497 1 d468954d497.htm NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL SERIES FUND, INC. Northwestern Mutual Series Fund, Inc.
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Northwestern Mutual Series Fund, Inc.

Supplement Dated October 10, 2017 to the

Statement of Additional Information Dated May 1, 2017

This Supplement revises certain information contained in the Statement of Additional Information (the “SAI”) for the Northwestern Mutual Series Fund, Inc. (the “Fund”) dated May 1, 2017, as supplemented May 24, 2017 and June 2, 2017. You should read this Supplement together with the SAI.

Service Provider Change

Effective September 25, 2017, the transition of Fund custodian and fund accounting services to State Street Bank and Trust Company was completed. Accordingly, the SAI is amended by changing the title of the sub-section of the SAI titled “Custodians under “INVESTMENT ADVISORY AND OTHER SERVICES” beginning on page B-75, to “Custodian and Fund Accountant” and by deleting the content set forth in the sub-section and inserting the following language:

“State Street Bank and Trust Company, 1 Iron Street, Boston, MA 02110 serves as the Fund’s custodian. The custodian maintains custody of securities and other assets of the respective Portfolios and performs certain services in connection with the purchase, sale, exchange and pledge of securities of the Portfolios.

State Street Bank and Trust Company also serves as the fund accountant, providing pricing and valuation services with respect to securities and other investments of each Portfolio, and related services to the Fund.”

In addition, the list of Service Providers set forth in Appendix G – Portfolio Holdings Disclosure Recipients beginning on page B-418 is amended to delete all references to JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. and to insert the following after the second bullet point in the list of Service Providers that have access to the Fund’s portfolio holdings on a daily basis:

 

  “•

State Street Bank and Trust Company in its capacity as custodian and depositories utilized by the foregoing.

 
    •

State Street Bank and Trust Company in its capacity as fund accountant.

 
    •

BBH Infomediary in its capacity as trade information services provider to Mason Street Advisors, LLC and each of the sub-advisers.”

 

As a result of the foregoing changes, effective September 25, 2017 all references to Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank as the custodians for the Fund, and all references to Northwestern Mutual serving as fund accountant for the Fund, are deleted.

Appendix B – Directors and Officers Update

Effective August 15, 2017, Steve A. Warren and Joseph A. Travia are removed from the list of Officers of the Fund set forth in the “Directors and Officers” table beginning on page B-101.

Appendix D – Portfolio Manager Update to International Growth Portfolio

Effective June 15, 2017, Vincent Montemaggiore has been named interim portfolio manager of the International Growth Portfolio while portfolio manager Jed Weiss is on a leave of absence. Mr. Weiss is expected to return in November 2017. Accordingly, the “Other Accounts Managed by Portfolio

 

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Managers” table beginning on page B-110 is amended to add Mr. Montemaggiore as a portfolio manager for the International Growth Portfolio. The information below for Mr. Montemaggiore is as of June 30, 2017.

 

Portfolio

Manager(s)

 

        

 

Fund

 

        

 Other Registered 

 Investment 

 Companies 

 

        

 Other Pooled 

 Investment 

 Vehicles 

 

        

Other Accounts

 

Vincent

Montemaggiore

        International 
Growth Portfolio 
        7 registered investment companies with approximately $26.4 billion in total assets under management. 5 other investment companies with approximately $24.9 billion in total assets which charge an advisory fee based on the performance of the account.         No other pooled 
investment
vehicles
        No other accounts

Under the “Compensation of Portfolio Managers” sub-section beginning on page B-121 the following information related to FIAM LLC (FIAM) is added as a new third paragraph:

“Effective June 15, 2017, Vince Montemaggiore has been named interim portfolio manager of the International Growth Portfolio while the portfolio manager, Jed Weiss, is on a leave of absence from the firm. Mr. Weiss is expected to return in November 2017. Due to the interim nature of his appointment to this portfolio, Mr. Montemaggiore will not receive compensation for his services to the International Growth Portfolio.”

In addition, the sub-section titled “Portfolio Manager Securities Ownership” beginning on page B-148 is amended by adding the following:

“As of June 30, 2017, Mr. Montemaggiore does not own any Northwestern Mutual variable annuities or variable life contracts with investments in the International Growth Portfolio.”

Fee Update to Large Company Value Portfolio

Large Company Value Portfolio

The SAI is amended by replacing the third sentence of the paragraph relating to American Century Investment Management, Inc. (“American Century”) that appears on page B-70 under the sub-section of the SAI section titled “The Sub-Advisers,” under “INVESTMENT ADVISORY AND OTHER SERVICES” with the following:

 

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“Effective August 15, 2017, for the services provided for the Large Company Value Portfolio, Mason Street Advisors pays American Century a fee at an annual rate of 0.39% on the first $100 million of assets, 0.34% on the next $400 million and 0.30% on assets in excess of $500 million.”

Fee Update to Domestic Equity Portfolio

Domestic Equity Portfolio

The SAI is amended by replacing the eleventh sentence of the paragraph relating to Delaware Investments Fund Advisers (“Delaware Investments”) that appears on page B-71 under the sub-section of the SAI section titled “The Sub-Advisers,” under “INVESTMENT ADVISORY AND OTHER SERVICES” with the following:

“Effective September 1, 2017, for services provided on behalf of the Domestic Equity Portfolio, Mason Street Advisors pays Delaware at the annual rate of 0.35% of the first $100 million of the Portfolio assets, 0.30% on the next $100 million and 0.20% on assets in excess of $200 million.”

Sub-Adviser Changes for Large Cap Core Stock and Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolios

On August 15, 2017, the Fund’s Board of Directors approved the replacement of Fayez Sarofim & Co. as the sub-adviser for the Fund’s Large Cap Core Stock Portfolio and William Blair Investment Management, LLC as the sub-adviser for the Fund’s Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolio, with Wellington Management Company LLP (“Wellington Management”), who will serve as sub-adviser to the Fund’s Large Cap Core Stock and Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolios. Wellington Management will begin to provide sub-advisory services on or about October 27, 2017. In approving the Investment Sub-Advisory Agreements related to the foregoing engagements with Wellington Management, the Fund relied on an Exemptive Order issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission that permits the Fund and its investment adviser to hire or terminate a sub-adviser at any time without shareholder approval so long as, among other conditions, shareholders are provided notice of the change.

As a result of the foregoing changes, effective October 27, 2017, all references to Fayez Sarofim & Co. as the sub-adviser for the Fund’s Large Cap Core Stock Portfolio and to William Blair Investment Management, LLC as the sub-adviser for the Fund’s Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolio are deleted and certain sections of the SAI shall be amended as noted below.

The Sub-Advisers

The Sub-Advisers” section beginning on page B-69 is revised so that the paragraph related to Wellington Management is deleted and replaced with the following:

“Wellington Management Company LLP (“Wellington Management”) is a Delaware limited liability partnership with principal offices at 280 Congress Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02210, and serves as sub-adviser to the Small Cap Growth Stock Portfolio, the Large Cap Core Stock Portfolio and the Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolio. Wellington Management is a professional investment counseling firm which provides investment services to investment companies, employee benefit plans, endowments, foundations, and other institutions. Wellington Management and its predecessor organizations have provided investment advisory services for over 80 years. Wellington Management is owned by the partners of Wellington Management Group LLP, a

 

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Massachusetts limited liability partnership. For services to the Small Cap Growth Stock Portfolio, Mason Street Advisors pays Wellington Management a fee based on the average daily net assets of the Portfolio at the following rates: 0.60% on the first $75 million of assets, 0.50% on the next $75 million, and 0.40% on assets over $150 million. Wellington Management was paid the following amounts for services provided to the Small Cap Growth Stock Portfolio for the last three years: $2,262,462.98 for the year ended December 31, 2014, $2,350,471.59 for the year ended December 31, 2015, and $2,193,807.57 for the year ended December 31, 2016. For services provided to the Large Cap Core Stock Portfolio, Mason Street Advisors pays Wellington Management a fee based on the average daily net assets of the Portfolio at the following rates: 0.28% on the first $25 million of assets, 0.24% on the next $25 million, 0.20% on the next $150 million and 0.18% on assets over $200 million. For services to the Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolio, Mason Street Advisors pays Wellington Management a fee based on the average daily net assets of the Portfolio at the following rates: 0.33% on the first $500 million of assets and 0.31% on assets over $500 million. As of June 30, 2017, Wellington Management had investment management authority with respect to approximately $1.02 trillion in assets.”

Disclosure of Non-Public Holdings Information

The table beginning at the bottom of page B-84 of the SAI section titled “DISCLOSURE OF PORTFOLIO HOLDINGS – Disclosure of Non-Public Holdings Information” is revised so that the disclosures with respect to the Small Cap Growth Portfolio, the Large Cap Core Stock Portfolio and the Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolio read as follows:

 

Small Cap Growth Stock Portfolio

Large Cap Core Stock Portfolio

Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolio

(sub-advised by Wellington Management Company LLP)

  

      Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., Markit WSO Corporation, Syntel, Inc., and State Street Bank and Trust Company, in connection with certain operational functions performed for the sub-adviser

      FactSet Research Systems, Inc., MSCI, Inc., Bloomberg LP and Moody’s Analytics Knowledge Services (UK) Limited (formerly Copal Partners (UK) Limited), in connection with analytical services provided to the sub-adviser

      Glass, Lewis & Co., as proxy service provider

 

Appendix D Updates Related to Sub-Adviser Changes for Large Cap Core Stock and Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolios

The “Other Accounts Managed by Portfolio Managers” table beginning on page B-110 is hereby amended to: (1) delete references to Fayez Sarofim, Gentry Lee and Alan R. Christensen as portfolio managers for the Large Cap Core Stock Portfolio; (2) delete references to Robert C. Lanphier IV, David P. Ricci and Daniel Crowe as portfolio managers for the Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolio and; (3) add the new portfolio managers affiliated with Wellington Management with respect to the Large Cap Core Stock and Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolios. The information below for Mr. Mandel, Mr. White, Mr. Ruedi, and Mr. Whitaker is as of June 30, 2017:

 

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Portfolio

Manager(s)

 

          

 

Fund

 

            

 Other Registered 

 Investment 

 Companies 

 

          

 Other Pooled 

 Investment 

Vehicles

 

            

Other Accounts

 

Mark D. Mandel              
Large Cap Core 
Stock Portfolio
 
 
            13 registered investment companies with $4.7 billion in total assets under management              


27 other
pooled
investment
vehicles
 
 
 
 
            79 other accounts with $28.5 billion in total assets under management. 14 other accounts with $5.8 billion in total assets which charge an advisory fee based on the performance of the account
                                                                 
