Committee if the Board cannot or will not (see item 8 above for what this looks like);

14. Lack of confidence in Directors by investors: A board incapable or unwilling to direct, control or replace underperforming, ineffective or inefficient Management;

15. An arrogant, insulated, bloated, complacent, non-introspective, defensive, clubby or otherwise inexperienced board that is in denial, not in charge, has lost objectivity, is not credible, does not have a sense of urgency, cannot be relied upon, and/or has become entrenched;

16. A governance analysis by a Board that is not at least equal to that of the activist, who bases theirs on public (not inside) information;

17. Directors who are ‘paid for showing up’ (per meeting, per committee, flat fee, etc., or excessively paid) without incentive link from their pay (cash and equity) to individual performance and/or achieving company value creation hurdles; and spending Directors’ own money on stock, vs. being awarded stock for attendance (current);

18. Boilerplate, inadequate, complex or gamed disclosure;

19. Failure to appreciate the sophistication, resources, screening, homework, PR, signaling, persuasive ability, staying power and resolve of an activist to go the distance;

20. A Board allowing Management to become emotional and attack the activist, rather than focus on the value creation plan, the issue(s), and communicating this to Shareholders to win support, or compromise, or resolve with the activist (as the case may be);

21. A Board itself becoming defensive to reasonable governance enhancements or significant reform: going dark, lawyering up, engaging in window dressing, di minimis action, and/or siding with Management at the expense of the Company and Shareholders (as the case may be), thinking the issue will go away; or acting in the best interests of company as pretext for perceived self interest;

22. Entrenchment: Non reasonable pills, staggered, dual, super, restrictions, thresholds, advance notice, bylaws, etc., devised by incumbent Management counsel, approved by Board, and perceived to hide, block or frustrate fluid market for corporate control and/or director removal;

23. Advocacy and funding of trade associations, advisors, lobbyists to resist governance reform (using Shareholder money by self-serving Management is the view of some activists);

24. Inadequate attention to validating (and on occasion misrepresenting) each Director’s expertise: in other words, linking the strategy and value creation plan of the Company to each Director’s separate competencies;

25. Not countering the expertise and track record of each incumbent Director on the Management slate vs. each prospective Director on the dissident slate, removing any weak Director on Management slate where necessary: in other words, not countering the activist two part concerns that: (i) change is necessary, and (ii) the activist Director slate can more effectively address the change;

26. Management hubris, herding, empire building, going beyond pure play, poor capital deployment or cash oversight, asset or supply chain mismanagement, deficient operating, financial or strategic performance, or running out of options, and Board not owing the best ideas for unlocking of shareholder value before the activist does, with the Board being perceived as “enthusiastic amateurs” (large institutional shareholder CEO, from interviews);

27. Over-reliance on inflated peers and hyper benchmarking, (salary-disguised, non stretch bonuses, LTIP not performance-based (PSUs)), and 17% of CEO pay unrelated to performance rather than structural result of year-over-year above-median peer group pay (Elson and Ferrere, August 2012);

28. Excessive compensation equity to management: mixed relationship to performance, tendency to manipulate, and a Board moving goalposts;

29. Lack of proper independent governance treatment and disclosure of waste, conflicts of interest, related party transactions, complex structures, use of corporate opportunity, and extraction of Shareholder money to founder, family or insider, and sleepy Board;

30. Lack of integration of academic research: Recent disclosure in reference to 1994 Dey guidelines: “We did virtually no research.”; and

31. Board or retained management advisors that subscribes to the myth, or do not confront the evidence, that hedge fund interventions do not create long term positive operating performance and value for all shareholders, when systemic study shows they do (Bebchuk, July, 2013: analysis of 2000 interventions over 1994-2007 studied @ 5 year periods).

Richard W. Leblanc, PhD

 

 

 

When does it become unethical for a director to continue to serve?

I spoke to corporate and not-for-profit directors in Dallas, Texas, today, about board dynamics and board renewal. The subject of the length of board service and director retirement arose. I said there was a recent study that the optimal service for a director was nine years, beyond which firm value was adversely affected. Many directors serve beyond nine years. The most excessive example of long service occurred once when a director of a community bank board said, “Richard we have four directors who have been on our board for over 50 years.” I mistakenly thought that this was 50 years in total, among the four directors. But I was wrong. There were four directors who had been on the board for over 50 years, each.