Jonathan G. White              
Large Cap Core
Stock Portfolio
 
 
            1 registered investment companies with $950 million in total assets under management              


7 other
pooled
investment
vehicles
 
 
 
 
            17 other accounts with $2.7 billion in total assets under management. 2 other accounts with $400 million in total assets which charge an advisory fee based on the performance of the account
                                                                 
Philip W. Ruedi              

Mid Cap
Growth Stock
Portfolio
 
 
 
            7 registered investment companies with $12.75 billion in total assets under management              


4 other
pooled
investment
vehicles
 
 
 
 
            14 other accounts with $2.2 billion in total assets under management. 3 other accounts with $500 million in total assets which charge an advisory fee based on the performance of the account
                                                                 
Mark Whitaker              

Mid Cap
Growth Stock
Portfolio
 
 
 
            7 registered investment companies with $11.58 billion in total assets under management              


8 other
pooled
investment
vehicles
 
 
 
 
            15 other accounts with $2.26 billion in total assets under management. 3 other accounts with $500 million in total assets which charge an advisory fee based on the performance of the account

 

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Under the “Compensation of Portfolio Managerssub-section beginning on page B-121, the information relating to Wellington Management is deleted and replaced with the following:

Wellington Management Company LLP (“Wellington Management”). Wellington Management receives a fee based on the assets under management of the Fund as set forth in the Investment Sub-Advisory Agreements between Wellington Management and Mason Street Advisors, LLC related to Small Cap Growth, Large Cap Core Stock and Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolios. Wellington Management pays its investment professionals out of its total revenues, including the advisory fees earned with respect to the Fund. The following information relates to the fiscal year ending December 31, 2017.

Wellington Management’s compensation structure is designed to attract and retain high-caliber investment professionals necessary to deliver high quality investment management services to its clients. Wellington Management’s compensation of the portfolio managers listed in the Fund’s prospectus who are primarily responsible for the day-to-day investment management (the “Portfolio Managers”) includes a base salary and incentive components. The base salary for each Portfolio Manager who is a partner (a “Partner”) of Wellington Management Group LLP, the ultimate holding company of Wellington Management, is generally a fixed amount that is determined by the managing partners of Wellington Management Group LLP. The base salary for a non-Partner Portfolio Manager is determined by the Portfolio Manager’s experience and performance in his role as a Portfolio Manager. Base salaries for Wellington Management’s employees are reviewed annually and may be adjusted based on the recommendation of a Portfolio Manager’s manager, using guidelines established by Wellington Management’s Compensation Committee, which has final oversight responsibility for base salaries of employees of the firm. Each Portfolio Manager, with the exception of Mark Mandel, is eligible to receive an incentive payment based on the revenues earned by Wellington Management from the Fund in connection with the services provided by the Portfolio Manager and generally each other account managed by such Portfolio Manager. Each Portfolio Manager’s incentive payment relating to the Fund is linked to the gross pre-tax performance of the Fund Portfolio managed by the Portfolio Manager compared to the benchmark index and/or peer group identified below over one, three and five year periods, with an emphasis on five year results. Wellington Management applies similar incentive compensation structures (although the benchmarks or peer groups, time periods and rates may differ) to other accounts managed by the Portfolio Managers, including accounts with performance fees.

Portfolio-based incentives across all accounts managed by an investment professional can, and typically do, represent a significant portion of an investment professional’s overall compensation; incentive compensation varies significantly by individual and can vary significantly from year to year. The Portfolio Managers may also be eligible for bonus payments based on their overall contribution to Wellington Management’s business operations. Senior management at Wellington Management may reward individuals as it deems appropriate based on other factors. Each Partner is eligible to participate in a Partner-funded tax qualified retirement plan, the contributions to which are made pursuant to an actuarial formula. Messrs. Chally, Mandel, Ruedi and Whitaker are Partners.

 

Fund   

Benchmark Index and/or Peer

Group for Incentive Period

 

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Small Cap Growth Stock Portfolio

   Russell 2000® Growth Index   

Large Cap Core Stock Portfolio

  

S&P 500® Index                    

  

Mid Cap Growth Stock Portfolio

   Russell MidCap® Growth Index   

Under the “Conflicts of Interestsub-section beginning on page B-135, the second paragraph relating to Wellington Management is deleted and replaced with the following:

The Portfolio Manager or other investment professionals at Wellington Management may place transactions on behalf of other accounts that are directly or indirectly contrary to investment decisions made on behalf of the Fund, or make investment decisions that are similar to those made for the Fund, both of which have the potential to adversely impact the Fund depending on market conditions. For example, an investment professional may purchase a security in one account while appropriately selling that same security in another account. Similarly, the Portfolio Manager may purchase the same security for the Fund and one or more other accounts at or about the same time. In those instances, the other accounts will have access to their respective holdings prior to the public disclosure of the Fund’s holdings. In addition, some of these accounts have fee structures, including performance fees, which are or have the potential to be higher, in some cases significantly higher, than the fees Wellington Management receives for managing the Fund. Messrs. Chally, Mandel, White, Ruedi and Whitaker also manage accounts which pay performance allocations to Wellington Management or its affiliates. Because incentive payments paid by Wellington Management to the Portfolio Manager are tied to revenues earned by Wellington Management and, where noted, to the performance achieved by the manager in each account, the incentives associated with any given account may be significantly higher or lower than those associated with other accounts managed by the Portfolio Manager. Finally, the Portfolio Manager may hold shares or investments in the other pooled investment vehicles and/or other accounts identified above.”

Proxy Voting Policies and Procedures

Under “APPENDIX F – Proxy Voting Policies and Procedures”, the Proxy Voting Policies and Procedures relating to Mason Street Advisors, LLC, are amended by deleting the proxy voting guidelines attached as Exhibit A and replacing them with the following guidelines, which shall constitute a replacement Exhibit A:

 

LOGO

  United States

  Concise Proxy Voting Guidelines

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  2017 Benchmark Policy Recommendations

 

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Effective for Meetings on or after February 1, 2017

Published January 17, 2017

www.issgovernance.com

© 2017 ISS | Institutional Shareholder Service

The policies contained herein are a sampling of selected key U.S. proxy voting guidelines and are not intended to be exhaustive. A full summary of ISS’ 2017 proxy voting guidelines can be found at: https://www.issgovernance.com/policy-gateway/2017-policy-information/

BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

General Recommendation: Generally vote for director nominees, except under the following circumstances:

 

1. Accountability

Vote against1 or withhold from the entire board of directors (except new nominees2, who should be considered case-by-case) for the following:

Problematic Takeover Defenses

Classified Board Structure:

  1.1. The board is classified, and a continuing director responsible for a problematic governance issue at the board/committee level that would warrant a withhold/against vote recommendation is not up for election. All appropriate nominees (except new) may be held accountable.

Director Performance Evaluation:

  1.2. The board lacks accountability and oversight, coupled with sustained poor performance relative to peers. Sustained poor performance is measured by one- and three-year total shareholder returns in the bottom half of a company’s four-digit GICS industry group (Russell 3000 companies only). Take into consideration the company’s five-year total shareholder return and operational metrics. Problematic provisions include but are not limited to:
  A classified board structure;
  A supermajority vote requirement;
  Either a plurality vote standard in uncontested director elections or a majority vote standard with no plurality carve-out for contested elections;
  The inability of shareholders to call special meetings;
  The inability of shareholders to act by written consent;
  A dual-class capital structure; and/or
  A non-shareholder-approved poison pill.

 

1 In general, companies with a plurality vote standard use “Withhold” as the contrary vote option in director elections; companies with a majority vote standard use “Against”. However, it will vary by company and the proxy must be checked to determine the valid contrary vote option for the particular company.

2 A “new nominee” is any current nominee who has not already been elected by shareholders and who joined the board after the problematic action in question transpired. If ISS cannot determine whether the nominee joined the board before or after the problematic action transpired, the nominee will be considered a “new nominee” if he or she joined the board within the 12 months prior to the upcoming shareholder meeting.

 

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Poison Pills:

  1.3. The company’s poison pill has a “dead-hand” or “modified dead-hand” feature. Vote against or withhold from nominees every year until this feature is removed;
  1.4. The board adopts a poison pill with a term of more than 12 months (“long-term pill”), or renews any existing pill, including any “short-term pill” (12 months or less), without shareholder approval. A commitment or policy that puts a newly adopted pill to a binding shareholder vote may potentially offset an adverse vote recommendation. Review such companies with classified boards every year, and such companies with annually elected boards at least once every three years, and vote against or withhold votes from all nominees if the company still maintains a non-shareholder-approved poison pill; or
  1.5. The board makes a material adverse change to an existing poison pill without shareholder approval.

Vote case-by-case on all nominees if:

  1.6. The board adopts a poison pill with a term of 12 months or less (“short-term pill”) without shareholder approval, taking into account the following factors:
  The date of the pill‘s adoption relative to the date of the next meeting of shareholders—i.e. whether the company had time to put the pill on the ballot for shareholder ratification given the circumstances;
  The issuer’s rationale;
  The issuer’s governance structure and practices; and
  The issuer’s track record of accountability to shareholders.

Restricting Binding Shareholder Proposals:

Generally vote against or withhold from members of the governance committee if:

 

  1.7. The company’s charter imposes undue restrictions on shareholders’ ability to amend the bylaws. Such restrictions include, but are not limited to: outright prohibition on the submission of binding shareholder proposals, or share ownership requirements or time holding requirements in excess of SEC Rule 14a-8. Vote against on an ongoing basis.

Problematic Audit-Related Practices

Generally vote against or withhold from the members of the Audit Committee if:

  1.8. The non-audit fees paid to the auditor are excessive (see discussion under “Auditor Ratification”);
  1.9. The company receives an adverse opinion on the company’s financial statements from its auditor; or
  1.10. There is persuasive evidence that the Audit Committee entered into an inappropriate indemnification agreement with its auditor that limits the ability of the company, or its shareholders, to pursue legitimate legal recourse against the audit firm.

Vote case-by-case on members of the Audit Committee and potentially the full board if:

  1.11. Poor accounting practices are identified that rise to a level of serious concern, such as: fraud; misapplication of GAAP; and material weaknesses identified in Section 404 disclosures. Examine the severity, breadth, chronological sequence, and duration, as well as the company’s efforts at remediation or corrective actions, in determining whether withhold/against votes are warranted.

Problematic Compensation Practices/Pay for Performance Misalignment

In the absence of an Advisory Vote on Executive Compensation ballot item or in egregious situations, vote against or withhold from the members of the Compensation Committee and potentially the full board if:

 

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  1.12. There is a significant misalignment between CEO pay and company performance (pay for performance);
  1.13. The company maintains significant problematic pay practices;
  1.14. The board exhibits a significant level of poor communication and responsiveness to shareholders;
  1.15. The company fails to submit one-time transfers of stock options to a shareholder vote; or
  1.16. The company fails to fulfill the terms of a burn-rate commitment made to shareholders.

Vote case-by-case on Compensation Committee members (or, in exceptional cases, the full board) and the Management Say-on-Pay proposal if:

 

  1.17. The company’s previous say-on-pay received the support of less than 70 percent of votes cast, taking into account:
    › The company’s response, including:
  Disclosure of engagement efforts with major institutional investors regarding the issues that contributed to the low level of support;
  Specific actions taken to address the issues that contributed to the low level of support;
  Other recent compensation actions taken by the company;
    › Whether the issues raised are recurring or isolated;
    › The company’s ownership structure; and
    › Whether the support level was less than 50 percent, which would warrant the highest degree of responsiveness.

Unilateral Bylaw/Charter Amendments and Problematic Capital Structures

  1.18. Generally vote against or withhold from directors individually, committee members, or the entire board (except new nominees, who should be considered case-by-case) if the board amends the company’s bylaws or charter without shareholder approval in a manner that materially diminishes shareholders’ rights or that could adversely impact shareholders, considering the following factors:
    › The board’s rationale for adopting the bylaw/charter amendment without shareholder ratification;
    › Disclosure by the company of any significant engagement with shareholders regarding the amendment;
    › The level of impairment of shareholders’ rights caused by the board’s unilateral amendment to the bylaws/charter;
    › The board’s track record with regard to unilateral board action on bylaw/charter amendments or other entrenchment provisions;
    › The company’s ownership structure;
    › The company’s existing governance provisions;
    › The timing of the board’s amendment to the bylaws/charter in connection with a significant business development; and
    › Other factors, as deemed appropriate, that may be relevant to determine the impact of the amendment on shareholders.

Unless the adverse amendment is reversed or submitted to a binding shareholder vote, in subsequent years vote case-by-case on director nominees. Generally vote against (except new nominees, who should be considered case-by-case) if the directors:

    › Classified the board;
    › Adopted supermajority vote requirements to amend the bylaws or charter; or
    › Eliminated shareholders’ ability to amend bylaws.

 

  1.19.

For newly public companies, generally vote against or withhold from directors individually, committee members, or the entire board (except new nominees, who should be considered case-by-case) if, prior to or in connection with the company’s public offering, the company or its

 

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board adopted bylaw or charter provisions materially adverse to shareholder rights, or implemented a multi-class capital structure in which the classes have unequal voting rights considering the following factors:

  The level of impairment of shareholders’ rights;
  The disclosed rationale;
  The ability to change the governance structure (e.g., limitations on shareholders’ right to amend the bylaws or charter, or supermajority vote requirements to amend the bylaws or charter);
  The ability of shareholders to hold directors accountable through annual director elections, or whether the company has a classified board structure;
  Any reasonable sunset provision; and
  Other relevant factors.

Unless the adverse provision and/or problematic capital structure is reversed or removed, vote case-by-case on director nominees in subsequent years.

Governance Failures

Under extraordinary circumstances, vote against or withhold from directors individually, committee members, or the entire board, due to:

  1.20. Material failures of governance, stewardship, risk oversight3, or fiduciary responsibilities at the company;
  1.21. Failure to replace management as appropriate; or
  1.22. Egregious actions related to a director’s service on other boards that raise substantial doubt about his or her ability to effectively oversee management and serve the best interests of shareholders at any company.

 

2. Responsiveness

Vote case-by-case on individual directors, committee members, or the entire board of directors as appropriate if:

 

  2.1. The board failed to act on a shareholder proposal that received the support of a majority of the shares cast in the previous year. Factors that will be considered are:

 

  Disclosed outreach efforts by the board to shareholders in the wake of the vote;
  Rationale provided in the proxy statement for the level of implementation;
  The subject matter of the proposal;
  The level of support for and opposition to the resolution in past meetings;
  Actions taken by the board in response to the majority vote and its engagement with shareholders;
  The continuation of the underlying issue as a voting item on the ballot (as either shareholder or management proposals); and
  Other factors as appropriate.

 

  2.2. The board failed to act on takeover offers where the majority of shares are tendered;
  2.3. At the previous board election, any director received more than 50 percent withhold/against votes of the shares cast and the company has failed to address the issue(s) that caused the high withhold/against vote;

 

3 Examples of failure of risk oversight include, but are not limited to: bribery; large or serial fines or sanctions from regulatory bodies; significant adverse legal judgments or settlements; hedging of company stock; or significant pledging of company stock.

 

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  2.4. The board implements an advisory vote on executive compensation on a less frequent basis than the frequency that received the majority of votes cast at the most recent shareholder meeting at which shareholders voted on the say-on-pay frequency; or
  2.5. The board implements an advisory vote on executive compensation on a less frequent basis than the frequency that received a plurality, but not a majority, of the votes cast at the most recent shareholder meeting at which shareholders voted on the say-on-pay frequency, taking into account:
  The board’s rationale for selecting a frequency that is different from the frequency that received a plurality;
  The company’s ownership structure and vote results;
  ISS’ analysis of whether there are compensation concerns or a history of problematic compensation practices; and
  The previous year’s support level on the company’s say-on-pay proposal.

 

3. Composition

Attendance at Board and Committee Meetings:

 

  3.1. Generally vote against or withhold from directors (except new nominees, who should be considered case-by-case4) who attend less than 75 percent of the aggregate of their board and committee meetings for the period for which they served, unless an acceptable reason for absences is disclosed in the proxy or another SEC filing. Acceptable reasons for director absences are generally limited to the following:
  Medical issues/illness;
  Family emergencies; and
  Missing only one meeting (when the total of all meetings is three or fewer).

 

  3.2. If the proxy disclosure is unclear and insufficient to determine whether a director attended at least 75 percent of the aggregate of his/her board and committee meetings during his/her period of service, vote against or withhold from the director(s) in question.

Overboarded Directors:

Generally vote against or withhold from individual directors who:

  3.3. Sit on more than five public company boards; or
  3.4. Are CEOs of public companies who sit on the boards of more than two public companies besides their own—withhold only at their outside boards5.

 

4. Independence

Vote against or withhold from Inside Directors and Affiliated Outside Directors (per the Categorization of Directors) when:

 

4 For new nominees only, schedule conflicts due to commitments made prior to their appointment to the board are considered if disclosed in the proxy or another SEC filing.

5 Although all of a CEO’s subsidiary boards will be counted as separate boards, ISS will not recommend a withhold vote for the CEO of a parent company board or any of the controlled (>50 percent ownership) subsidiaries of that parent, but may do so at subsidiaries that are less than 50 percent controlled and boards outside the parent/subsidiary relationships.

 

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  4.1. The inside or affiliated outside director serves on any of the three key committees: audit, compensation, or nominating;
  4.2. The company lacks an audit, compensation, or nominating committee so that the full board functions as that committee;
  4.3. The company lacks a formal nominating committee, even if the board attests that the independent directors fulfill the functions of such a committee; or
  4.4. Independent directors make up less than a majority of the directors.

Independent Chair (Separate Chair/CEO)

General Recommendation: Generally vote for shareholder proposals requiring that the chairman’s position be filled by an independent director, taking into consideration the following:

 

The scope of the proposal;
The company’s current board leadership structure;
The company’s governance structure and practices;
Company performance; and
Any other relevant factors that may be applicable.

Regarding the scope of the proposal, consider whether the proposal is precatory or binding and whether the proposal is seeking an immediate change in the chairman role or the policy can be implemented at the next CEO transition.

Under the review of the company’s board leadership structure, ISS may support the proposal under the following scenarios absent a compelling rationale: the presence of an executive or non-independent chair in addition to the CEO; a recent recombination of the role of CEO and chair; and/or departure from a structure with an independent chair. ISS will also consider any recent transitions in board leadership and the effect such transitions may have on independent board leadership as well as the designation of a lead director role.

When considering the governance structure, ISS will consider the overall independence of the board, the independence of key committees, the establishment of governance guidelines, board tenure and its relationship to CEO tenure, and any other factors that may be relevant. Any concerns about a company’s governance structure will weigh in favor of support for the proposal.

The review of the company’s governance practices may include, but is not limited to, poor compensation practices, material failures of governance and risk oversight, related-party transactions or other issues putting director independence at risk, corporate or management scandals, and actions by management or the board with potential or realized negative impact on shareholders. Any such practices may suggest a need for more independent oversight at the company thus warranting support of the proposal.

ISS’ performance assessment will generally consider one-, three-, and five-year TSR compared to the company’s peers and the market as a whole. While poor performance will weigh in favor of the adoption of an independent chair policy, strong performance over the long term will be considered a mitigating factor when determining whether the proposed leadership change warrants support.

 

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Proxy Access

General Recommendation: Generally vote for management and shareholder proposals for proxy access with the following provisions:

 

Ownership threshold: maximum requirement not more than three percent (3%) of the voting power;
Ownership duration: maximum requirement not longer than three (3) years of continuous ownership for each member of the nominating group;
Aggregation: minimal or no limits on the number of shareholders permitted to form a nominating group;
Cap: cap on nominees of generally twenty-five percent (25%) of the board.

Review for reasonableness any other restrictions on the right of proxy access.

Generally vote against proposals that are more restrictive than these guidelines.

Proxy Contests/Proxy Access — Voting for Director Nominees in Contested Elections

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on the election of directors in contested elections, considering the following factors:

 

Long-term financial performance of the company relative to its industry;
Management’s track record;
Background to the contested election;
Nominee qualifications and any compensatory arrangements;
Strategic plan of dissident slate and quality of the critique against management;
Likelihood that the proposed goals and objectives can be achieved (both slates); and
Stock ownership positions.

In the case of candidates nominated pursuant to proxy access, vote case-by-case considering any applicable factors listed above or additional factors which may be relevant, including those that are specific to the company, to the nominee(s) and/or to the nature of the election (such as whether or not there are more candidates than board seats).

CAPITAL/RESTRUCTURING

Capital

Common Stock Authorization

General Recommendation: Vote for proposals to increase the number of authorized common shares where the primary purpose of the increase is to issue shares in connection with a transaction on the same ballot that warrants support.

Vote against proposals at companies with more than one class of common stock to increase the number of authorized shares of the class of common stock that has superior voting rights.