Many directors hang on to directorships for far too long. I counted several directors who have been on corporate boards for 10, 15, 20 and 25 years. This blocks board renewal, up-skilling, and diversification. Incumbent directors offer reasons for staying: how they know the company, enjoy serving, etc., and are skillful at wiggling, raising the retirement age to 71, 72 and now 75 (from 69 and 70).

The academic evidence however does not support excessively long-serving directors, or directors who are serving on multiple boards (known as “over-tenured” and “over-boarded” directors, respectively). Firm value is adversely affected for over tenured directors (inverted U shape in relation to firm value); and oversight and long term performance are compromised by “consistent and convincing results” (according to Stanford researchers) for busy boards composed of over-boarded directors.

Often the most vocal directors are those who are the least relevant or most affected by renewal. When you do a proper board review, it is apparent who is performing and who is not. There is resistance to an expert third party board evaluation by underperforming directors for fear of being found out. Directors know who the non-performers are. I said to the audience this morning that every board has one (or more) underperforming or dysfunctional directors, and if you don’t know who it is on your board, then it is you.

If boards do not solve their lack of renewal, regulators will do it for them. It is already starting. Regulators in the UK, Australia, India, Hong Kong, Singapore and other countries are imposing term limits on directors of between 9 and 10 years, beyond which independence is questioned. Regulators are imposing diversity requirements on boards. In the UK, even auditors are subject to tendering every five years. Regulators read the press reports of directors serving 40 years, auditors even serving up to 100, and communicate with academics on what the empirical research findings are.

The fact of the matter is that boards, as self-policing bodies, may be incapable of solving the renewal issue on their own because of entrenchment and self-interest. And herein lies the ethical question, posed to me by a director today: “When does hanging on or digging in breach a fiduciary duty by the director to act in the company’s best interest, rather than the director’s?” When should doing what is right; putting oneself at risk; having proper succession planning; mentoring, coaching and developing the next generation of directors; and letting go gracefully and honorably, matter?

This is an integrity issue. If – or perhaps when – a director becomes irrelevant, or is destroying value, is it ethical for that director to continue? Is it ethical for the board to allow that director to continue? The problem is doing what is ethical vs. acting out of self-interest can get commingled in an under performing director’s mind, or even a founder’s mind, or even other directors’ minds (who have been captured by the entrenched director colleague), without an objective measurement. This is neither person-proofing governance, nor in the interests of the company and its shareholders.

Aggrandizing long service, referring to “god fathers,” compounds this renewal problem and wearing as a badge of honor how many boards one has served on, or does serve on. As one “godfather” recently remarked in open session at a corporate governance conference, “We did virtually no research.” Well, maybe research should be looked to more when policy is developed. Firm value and the oversight of shareholder investment are at stake.

Eventually, a director fights redundancy and relevance. A tipping point is reached if there is indefinite service. It is inevitable. No one wants to be irrelevant. If there is no policy or, better yet, no measurement of actual performance and follow up accordingly, self-interest is perpetuated and complacency is allowed to continue, by the very people who should be leading by example. Directors need to know when it is time to go. And if they do not, regulators will.

 

What are some best governance practices of award-winning companies?

 

Photo tweeted by @tyfrancis

Photo tweeted by @tyfrancis

I recently served on a governance awards judging panel assembled by the Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries (CSCS). Winners of the awards were announced at this organization’s annual conference in Halifax last month. I participated in a plenary discussion to discuss some of the winning practices, and governance generally.

Here are the six award-winning companies, the categories under which they won, and their governance practices and results that they have that are, in my view, exemplary, in no particular order:

Shoppers Drug Mart – Best practices in managing boardroom diversity

  • Five out of eleven Directors are female, with two of three women Committee Chairs;
  • Continuous review of a robust director competency matrix, including focusing on board dynamics and decision-making;
  • Detailed director recruiting using precise director profile output resulting from the competency matrix assessment;
  • Board does not require CEO experience, and Board recruits and appoints first-time Directors;
  • Prospective Directors includes individuals not previously known to incumbent Directors;
  • Rigorous director interviews, including assessing capacity for constructive challenge, and comprehensive, tailored onboarding process; and
  • Limits on board tenure, over-boarding and interlocks.

Bank of Montreal – Best use of technology in governance, risk and compliance

  • Board portal with encrypted materials on a secure intranet site, secure email, user friendly interface, paperless iPad, and separate Director education iPad App;
  • Global entity records and management systems, with searchability, real time accuracy and updates, customization, validation, aggregation, and comprehensive, enterprise-wide compliance monitoring and reporting;
  • Investor relations alerts, conference calls and audio webcasts;
  • Ethics, legal and compliance: interactive, tailored, training annually for select employees, and suppliers, with user guide and follow-up;
  • Specialized regulatory training for senior management, all other employees, to educate, train, strengthen risk culture, using internal website, mandatory readings and eLearning;
  • Online governance and director assessment by the Board;

BCE – Best overall governance

  • Individual annual director elections, majority voting, independent Chair, advisory vote on executive compensation, and director interlock and tenure guidelines;
  • Internal audit and Risk Manager Officer report directly to Audit Committee Chair;
  • Electronic voting at annual shareholder meetings;
  • Comprehensive ethics program, focus on audit independence, and whistle-blowing policy;
  • Full written governance mandates, board leader position descriptions, education, orientation, and comprehensive board evaluation process and governance disclosure;
  • Focus on director competencies, geography and performance;

Tarion Warranty Corporation – Best approach to board and committee support

  • Annual work plan, consent agendas, skills matrix, terms of reference, position descriptions, and board portal;
  • Third party governance review, including peer to peer review of Directors;
  • Term limits for Board Chair and Directors, and guideline limits for Committee Chairs;
  • Six Directors with board certification;
  • Balanced score card and key performance indicators (KPIs) for company and CEO performance;
  • KPIs presented to Board at each meeting in dashboard format, and reviewed in depth by Audit Committee;
  • Stakeholder relations department to enhance focus on stakeholder satisfaction, engagement and communication;

Canada Council for the Arts – Best shareholder / stakeholder engagement

  • Highly consultative culture and stakeholder engagement, exemplary annual reporting, rotating meetings geographically;
  • Strategic engagement (financial and non-financial), outreach, dialogue, surveys, consultation sessions and workgroups, with comprehensive, exemplary written shareholder and other stakeholder reporting, follow-up, and use of social media;
  • Direct Board contact with artists, arts community, partners, leaders and other stakeholders;
  • Directors as ambassadors at stakeholder outreach events, nationally and internationally;

TELUS Corporation – Best sustainability, ethics and environmental governance program

  • Board and Committee leadership to monitor corporate social responsibility (CSR), including environmental policies, enterprise energy strategy, ethics policy, whistleblower policy;
  • Employee, environment and community engagement, culture and performance (numerous examples and leadership);
  • Governance Reporting Initiative reporting on CSR performance since 2000, third party reporting verification, stakeholder solicitation, and CSR reporting recognition;
  • Environment management system since mid-1990s, carbon footprint reporting early adopter, and alignment goal of ISO 14001:2004 compliant by 2014;
  • CSR metrics integrated into strategic planning, and CEO and other executive performance objectives; and
  • Supplier code of conduct in 2011 for business partner adherence.

It was an honor to serve on this judging panel and the above Canadian companies should be celebrated – as well as their Directors – for setting the ever-rising bar for effective corporate governance.

Corporate Directors: “You Hold Much of Our Future is in Your Hands”

In an inspirational video for the National Association of Corporate Directors’ annual conference, one speaker remarks, “Directors: You hold much of our future in your hands.” Another said “More government is not the answer: We are.”

The above are not exaggerations. Layers and layers of regulation and compliance are dragging corporate governance downward. Many boards have largely marginalized value creation and strategy, my research suggests. America is in danger of experiencing a lost decade since the financial crisis, given its debt and political intransigence. Corporations and their boards need to lead the way.