Vote against proposals to increase the number of authorized common shares if a vote for a reverse stock split on the same ballot is warranted despite the fact that the authorized shares would not be reduced proportionally.

 

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Vote case-by-case on all other proposals to increase the number of shares of common stock authorized for issuance. Take into account company-specific factors that include, at a minimum, the following:

 

Past Board Performance:
  The company’s use of authorized shares during the last three years;

 

The Current Request:
  Disclosure in the proxy statement of the specific purposes of the proposed increase;
  Disclosure in the proxy statement of specific and severe risks to shareholders of not approving the request; and
  The dilutive impact of the request as determined relative to an allowable increase calculated by ISS (typically 100 percent of existing authorized shares) that reflects the company’s need for shares and total shareholder returns.

ISS will apply the relevant allowable increase below to requests to increase common stock that are for general corporate purposes (or to the general corporate purposes portion of a request that also includes a specific need):

 

A. Most companies: 100 percent of existing authorized shares.
B. Companies with less than 50 percent of existing authorized shares either outstanding or reserved for issuance: 50 percent of existing authorized shares.
C. Companies with one- and three-year total shareholder returns (TSRs) in the bottom 10 percent of the U.S. market as of the end of the calendar quarter that is closest to their most recent fiscal year end: 50 percent of existing authorized shares.
D. Companies at which both conditions (B and C) above are both present: 25 percent of existing authorized shares.

If there is an acquisition, private placement, or similar transaction on the ballot (not including equity incentive plans) that ISS is recommending FOR, the allowable increase will be the greater of (i) twice the amount needed to support the transactions on the ballot, and (ii) the allowable increase as calculated above.

Mergers and Acquisitions

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on mergers and acquisitions. Review and evaluate the merits and drawbacks of the proposed transaction, balancing various and sometimes countervailing factors including:

 

Valuation - Is the value to be received by the target shareholders (or paid by the acquirer) reasonable? While the fairness opinion may provide an initial starting point for assessing valuation reasonableness, emphasis is placed on the offer premium, market reaction, and strategic rationale.
Market reaction - How has the market responded to the proposed deal? A negative market reaction should cause closer scrutiny of a deal.
Strategic rationale - Does the deal make sense strategically? From where is the value derived? Cost and revenue synergies should not be overly aggressive or optimistic, but reasonably achievable. Management should also have a favorable track record of successful integration of historical acquisitions.
Negotiations and process - Were the terms of the transaction negotiated at arm’s-length? Was the process fair and equitable? A fair process helps to ensure the best price for shareholders. Significant negotiation “wins” can also signify the deal makers’ competency. The comprehensiveness of the sales process (e.g., full auction, partial auction, no auction) can also affect shareholder value.

Conflicts of interest - Are insiders benefiting from the transaction disproportionately and inappropriately as compared to non-insider shareholders? As the result of potential conflicts, the directors and officers of the company may be more likely to vote to approve a merger than if they did not hold these interests. Consider

 

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whether these interests may have influenced these directors and officers to support or recommend the merger. The CIC figure presented in the “ISS Transaction Summary” section of this report is an aggregate figure that can in certain cases be a misleading indicator of the true value transfer from shareholders to insiders. Where such figure appears to be excessive, analyze the underlying assumptions to determine whether a potential conflict exists.

Governance - Will the combined company have a better or worse governance profile than the current governance profiles of the respective parties to the transaction? If the governance profile is to change for the worse, the burden is on the company to prove that other issues (such as valuation) outweigh any deterioration in governance.

COMPENSATION

Executive Pay Evaluation

Underlying all evaluations are five global principles that most investors expect corporations to adhere to in designing and administering executive and director compensation programs:

 

  1. Maintain appropriate pay-for-performance alignment, with emphasis on long-term shareholder value: This principle encompasses overall executive pay practices, which must be designed to attract, retain, and appropriately motivate the key employees who drive shareholder value creation over the long term. It will take into consideration, among other factors, the link between pay and performance; the mix between fixed and variable pay; performance goals; and equity-based plan costs;
  2. Avoid arrangements that risk “pay for failure”: This principle addresses the appropriateness of long or indefinite contracts, excessive severance packages, and guaranteed compensation;
  3. Maintain an independent and effective compensation committee: This principle promotes oversight of executive pay programs by directors with appropriate skills, knowledge, experience, and a sound process for compensation decision-making (e.g., including access to independent expertise and advice when needed);
  4. Provide shareholders with clear, comprehensive compensation disclosures: This principle underscores the importance of informative and timely disclosures that enable shareholders to evaluate executive pay practices fully and fairly;
  5. Avoid inappropriate pay to non-executive directors: This principle recognizes the interests of shareholders in ensuring that compensation to outside directors does not compromise their independence and ability to make appropriate judgments in overseeing managers’ pay and performance. At the market level, it may incorporate a variety of generally accepted best practices.

Advisory Votes on Executive Compensation—Management Proposals (Management Say-on-Pay)

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on ballot items related to executive pay and practices, as well as certain aspects of outside director compensation.

Vote against Advisory Votes on Executive Compensation (Management Say-on-Pay or “MSOP”) if:

There is a significant misalignment between CEO pay and company performance (pay for performance);
The company maintains significant problematic pay practices;
The board exhibits a significant level of poor communication and responsiveness to shareholders.

Vote against or withhold from the members of the Compensation Committee and potentially the full board if:

 

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There is no MSOP on the ballot, and an against vote on an MSOP is warranted due to pay-for-performance misalignment, problematic pay practices, or the lack of adequate responsiveness on compensation issues raised previously, or a combination thereof;
The board fails to respond adequately to a previous MSOP proposal that received less than 70 percent support of votes cast;
The company has recently practiced or approved problematic pay practices, including option repricing or option backdating; or
The situation is egregious.

Primary Evaluation Factors for Executive Pay

Pay-for-Performance Evaluation

ISS annually conducts a pay-for-performance analysis to identify strong or satisfactory alignment between pay and performance over a sustained period. With respect to companies in the Russell 3000 or Russell 3000E Indices6, this analysis considers the following:

 

  1. Peer Group7 Alignment:

 

  The degree of alignment between the company’s annualized TSR rank and the CEO’s annualized total pay rank within a peer group, each measured over a three-year period.
  The multiple of the CEO’s total pay relative to the peer group median.

 

  2. Absolute Alignment8 – the absolute alignment between the trend in CEO pay and company TSR over the prior five fiscal years – i.e., the difference between the trend in annual pay changes and the trend in annualized TSR during the period.

If the above analysis demonstrates significant unsatisfactory long-term pay-for-performance alignment or, in the case of companies outside the Russell indices, misaligned pay and performance are otherwise suggested, our analysis may include any of the following qualitative factors, as relevant to evaluating how various pay elements may work to encourage or to undermine long-term value creation and alignment with shareholder interests:

The ratio of performance- to time-based equity awards;
The overall ratio of performance-based compensation;
The completeness of disclosure and rigor of performance goals;
The company’s peer group benchmarking practices;
Actual results of financial/operational metrics, such as growth in revenue, profit, cash flow, etc., both absolute and relative to peers;
Special circumstances related to, for example, a new CEO in the prior FY or anomalous equity grant practices (e.g., bi-annual awards);
Realizable pay9 compared to grant pay; and
Any other factors deemed relevant.

Problematic Pay Practices

 

 

6 The Russell 3000E Index includes approximately 4,000 of the largest U.S. equity securities.

7 The revised peer group is generally comprised of 14-24 companies that are selected using market cap, revenue (or assets for certain financial firms), GICS industry group, and company’s selected peers’ GICS industry group, with size constraints, via a process designed to select peers that are comparable to the subject company in terms of revenue/assets and industry, and also within a market-cap bucket that is reflective of the company’s. For Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels companies, market cap is the only size determinant.

8 Only Russell 3000 Index companies are subject to the Absolute Alignment analysis.

9 ISS research reports include realizable pay for S&P1500 companies.

 

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The focus is on executive compensation practices that contravene the global pay principles, including:

 

Problematic practices related to non-performance-based compensation elements;
Incentives that may motivate excessive risk-taking; and
Options backdating.

Problematic Pay Practices related to Non-Performance-Based Compensation Elements

Pay elements that are not directly based on performance are generally evaluated case-by-case considering the context of a company’s overall pay program and demonstrated pay-for-performance philosophy. Please refer to ISS’ Compensation FAQ document for detail on specific pay practices that have been identified as potentially problematic and may lead to negative recommendations if they are deemed to be inappropriate or unjustified relative to executive pay best practices. The list below highlights the problematic practices that carry significant weight in this overall consideration and may result in adverse vote recommendations:

Repricing or replacing of underwater stock options/SARS without prior shareholder approval (including cash buyouts and voluntary surrender of underwater options);
Excessive perquisites or tax gross-ups, including any gross-up related to a secular trust or restricted stock vesting;
New or extended agreements that provide for:
  CIC payments exceeding 3 times base salary and average/target/most recent bonus;
  CIC severance payments without involuntary job loss or substantial diminution of duties (“single” or “modified single” triggers);
  CIC payments with excise tax gross-ups (including “modified” gross-ups);
Insufficient executive compensation disclosure by externally-managed issuers (EMIs) such that a reasonable assessment of pay programs and practices applicable to the EMI’s executives is not possible.

Incentives that may Motivate Excessive Risk-Taking

Multi-year guaranteed bonuses;
A single or common performance metric used for short- and long-term plans;
Lucrative severance packages;
High pay opportunities relative to industry peers;
Disproportionate supplemental pensions; or
Mega annual equity grants that provide unlimited upside with no downside risk.

Factors that potentially mitigate the impact of risky incentives include rigorous claw-back provisions and robust stock ownership/holding guidelines.

Options Backdating

The following factors should be examined case-by-case to allow for distinctions to be made between “sloppy” plan administration versus deliberate action or fraud:

Reason and motive for the options backdating issue, such as inadvertent vs. deliberate grant date changes;
Duration of options backdating;
Size of restatement due to options backdating;
Corrective actions taken by the board or compensation committee, such as canceling or re-pricing backdated options, the recouping of option gains on backdated grants; and
Adoption of a grant policy that prohibits backdating, and creates a fixed grant schedule or window period for equity grants in the future.

Compensation Committee Communications and Responsiveness

 

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Consider the following factors case-by-case when evaluating ballot items related to executive pay on the board’s responsiveness to investor input and engagement on compensation issues:

Failure to respond to majority-supported shareholder proposals on executive pay topics; or
Failure to adequately respond to the company’s previous say-on-pay proposal that received the support of less than 70 percent of votes cast, taking into account:
  The company’s response, including:
  Disclosure of engagement efforts with major institutional investors regarding the issues that contributed to the low level of support;
  Specific actions taken to address the issues that contributed to the low level of support;
  Other recent compensation actions taken by the company;
  Whether the issues raised are recurring or isolated;
  The company’s ownership structure; and
  Whether the support level was less than 50 percent, which would warrant the highest degree of responsiveness.

Frequency of Advisory Vote on Executive Compensation (“Say When on Pay”)

General Recommendation: Vote for annual advisory votes on compensation, which provide the most consistent and clear communication channel for shareholder concerns about companies’ executive pay programs.

Equity-Based and Other Incentive Plans

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on certain equity-based compensation plans10 depending on a combination of certain plan features and equity grant practices, where positive factors may counterbalance negative factors, and vice versa, as evaluated using an “equity plan scorecard” (EPSC) approach with three pillars:

 

Plan Cost: The total estimated cost of the company’s equity plans relative to industry/market cap peers, measured by the company’s estimated Shareholder Value Transfer (SVT) in relation to peers and considering both:
  SVT based on new shares requested plus shares remaining for future grants, plus outstanding unvested/unexercised grants; and
  SVT based only on new shares requested plus shares remaining for future grants.

 

Plan Features:
  Automatic single-triggered award vesting upon a change in control (CIC);
  Discretionary vesting authority;
  Liberal share recycling on various award types;
  Lack of minimum vesting period for grants made under the plan;
  Dividends payable prior to award vesting.

 

Grant Practices:
  The company’s three-year burn rate relative to its industry/market cap peers;
  Vesting requirements in most recent CEO equity grants (3-year look-back);

 

10 Proposals evaluated under the EPSC policy generally include those to approve or amend (1) stock option plans for employees and/or employees and directors, (2) restricted stock plans for employees and/or employees and directors, and (3) omnibus stock incentive plans for employees and/or employees and directors; amended plans will be further evaluated case-by-case.

 

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  The estimated duration of the plan (based on the sum of shares remaining available and the new shares requested, divided by the average annual shares granted in the prior three years);
  The proportion of the CEO’s most recent equity grants/awards subject to performance conditions;
  Whether the company maintains a claw-back policy;
  Whether the company has established post-exercise/vesting share-holding requirements.

Generally vote against the plan proposal if the combination of above factors indicates that the plan is not, overall, in shareholders’ interests, or if any of the following egregious factors apply:

Awards may vest in connection with a liberal change-of-control definition;
The plan would permit repricing or cash buyout of underwater options without shareholder approval (either by expressly permitting it – for NYSE and Nasdaq listed companies – or by not prohibiting it when the company has a history of repricing – for non-listed companies);
The plan is a vehicle for problematic pay practices or a significant pay-for-performance disconnect under certain circumstances; or
Any other plan features are determined to have a significant negative impact on shareholder interests.

SOCIAL/ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Global Approach

Issues covered under the policy include a wide range of topics, including consumer and product safety, environment and energy, labor standards and human rights, workplace and board diversity, and corporate political issues. While a variety of factors goes into each analysis, the overall principle guiding all vote recommendations focuses on how the proposal may enhance or protect shareholder value in either the short or long term.

General Recommendation: Generally vote case-by-case, taking into consideration whether implementation of the proposal is likely to enhance or protect shareholder value, and in addition the following will also be considered:

 

If the issues presented in the proposal are more appropriately or effectively dealt with through legislation or government regulation;
If the company has already responded in an appropriate and sufficient manner to the issue(s) raised in the proposal;
Whether the proposal’s request is unduly burdensome (scope or timeframe) or overly prescriptive;
The company’s approach compared with any industry standard practices for addressing the issue(s) raised by the proposal;
If the proposal requests increased disclosure or greater transparency, whether or not reasonable and sufficient information is currently available to shareholders from the company or from other publicly available sources; and
If the proposal requests increased disclosure or greater transparency, whether or not implementation would reveal proprietary or confidential information that could place the company at a competitive disadvantage.

Pharmaceutical Pricing, Access to Medicines, and Prescription Drug Reimportation

 

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General Recommendation: Generally vote against proposals requesting that companies implement specific price restraints on pharmaceutical products unless the company fails to adhere to legislative guidelines or industry norms in its product pricing practices.

Vote case-by-case on proposals requesting that a company report on its product pricing or access to medicine policies, considering:

The potential for reputational, market, and regulatory risk exposure;
Existing disclosure of relevant policies;
Deviation from established industry norms;
Relevant company initiatives to provide research and/or products to disadvantaged consumers;
Whether the proposal focuses on specific products or geographic regions;
The potential burden and scope of the requested report;
Recent significant controversies, litigation, or fines at the company.

Generally vote for proposals requesting that a company report on the financial and legal impact of its prescription drug reimportation policies unless such information is already publicly disclosed.

Generally vote against proposals requesting that companies adopt specific policies to encourage or constrain prescription drug reimportation. Such matters are more appropriately the province of legislative activity and may place the company at a competitive disadvantage relative to its peers.

 

Climate Change/Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

General Recommendation: Generally vote for resolutions requesting that a company disclose information on the risks related to climate change on its operations and investments, such as financial, physical, or regulatory risks, considering:

 

Whether the company already provides current, publicly-available information on the impact that climate change may have on the company as well as associated company policies and procedures to address related risks and/or opportunities;
The company’s level of disclosure is at least comparable to that of industry peers; and
There are no significant controversies, fines, penalties, or litigation associated with the company’s environmental performance.

Generally vote for proposals requesting a report on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from company operations and/or products and operations, unless:

The company already discloses current, publicly-available information on the impacts that GHG emissions may have on the company as well as associated company policies and procedures to address related risks and/or opportunities;
The company’s level of disclosure is comparable to that of industry peers; and
There are no significant, controversies, fines, penalties, or litigation associated with the company’s GHG emissions.

Vote case-by-case on proposals that call for the adoption of GHG reduction goals from products and operations, taking into account:

Whether the company provides disclosure of year-over-year GHG emissions performance data;
Whether company disclosure lags behind industry peers;

 

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The company’s actual GHG emissions performance;
The company’s current GHG emission policies, oversight mechanisms, and related initiatives; and
Whether the company has been the subject of recent, significant violations, fines, litigation, or controversy related to GHG emissions.

Board Diversity

General Recommendation: Generally vote for requests for reports on a company’s efforts to diversify the board, unless:

The gender and racial minority representation of the company’s board is reasonably inclusive in relation to companies of similar size and business; and
The board already reports on its nominating procedures and gender and racial minority initiatives on the board and within the company.

Vote case-by-case on proposals asking a company to increase the gender and racial minority representation on its board, taking into account:

The degree of existing gender and racial minority diversity on the company’s board and among its executive officers;
The level of gender and racial minority representation that exists at the company’s industry peers;
The company’s established process for addressing gender and racial minority board representation;
Whether the proposal includes an overly prescriptive request to amend nominating committee charter language;
The independence of the company’s nominating committee;
Whether the company uses an outside search firm to identify potential director nominees; and
Whether the company has had recent controversies, fines, or litigation regarding equal employment practices.

This document and all of the information contained in it, including without limitation all text, data, graphs, and charts (collectively, the “Information”) is the property of Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS), its subsidiaries, or, in some cases third party suppliers.

The Information has not been submitted to, nor received approval from, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission or any other regulatory body. None of the Information constitutes an offer to sell (or a solicitation of an offer to buy), or a promotion or recommendation of, any security, financial product or other investment vehicle or any trading strategy, and ISS does not endorse, approve, or otherwise express any opinion regarding any issuer, securities, financial products or instruments or trading strategies.

The user of the Information assumes the entire risk of any use it may make or permit to be made of the Information.

ISS MAKES NO EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE INFORMATION AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF ORIGINALITY, ACCURACY, TIMELINESS, NON-INFRINGEMENT, COMPLETENESS, MERCHANTABILITY, AND FITNESS for A PARTICULAR PURPOSE) WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE INFORMATION.

Without limiting any of the foregoing and to the maximum extent permitted by law, in no event shall ISS have any liability regarding any of the Information for any direct, indirect, special, punitive, consequential (including lost profits), or any other damages even if notified of the possibility of such damages. The foregoing shall not exclude or limit any liability that may not by applicable law be excluded or limited.

 

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LOGO

 

 

The Global Leader In Corporate Governance

www.issgovernance.com

 

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LOGO

 

Europe

Summary Proxy Voting Guidelines

 

 

2017 Benchmark Policy Recommendations

 

 

Effective for Meetings on or after February 1, 2017

 

Published January 18, 2017

 

www.issgovernance.com

© 2017 ISS | Institutional Shareholder Services

 

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  
COVERAGE UNIVERSE      27  
DEFINITIONS AND EXPLANATIONS      27  

1.    OPERATIONAL ITEMS

     28  

Financial Results/Director and Auditor Reports

     28  

Appointment of Auditors and Auditor Fees

     28  

Appointment of Internal Statutory Auditors

     28  

Allocation of Income

     28  

Amendments to Articles of Association

     29  

Change in Company Fiscal Term

     29  

Lower Disclosure Threshold for Stock Ownership

     29  

Amend Quorum Requirements

     29  

Transact Other Business

     29  

2.    BOARD OF DIRECTORS

     29  

Non-Contested Director Elections

     29  

Director Terms

     30  

Bundling of Proposal to Elect Directors

     30  

Board Independence

     30  

Disclosure of Names of Nominees

     31  

Combined Chairman/CEO

     31  

Election of a Former CEO as Chairman of the Board

     32  

Overboarded Directors

     32  

Voto di Lista (Italy)

     33  

One Board Seat per Director

     33  

Composition of Committees

     34  

Composition Nomination Committee (Sweden, Norway, and Finland)

     34  

Election of Censors (France)

     35  

ISS Classification of Directors - European Policy

     35  

Contested Director Elections

     36  

Voting on Directors for Egregious Actions

     37  

Committee of Representatives and Corporate Assembly Elections (Denmark and Norway)

     37  

Discharge of Directors

     37  

Director, Officer, and Auditor Indemnification and Liability Provisions

     37  

Board Structure

     37  

3.    CAPITAL STRUCTURE

     38  

CAPITAL SYSTEMS

     38  

SHARE ISSUANCE REQUESTS

     38  

General Issuances

     38  

Specific Issuances

     39  

Increases in Authorized Capital

     39  

Reduction of Capital

     39  

Capital Structures

     39  

Florange Act- Double Voting Rights (France)

     39  

 

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Preferred Stock

     40  

Debt Issuance Requests

     40  

Pledging of Assets for Debt

     41  

Increase in Borrowing Powers

     41  

Share Repurchase Plans

     41  

Market-Specific Exceptions

     41  

Reissuance of Repurchased Shares

     42  

Capitalization of Reserves for Bonus Issues/Increase in Par Value

     42  

4.    COMPENSATION

     42  

COMPENSATION GUIDELINES

     42  

Preamble

     42  

Executive compensation-related proposals

     43  

Non-Executive Director Compensation

     44  

Equity-based Compensation Guidelines

     45  

French Burn Rate Table for 2017

     46  

Compensation-Related Voting Sanctions

     46  

Stock Option Plans – Adjustment for Dividend (Nordic Region)

     47  

Share Matching Plans (Sweden and Norway)

     47  

5.    ENVIRONMENTAL AND  SOCIAL ISSUES

     48  

Voting on Social and Environmental Proposals

     48  

6.    OTHER ITEMS

     48  

Reorganizations/Restructurings

     48  

Mergers and Acquisitions

     48  

Mandatory Takeover Bid Waivers

     49  

Reincorporation Proposals

     49  

Expansion of Business Activities

     49  

Related-Party Transactions

     49  

Antitakeover Mechanisms

     49  

Shareholder Proposals

     50  

Authority to Reduce Minimum Notice Period for Calling a Meeting

     50  

Auditor Report Including Related Party Transactions (France)

     51  

 

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COVERAGE UNIVERSE

The following is a condensed version of the proxy voting recommendations contained in ISS’ European Proxy Voting Manual.