Boards should revitalize, as the American economy (and the world) is dependent on it. But they need to do so in a way that puts their own interests and reputations at risk. They need to be ruthless in recreating – and think only of the best interests of their enterprises. They need to “future proof” in other words, which is the theme of the NACD conference.

Future-proofing the boardroom means renewing and preparing for the future irrespective of present incumbents and office holders. This is extraordinarily difficult to do for any group, let alone corporate boards.

Here are some tough questions good boards should be struggling with:

Do we have the right directors?

Do we as a whole have the right competencies and skills, but more importantly do we have courage to replace those directors who do not? If we are one of those directors, do we have the courage and integrity to step down, i.e., not act in self-interest? Tough conversations need to be had with directors who refuse to go.

Do we have the right chair?

Does our Chair (or Lead Director) have the independence, attributes, experience and track record that the company and senior management needs and respects – to lead the board, hold management to account, and focus on value creation? If not, a tough conversation needs to occur.

Do we focus on strategy and value creation?

Assuming we have the right directors and Chair, do we spend enough time on the strategy and value creation of the enterprise? Is at least 50% of our time spent here? If not, why not and how do we fix this?

Do we have a long-term focus and the right metrics that drive management to focus on the long-term as well?

Do we measure and reward performance such as innovation, health, reputation, talent, culture, satisfaction and engagement, that is aligned with our product and risk cycle? These metrics are key to value creation. Or are we subsumed by the short-term? If we are (as most boards are), how do we change this?

Do we really listen and communicate with our shareholders?

Do we engage meaningfully and authentically with our major, long-term shareholders? Do we listen to and act on their concerns, or do we entrench and are we defensive? If we do not listen and act, then why not, and how can we structure ourselves differently?

Are directors sufficiently independent from each other and from management?

Do we bring on directors who are not previously known to us or to management? Are we scrupulous in not allowing directors to be compromised, and act when we see that a director is? Do all directors disclose when they are compromised?

Do we embrace and understand technology?

There is an enormous transformation afoot. See a reading list as an example of digital media’s impact on reputation, business models, big data and change. Do boards have the ability to understand and predict how their company and industry will change? If not, recruit directors who do.

Do we establish the right tone at the top?

Lastly, do we direct management to establish systems, controls and an ethical culture that rewards proper risk taking? Do we lead by example, and are we ruthless in acting at the slightest deviation from proper business conduct and integrity?

The above questions are adopted from a larger paper I authored focusing on strengthening public company boards, in which I interviewed forty activists, private equity leaders, NACD 100 members and CEOs, here.

The answers to the above questions are fundamental for corporate boards and their directors. More importantly, candid answers will have implications for the way a current board is constituted, is led, and functions.

Answering the questions truthfully, unbiasedly and void of any personal interest whatsoever will be the toughest part for any board.

Richard Leblanc is a governance lawyer, academic, speaker and independent advisor to leading Canadian and international boards of directors. He can be reached at rleblanc@boardexpert.com.

Proposals to Strengthen a Board’s Role in Value Creation, Management Accountability to the Board, and Board Accountability to Shareholders

There have been a handful of activist threats to Canadian companies recently.

What these engagements have drawn focus on are defects in public company governance, including the skill sets of existing directors, the board’s focus on value creation vs compliance, and the very ways boards function and operate, particularly compared to private equity boards.

What follows is a series of recommendations that could apply to any public board: to make it more focused on value creation; to strengthen real director independence, including from management; to strengthen management accountability to the board; and, perhaps most importantly, to strengthen board accountability to shareholders.

These recommendations are expected to form a journal article I am authoring, and will be incorporated into a case on Canadian Pacific I am co-authoring. I will post the journal article once it is published, but I thought I would post the recommendations below, for commentary and criticism, particularly from my LinkedIn Group “Boards and Advisors.” (I have not included the supporting rationale/commentary for each recommendation, which will appear in the journal article; however, most of the recommendations are rather self-explanatory on their own.)

The recommendations are based on, in no particular order: interviews with activist investors, private equity leaders, directors and CEOs; advisory work with regulators; assessments of leading boards; expert-witness work; academic and practitioner literature and regulations in other countries; director conferences and webinars; lectures I have delivered to the Institute of Corporate Directors and Directors College; discussions in my LinkedIn group, Board and Advisors; and a book I am writing including with Henry D. Wolfe and Frank Feather entitled “Building High Performance Boards.”