ISS’ European Policy applies to Member States of the European Union (EU) or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), with the exception of the United Kingdom and Ireland, which are subject to the UK and Ireland policy which is based on the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) Corporate Governance Policy and Voting Guidelines. In both cases, European territories that are politically associated with a given Member State are subject to the same policy as that Member State. Other European territories are subject to either ISS’ separate, market-specific policies, or ISS’ EMEA Regional Policy.

Specifically, ISS’ European Policy applies to companies incorporated in the following territories: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, the Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland.

ISS’ approach is not “one-size-fits-all” and takes relevant market-specific factors into account in our research and recommendations. Therefore this document distinguishes in various places between different markets and on the basis of other differentiating factors. These distinctions are based on different market practices and best practice recommendations throughout Europe.

DEFINITIONS AND EXPLANATIONS

The term “widely held” refers to companies that ISS designates as such based on their membership in a major index and/or the number of ISS clients holding the securities.

For stylistic purposes, this document may use the adjectival form of country names to refer to companies incorporated or listed in a given market.

 

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1. OPERATIONAL ITEMS

Financial Results/Director and Auditor Reports

General Recommendation: Vote for approval of financial statements and director and auditor reports, unless:

 

There are concerns about the accounts presented or audit procedures used; or
The company is not responsive to shareholder questions about specific items that should be publicly disclosed.

Appointment of Auditors and Auditor Fees

General Recommendation: Vote for proposals to ratify auditors and/or proposals authorizing the board to fix auditor fees, unless:

 

There are serious concerns about the procedures used by the auditor;
There is reason to believe that the auditor has rendered an opinion which is neither accurate nor indicative of the company’s financial position;
External auditors have previously served the company in an executive capacity or can otherwise be considered affiliated with the company;
Name of the proposed auditors has not been published;
The auditors are being changed without explanation; or
For widely-held companies, fees for non-audit services exceed either 100 percent of standard audit-related fees or any stricter limit set in local best practice recommendations or law.

In circumstances where fees for non-audit services include fees related to significant one-time capital structure events: initial public offerings, bankruptcy emergence, and spinoffs; and the company makes public disclosure of the amount and nature of those fees which are an exception to the standard “non-audit fee” category, then such fees may be excluded from the non-audit fees considered in determining the ratio of non-audit to audit fees.

For concerns relating to the audit procedures, independence of auditors, and/or name of auditors, ISS will focus on the auditor election. For concerns relating to fees paid to the auditors, ISS will focus on remuneration of auditors if this is a separate voting item, otherwise ISS would focus on the auditor election.

Appointment of Internal Statutory Auditors

General Recommendation: Vote for the appointment or reelection of statutory auditors, unless:

 

There are serious concerns about the statutory reports presented or the audit procedures used; or
Questions exist concerning any of the statutory auditors being appointed; or
The auditors have previously served the company in an executive capacity or can otherwise be considered affiliated with the company.

Allocation of Income

General Recommendation: Vote for approval of the allocation of income, unless:

 

The dividend payout ratio has been consistently below 30 percent without adequate explanation; or

 

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The payout is excessive given the company’s financial position.

Amendments to Articles of Association

General Recommendation: Vote amendments to the articles of association on a case-by-case basis.

Change in Company Fiscal Term

General Recommendation: Vote for resolutions to change a company’s fiscal term unless a company’s motivation for the change is to postpone its AGM.

Lower Disclosure Threshold for Stock Ownership

General Recommendation: Vote against resolutions to lower the stock ownership disclosure threshold below 5 percent unless specific reasons exist to implement a lower threshold.

Amend Quorum Requirements

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to amend quorum requirements for shareholder meetings on a case-by-case basis.

Transact Other Business

General Recommendation: Vote against other business when it appears as a voting item.

2. BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Non-Contested Director Elections

General Recommendation: Vote for management nominees in the election of directors, unless:

Adequate disclosure has not been provided in a timely manner;
There are clear concerns over questionable finances or restatements;
There have been questionable transactions with conflicts of interest;
There are any records of abuses against minority shareholder interests;
The board fails to meet minimum corporate governance standards;
There are specific concerns about the individual, such as criminal wrongdoing or breach of fiduciary responsibilities; and
Repeated absences at board meetings have not been explained (in countries where this information is disclosed).

In addition to these general factors, ISS may recommend against due to concerns related to at least one of the following specific factors, which are presented below as separate subsections:

  I.      Director Terms
  II.      Bundling of Proposals to Elect Directors
  III.      Board independence
  IV.      Disclosure of Names of Nominees
  V.      Combined Chairman/CEO
  VI.      Election of a Former CEO as Chairman of the Board
  VII.      Overboarded Directors
  VIII.      Voto di Lista (Italy)

 

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  IX.      One Board Seat per Director
  X.      Composition of Committees
  XI.      Composition Nominating Committee (Sweden and Norway)
  XII.      Election of Censors (France)

This policy is distinct from ISS’ policy on contested director elections, which is presented as a separate policy item.

Note also that this policy is complemented by three additional policies: “Compensation-Related Voting Sanctions” and “Voting on Directors for Egregious Actions,” which both address a comparatively rare set of additional circumstances, and “Corporate Assembly and Committee of Representatives Elections,” which states how ISS applies its director election policy in Norway and Denmark in cases where the board is not directly elected by shareholders.

Director Terms

For Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, vote against the election or re-election of any director when his/her term is not disclosed or when it exceeds four years and adequate explanation for non-compliance has not been provided. In these markets, the maximum board terms are either recommended best practice or required by legislation. Under best practice recommendations, companies should shorten the terms for directors when the terms exceed the limits suggested by best practices. The policy will be applied to all companies in these markets, for bundled as well as unbundled items.

Clients will also be advised to vote against article amendment proposals to extend board terms. In cases where a company’s articles provide for a shorter limit and where the company wishes to extend director terms from three or fewer years to four years, for example, ISS will recommend a vote against, based on the general principle that director accountability is maximized by elections with a short period of renewal.

Bundling of Proposal to Elect Directors

Bundling together proposals that could be presented as separate voting items is not considered good market practice, because bundled resolutions leave shareholders with an all-or-nothing choice, skewing power disproportionately towards the board and away from shareholders. As director elections are one of the most important voting decisions that shareholders make, directors should be elected individually.

For the markets of Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain vote against the election or reelection of any directors if individual director elections are an established market practice and the company proposes a single slate of directors.

Board Independence

Independence will be determined according to ISS’ European Classification of Directors. If a nominee cannot be categorized, ISS will consider that person non-independent and include that nominee in the calculation.

 

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The following policies would be applied to all widely held companies1, unless there is a majority shareholder:

 

For all markets (except Greece or Portugal), vote against the election or reelection of any non-independent directors (excluding the CEO) if:
  Fewer than 50 percent of the board members elected by shareholders, excluding, where relevant, employee shareholder representatives, would be independent, or
  Fewer than one-third of all board members, including those who, in accordance with local law(s) requiring their mandatory board membership, are not elected by shareholders, would be independent.

 

In Italy, at least half of the board should be independent (50 percent). Issuers with a controlling shareholder will be required to have a board consisting of at least one-third independent members (33 percent). This applies to individual director appointments (co-options). In the case of complete board renewals that are regulated by the Italian slate system (“voto di lista”), board independence will be one of the factors for determining which list of nominees ISS considers best suited to add value for shareholders based, as applicable, on ISS European policies.

 

For companies incorporated in Portugal or Greece, at least one-third of the board will be required to be independent. ISS will recommend a vote against the entire slate of candidates (in the case of bundled elections), or a vote against the election of any non-independent directors (in the case of unbundled elections) if board independence level does not meet the minimum recommended one-third threshold.

For companies with a majority shareholder (excluding Italy and Portugal):

 

Generally vote against the election or reelection of any non-independent directors (excluding the CEO) if the level of independence on the board will be lower than minority shareholders’ percentage of equity ownership, or, in any case, if the board will be less than one-third independent (whichever is higher).

 

Minority shareholders’ ownership percentage is calculated by subtracting the majority shareholder’s equity ownership percentage from 100 percent. Majority control is defined in terms of economic interest and not voting rights, and is considered to be any shareholder or group of shareholders acting collectively that control at least 50 percent + 1 share of the company’s equity capital. This independence threshold is applied to controlled widely held companies or main index-listed/MSCI-EAFE member companies which would otherwise fall under a 50-percent independence guideline as described in the Board Independence Policy.

 

However, in markets where the local corporate governance code addresses board independence at controlled companies, ISS will generally recommend against the election or reelection of any non-independent directors (excluding the CEO) if the level of independence on the board is lower than the local code recommendation, but in any case, if the level of board independence will be less than one-third.

Disclosure of Names of Nominees

Vote against the election or reelection of any and all director nominees when the names of the nominees are not available at the time the ISS analysis is being written. This policy will be applied to all companies in these markets, for bundled and unbundled items.

Combined Chairman/CEO

 

 

1 Widely held companies are interpreted as:

  Generally, based on their membership in a major index and/or the number of ISS clients holding the securities;
  For Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Luxembourg: based on local blue chip market index and/or MSCI EAFE companies;
  For Portugal, based on their membership in the PSI-20 and/or MSCI-EAFE index

 

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Generally, vote against (re)election of combined chair/CEOs at widely held European companies. However, when the company provides assurance that the chair/CEO would only serve in the combined role on an interim basis (no more than two years), with the intent of separating the roles within a given time frame, considerations should be given to these exceptional circumstances. In this respect, the vote recommendation would be made on a case-by-case basis. In order for ISS to consider a favorable vote recommendation for a combined chair/CEO to serve on an interim basis, the company would need to provide adequate control mechanisms on the board (such as a lead independent director, a high overall level of board independence, and a high level of independence on the board’s key committees).

This policy will be applied to all widely held European companies that propose the (re)election of a combined chair/CEO to the board, including cases where the chair/CEO is included in an election by slate.

Election of a Former CEO as Chairman of the Board

Generally vote against the election or reelection of a former CEO as chairman to the supervisory board or board of directors at widely held companies in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. In markets such as Germany, where the general meeting only elects the nominees and, subsequently, the new board’s chairman, ISS will generally recommend a vote against the election or reelection of a former CEO, unless the company has publicly confirmed prior to the general meeting that he will not proceed to become chairman of the board.

Considerations should be given to any of the following exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis if:

There are compelling reasons that justify the election or reelection of a former CEO as chairman; or
The former CEO is proposed to become the board’s chairman only on an interim or temporary basis; or
The former CEO is proposed to be elected as the board’s chairman for the first time after a reasonable cooling-off period; or

Overboarded Directors    

In Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, at widely held companies, ISS will generally recommend a vote against a candidate when s/he holds an excessive number of board appointments, as referenced by the more stringent of the provisions prescribed in local law or best practice governance codes, or as defined by the following guidelines:

 

Directors who hold more than five non-chair non-executive director positions.
A non-executive chairman who, in addition to this role, holds (i) more than three non-chair non-executive director positions, (ii) more than one other non-executive chair position and one non-chair non-executive director position, or (iii) any executive position.
Executive directors or those in comparable roles holding (i) more than two non-chair non-executive director positions, (ii) any other executive positions, or (iii) any non-executive chair position.

An adverse vote recommendation will not be applied to a director within a company where he/she serves as CEO; instead, any adverse vote recommendations will be applied to his/her additional seats on other company boards. The same is also valid for non-executive chairmen, except (i) where they exclusively hold other non-executive chair and/or executive positions or (ii) where they are elected as non-executive chairman for the first time.

 

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ISS will take into account board positions held in global publicly listed companies outside the same group, defined as a group of companies in which a common parent company controls at least 50 percent + 1 share of equity capital, alone or in concert.

For directors standing for (re)election at French companies, ISS will take into account board appointments as censors in French publicly listed companies.

Executive directors or those in comparable roles within investment holding companies will generally be treated similar to non-executive directors when applying this policy.

Voto di Lista (Italy)

In Italy, director elections generally take place through the voto di lista mechanism (similar to slate elections). Since the Italian implementation of the European Shareholder Rights Directive (effective since Nov. 1, 2010), issuers must publish the various lists 21 days in advance of the meeting.

Since shareholders only have the option to support one such list, where lists are published in sufficient time, ISS will recommend a vote on a case-by-case basis, determining which list of nominees it considers is best suited to add value for shareholders based, as applicable, on ISS European policies for Director Elections and for Contested Director Elections.

Those companies that are excluded from the provisions of the European Shareholder Rights Directive publish lists of nominees 10 days before the meeting. In the case where nominees are not published in sufficient time, ISS will recommend a vote against the director elections before the lists of director nominees are disclosed. Once the various lists of nominees are disclosed, ISS will issue an alert to its clients and, if appropriate, change its vote recommendation to support one particular list.

One Board Seat per Director

In cases where a director holds more than one board seat on a single board and the corresponding votes, manifested as one seat as a physical person plus an additional seat(s) as a representative of a legal entity, vote against the election/reelection of such legal entities and in favor of the physical person.

However, an exception is made if the representative of the legal entity holds the position of CEO. In such circumstances, ISS will typically recommend a vote in favor of the legal entity and against the election/reelection of the physical person.

While such occurrences are rare, there have been cases where a board member may have multiple board seats and corresponding votes. Holding several board seats concurrently within one board increases this person’s direct influence on board decisions and creates an inequality among board members.

 

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This situation has manifested in Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. This is not a good corporate governance practice, as it places disproportionate influence and control in one person.

Composition of Committees

In Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, vote against the (re)election of executives who serve on the company’s audit or remuneration committee. ISS may recommend against if the disclosure is too poor to determine whether an executive serves or will serve on a committee. If a company does not have an audit or a remuneration committee, ISS may consider that the entire board fulfills the role of a committee. In such case, ISS may recommend against the executives, including the CEO, up for election to the board.

For Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, vote against the (re)election of non-independent members of the audit committee and/or the remuneration committee if their (re)election would lead to a non-independent majority on the respective committee.

These policies apply only to companies for which ISS includes overall board independence as a factor in its analysis of board elections.

Markets where local corporate governance codes prescribe specific composition requirements are assessed in accordance with compliance with their local codes. More stringent requirements are applied to those markets where local corporate governance codes prescribe more robust composition requirements.

Composition Nomination Committee (Sweden, Norway, and Finland)

Vote for proposals in Sweden, Norway, and Finland to elect or appoint a nominating committee consisting mainly of non-board members.

Vote for shareholder proposals calling for disclosure of the names of the proposed candidates at the meeting, as well as the inclusion of a representative of minority shareholders in the committee.

The above policy notwithstanding, vote against proposals in Sweden to elect or appoint such a committee if the company is on the MSCI-EAFE or local main index and the following conditions exist:

1. A member of the executive management would be a member of the committee;

2. More than one board member who is dependent on a major shareholder would be on the committee; or

3. The chair of the board would also be the chair of the committee.

In cases where the principles for the establishment of the nominating committee, rather than the election of the committee itself, are being voted on, vote against the adoption of the principles if any of the above conditions are met for the current committee, and there is no publicly available information indicating that this would no longer be the case for the new nominating committee.

 

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Election of Censors (France)

For widely held companies, ISS will generally recommend a vote against proposals seeking shareholder approval to elect a censor, to amend bylaws to authorize the appointment of censors, or to extend the maximum number of censors to the board. However, ISS will recommend a vote on a case-by-case basis when the company provides assurance that the censor would serve on a short-term basis (maximum one year) with the intent to retain the nominee before his/her election as director. In this case, consideration shall also be given to the nominee’s situation (notably overboarding or other factors of concern).

In consideration of the principle that censors should be appointed on a short-term basis, vote against any proposal to renew the term of a censor or to extend the statutory term of censors.

ISS Classification of Directors - European Policy

 

 Executive Director

 › Employee or executive of the company;
 › Any director who is classified as a non-executive, but receives salary, fees, bonus, and/or other benefits that are in line with the highest-paid executives of the company.

 Non-Independent Non-Executive Director (NED)

 › Any director who is attested by the board to be a non-independent NED;
 › Any director specifically designated as a representative of a significant shareholder of the company;
 › Any director who is also an employee or executive of a significant shareholder of the company;
 › Any director who is nominated by a dissenting significant shareholder unless there is a clear lack of material4 connection with the dissident, either currently or historically;
 › Beneficial owner (direct or indirect) of at least 10 percent of the company’s stock, either in economic terms or in voting rights (this may be aggregated if voting power is distributed among more than one member of a defined group, e.g., members of a family that beneficially own less than 10 percent individually, but collectively own more than 10 percent), unless market best practice dictates a lower ownership and/or disclosure threshold (and in other special market-specific circumstances);
 › Government representative;
 › Currently provides (or a relative¹ provides) professional services2 to the company, to an affiliate of the company, or to an individual officer of the company or of one of its affiliates in excess of $10,000 per year;
 › Represents customer, supplier, creditor, banker, or other entity with which the company maintains a transactional/commercial relationship (unless the company discloses information to apply a materiality test3);
 › Any director who has conflicting or cross-directorships with executive directors or the chairman of the company;
 › Relative¹ of a current or former executive of the company or its affiliates;
 › A new appointee elected other than by a formal process through the general meeting (such as a contractual appointment by a substantial shareholder);
 › Founder/co-founder/member of founding family but not currently an employee;
 › Former executive (five-year cooling off period);
 › Excessive years of service from date of first appointment, as determined by the EC Recommendation 2005/162/EC, local corporate governance codes, or local best practice, is generally a determining factor in evaluating director independence.4 ;
 › Any additional relationship or principle considered to compromise independence under local corporate governance best practice guidance.

 Independent NED

 › Not classified as non-independent by ISS (see above);
 › No material5 connection, either direct or indirect, to the company (other than a board seat) or to a significant shareholder.

 Employee Representative

 

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 › Represents employees or employee shareholders of the company (classified as “employee representative” and considered a non-independent NED).

Footnotes

1 “Relative” follows the definition of “immediate family members” which covers spouses, parents, children, stepparents, step-children, siblings, in-laws, and any person (other than a tenant or employee) sharing the household of any director, nominee for director, executive officer, or significant shareholder of the company.

2 Professional services can be characterized as advisory in nature and generally include the following: investment banking/financial advisory services; commercial banking (beyond deposit services); investment services; insurance services; accounting/audit services; consulting services; marketing services; and legal services. The case of participation in a banking syndicate by a non-lead bank should be considered a transaction (and hence subject to the associated materiality test) rather than a professional relationship.

3 A business relationship may be material if the transaction value (of all outstanding transactions) entered into between the company and the company or organization with which the director is associated is equivalent to either 1 percent of the company’s turnover or 1 percent of the turnover of the company or organization with which the director is associated; or

A business relationship may be material if the transaction value (of all outstanding financing operations) entered into between the company and the company or organization with which the director is associated is more than 10 percent of the company’s shareholder equity or the transaction value (of all outstanding financing operations) compared to the company’s total assets is more than 5 percent.

4 For example, the EC recommendation 2005/162/EC’s definition of independence provides that in order to remain independent, a non-executive director shall have served on the [supervisory] board for no more than 12 years. For countries governed by ISS’ European policy, ISS will follow the EC recommendation and apply stricter tenure limits where recommended by local corporate governance codes or established by local best practice.

5 For purposes of ISS’ director independence classification, “material” will be defined as a standard of relationship (financial, personal, or otherwise) that a reasonable person might conclude could potentially influence one’s objectivity in the boardroom in a manner that would have a meaningful impact on an individual’s ability to satisfy requisite fiduciary standards on behalf of shareholders.