Several recommendations may result in significant restructuring and change in how a public company board operates, functions, is composed, engages and focuses.

What follows is a listing of the recommendations, organized into three groupings, as follows:

I.           Increase Board Engagement, Expertise and Incentives to Focus on Value Creation (proposals 1-19)

II.         Increase Director Independence from Management and Management Accountability to the Board (proposals 20-30)

III.       Increase Director Accountability to Shareholders (proposals 31-38)

We will now begin with grouping I.

I.          Increase Board Engagement, Expertise and Incentives to Focus on Value Creation

1.         Reduce the size of the Board.

2.         Increase the frequency of Board meetings.

3.         Limit Director overboardedness.

4.         Limit Chair of the Board overboardedness.

5.         Increase Director work time.

6.         Increase the Board Chair’s role in the value creation process.

7.         Focus the majority of Board time on value creation and company performance.

8.         Increase Director roles and responsibilities relative to value creation.

9.         Increase Director compensation, and match incentive compensation to long-term value creation and individual performance.

10.       Enable Director access to information and reporting Management.

11.       Enable Director and Board access to expertise to inform value creation as needed.

12.       Require active investing in the Company by Directors.

13.       Select Directors who can contribute directly to value creation.

14.       Revise the Board’s committee structure to address value creation.

15.       Hold Management to account.

16.       Disclose individual Director areas of expertise directly related to value creation.

17.       Increase Board engagement focused on value creation.

18.       Establish and fund an independent Office of the Chairman.

19.       Limit Board homogeneity and groupthink.

We will now continue with grouping II.

II.        Increase Director Independence from Management and Management Accountability to the Board

20.       Increase objective Director and advisory independence.

21.       Limit Director interlocks.

22.       Limit over-tenured Directors.

23.       Limit potential Management capture and social relatedness of Directors.

24.       Decrease undue Management influence on Director selection.

25.       Decrease undue Management influence on Board Chair selection.

26.       Increase objective independence of governance assurance providers.

27.       Limit management control of board protocols.

28.       Address fully perceived conflicts of interest.

29.       Establish independent oversight functions reporting directly to Committees of the Board to support compliance oversight.

30.       Match Management compensation with longer-term value creation, corporate performance and risk management.

We will now conclude with grouping III.

Increase Director Accountability to Shareholders

31.       The Board Chair and Committee Chairs shall communicate face-to-face and visit regularly with major Shareholders.

32.       Communicate the value creation plan to Shareholders.

33.       Implement integrated, longer-term reporting focused on sustained value creation that includes non-financial performance and investment.

34.       Implement independent and transparent Director performance reviews with Shareholder input linked to re-nomination.

35.       Each Director, each year, shall receive a majority of Shareholder votes cast to continue serving as a Director.

36.       Make it easier for Shareholders to propose and replace Directors.

37.       Limit any undue Management influence on Board – Shareholder communication.

38.       Limit Shareholder barriers to the governance process that can be reasonably seen to promote Board or Management entrenchment.

Conclusion

There have been significant changes to corporate governance in the last few years. Most notably, boards and regulators are now dealing with a defective legacy of independent directors who do not possess the relevant expertise. The scholarship has never supported independent board or separate chairs and the causal relationship to corporate performance. Regulators and most recently shareholders are now are focusing on competencies.

Second, there has been an under-emphasis on strategy and value creation by many boards, at the expense and crowding out of compliance obligations. Shareholders are now addressing this shortcoming.

Third, there is a movement towards shareholders exerting ownership rights to effect the governance of the company and select and remove directors who can address the earlier two points: competencies and skills, and fulfillment of the strategic and value creation role of the board.

Fourth, there is the real perception that directors are beholden to management.

I have addressed in the above recommendations all four defects in the current governance model for public companies: (i) directors selected primarily with a view to formal independence; (ii) not addressing fully the strategic and value creation role of the board; (iii) shareholders having greater say on directors and value creation; and (iv) making boards more independent of management, and management more accountable to boards.

I am happy to respond to any of the above.

Richard Leblanc, PhD


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