Contested Director Elections

General Recommendation: For contested elections of directors, e.g. the election of shareholder nominees or the dismissal of incumbent directors, ISS will make its recommendation on a case-by-case basis, determining which directors are considered best suited to add value for shareholders.

The analysis will generally be based on, but not limited to, the following major decision factors:

 

Company performance relative to its peers;
Strategy of the incumbents versus the dissidents;
Independence of directors/nominees;
Experience and skills of board candidates;
Governance profile of the company;
Evidence of management entrenchment;
Responsiveness to shareholders;
Whether a takeover offer has been rebuffed;
Whether minority or majority representation is being sought.

When analyzing a contested election of directors, ISS will generally focus on two central questions: (1) Have the proponents proved that board change is warranted? And if so, (2) Are the proponent board nominees likely to effect positive change (i.e., maximize long-term shareholder value).

 

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Voting on Directors for Egregious Actions

General Recommendation: Under extraordinary circumstances, vote against or withhold from directors individually, on a committee, or the entire board, due to:

 

Material failures of governance, stewardship, risk oversight, or fiduciary responsibilities at the company;
Failure to replace management as appropriate; or
Egregious actions related to the director(s)’service on other boards that raise substantial doubt about his or her ability to effectively oversee management and serve the best interests of shareholders at any company.

Committee of Representatives and Corporate Assembly Elections (Denmark and Norway)

General Recommendation: For Norwegian and Danish companies where shareholders vote on elections for members of the corporate assembly or committee of representatives, but not directly on the board of directors, vote case-by-case on corporate assembly and committee of representative elections based on the board of directors’ compliance with ISS’ director election policy.

Discharge of Directors

General Recommendation: Vote for the discharge of directors, including members of the management board and/or supervisory board, unless there is reliable information about significant and compelling concerns that the board is not fulfilling its fiduciary duties, warranted on a case-by-case basis, by:

 

A lack of oversight or actions by board members which invoke shareholder distrust related to malfeasance or poor supervision, such as operating in private or company interest rather than in shareholder interest;
Any legal issues (e.g. civil/criminal) aiming to hold the board responsible for breach of trust in the past or related to currently alleged action yet to be confirmed (and not only in the fiscal year in question) such as price fixing, insider trading, bribery, fraud, and other illegal actions;
Other egregious governance issues where shareholders will bring legal action against the company or its directors.

For markets which do not routinely request discharge resolutions (e.g. common law countries or markets where discharge is not mandatory), analysts may voice concern in other appropriate agenda items, such as approval of the annual accounts or other relevant resolutions, to enable shareholders to express discontent with the board.

Director, Officer, and Auditor Indemnification and Liability Provisions

General Recommendation: Vote proposals seeking indemnification and liability protection for directors and officers on a case-by-case basis.

Vote against proposals to indemnify external auditors.

Board Structure

General Recommendation: Vote for routine proposals to fix board size.

 

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Vote against the introduction of classified boards and/or mandatory retirement ages for directors.

Vote against proposals to alter board structure or size in the context of a fight for control of the company or the board.

3. CAPITAL STRUCTURE

Capital Systems

European capital systems can be broadly defined as either authorized or conditional. Both systems provide companies with the means to finance business activities, but they are considerably different in structure. Which system is used by a company is determined by the economic and legal structure of the market in which it operates. However, many capital systems display slight variations on the two systems, and some systems bear features from both systems, if only on a cosmetic level.

Under the conditional capital system, companies seek authorizations for pools of capital, which typically have fixed periods of availability. For example, if a company seeks to establish a pool of capital for general issuance purposes, it requests the creation of a certain number of shares with or without preemptive rights, issuable piecemeal at the discretion of the board, generally for a fixed period of time. This type of authority would be used to carry out a general rights issue or small issuances without preemptive rights.

The authorized capital system sets a limit in a company’s articles on the total number of shares that can be issued by the company’s board. The system allows companies to issue shares from this preapproved limit, although in many markets shareholder approval must be obtained prior to an issuance. Companies also request shareholder approval for increases in authorization when the amount of shares contained in the articles is inadequate for issuance authorities.

Share Issuance Requests

General Issuances

General Recommendation: Vote for issuance authorities with pre-emptive rights to a maximum of 100 percent over currently issued capital and as long as the share issuance authorities’ periods are clearly disclosed (or implied by the application of a legal maximum duration) and in line with market-specific practices and/or recommended guidelines (e.g. issuance periods limited to 18 months for the Netherlands).

Vote for issuance authorities without pre-emptive rights to a maximum of 20 percent (or a lower limit if local market best practice recommendations provide) of currently issued capital as long as the share issuance authorities’ periods are clearly disclosed (or implied by the application of a legal maximum duration) and in line with market-specific practices and/or recommended guidelines (e.g. issuance periods limited to 18 months for the Netherlands).

For French companies:

 

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Vote for general issuance requests with preemptive rights, or without preemptive rights but with a binding “priority right,” for a maximum of 50 percent over currently issued capital.

 

Generally vote for general authorities to issue shares without preemptive rights up to a maximum of 10 percent of share capital. When companies are listed on a regulated market, the maximum discount on share issuance price proposed in the resolution must, in addition, comply with the legal discount (i.e., a maximum of 5 percent discount to the share listing price) for a vote for to be warranted.

Specific Issuances

General Recommendation: Vote on a case-by-case basis on all requests, with or without preemptive rights.

Increases in Authorized Capital

General Recommendation: Vote for non-specific proposals to increase authorized capital up to 100 percent over the current authorization unless the increase would leave the company with less than 30 percent of its new authorization outstanding.

Vote for specific proposals to increase authorized capital to any amount, unless:

 

The specific purpose of the increase (such as a share-based acquisition or merger) does not meet ISS guidelines for the purpose being proposed; or
The increase would leave the company with less than 30 percent of its new authorization outstanding after adjusting for all proposed issuances.

Vote against proposals to adopt unlimited capital authorizations.

Reduction of Capital

General Recommendation: Vote for proposals to reduce capital for routine accounting purposes unless the terms are unfavorable to shareholders.

Vote proposals to reduce capital in connection with corporate restructuring on a case-by-case basis.

Capital Structures

General Recommendation: Vote for resolutions that seek to maintain, or convert to, a one-share, one-vote capital structure.

Vote against requests for the creation or continuation of dual-class capital structures or the creation of new or additional super voting shares.

Florange Act- Double Voting Rights (France)

For French companies that:

 

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Did not have a bylaw allowing for double voting rights before the enactment of the Law of 29 March 2014 (Florange Act); and
Do not currently have a bylaw prohibiting double-voting rights; and either

 

  Do not have on their ballot for shareholder approval a bylaw amendment to prohibit double-voting, submitted by either management or shareholders; or
  Have not made a public commitment to submit such a bylaw amendment to shareholder vote before April 3, 2016;

Then, on a case-by-case basis, ISS may recommend against the following types of proposals:

 

The reelection of directors or supervisory board members; or
The approval of the discharge of directors; or
If neither reelection of directors/supervisory board members nor approval of discharge is considered appropriate, then the approval of the annual report and accounts.

Preferred Stock

General Recommendation: Vote for the creation of a new class of preferred stock or for issuances of preferred stock up to 50 percent of issued capital unless the terms of the preferred stock would adversely affect the rights of existing shareholders.

Vote for the creation/issuance of convertible preferred stock as long as the maximum number of common shares that could be issued upon conversion meets ISS’ guidelines on equity issuance requests.

Vote against the creation of a new class of preference shares that would carry superior voting rights to the common shares.

Vote against the creation of blank check preferred stock unless the board clearly states that the authorization will not be used to thwart a takeover bid.

Vote proposals to increase blank check preferred authorizations on a case-by-case basis.

Debt Issuance Requests

General Recommendation: Vote non-convertible debt issuance requests on a case-by-case basis, with or without pre-emptive rights.

Vote for the creation/issuance of convertible debt instruments as long as the maximum number of common shares that could be issued upon conversion meets ISS’ guidelines on equity issuance requests.

Vote for proposals to restructure existing debt arrangements unless the terms of the restructuring would adversely affect the rights of shareholders.

 

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Pledging of Assets for Debt

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to approve the pledging of assets for debt on a case-by-case basis.

Increase in Borrowing Powers

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to approve increases in a company’s borrowing powers on a case-by-case basis.

Share Repurchase Plans

General Recommendation: ISS will generally recommend for market repurchase authorities (share repurchase programs) if the terms comply with the following criteria:

 

A repurchase limit of up to 10 percent of outstanding issued share capital;
A holding limit of up to 10 percent of a company’s issued share capital in treasury (“on the shelf”); and
Duration of no more than 5 years, or such lower threshold as may be set by applicable law, regulation, or code of governance best practice.

Authorities to repurchase shares in excess of the 10 percent repurchase limit will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. ISS may support such share repurchase authorities under special circumstances, which are required to be publicly disclosed by the company, provided that, on balance, the proposal is in shareholders’ interests. In such cases, the authority must comply with the following criteria:

 

A holding limit of up to 10 percent of a company’s issued share capital in treasury (“on the shelf”); and
Duration of no more than 18 months.

In markets where it is normal practice not to provide a repurchase limit, ISS will evaluate the proposal based on the company’s historical practice. However, ISS expects companies to disclose such limits and, in the future, may recommend a vote against companies that fail to do so. In such cases, the authority must comply with the following criteria:

 

A holding limit of up to 10 percent of a company’s issued share capital in treasury (“on the shelf”); and
Duration of no more than 18 months.

In addition, ISS will recommend against any proposal where:

The repurchase can be used for takeover defenses;
There is clear evidence of abuse;
There is no safeguard against selective buybacks;
Pricing provisions and safeguards are deemed to be unreasonable in light of market practice.

Market-Specific Exceptions

For Italy and Germany, vote for share-repurchase plans and share reissuance plans that would use call and put options if the following criteria are met:

 

The duration of the authorization is limited in time to no more than 18 months;
The total number of shares covered by the authorization is disclosed;

 

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The number of shares that would be purchased with call options and/or sold with put options is limited to a maximum of 5 percent of currently outstanding capital (or half of the total amounts allowed by law in Italy and Germany);
A financial institution, with experience conducting sophisticated transactions, is indicated as the party responsible for the trading; and
The company has a clean track record regarding repurchases.

Reissuance of Repurchased Shares

General Recommendation: Vote for requests to reissue any repurchased shares unless there is clear evidence of abuse of this authority in the past.

Capitalization of Reserves for Bonus Issues/Increase in Par Value

General Recommendation: Vote for requests to capitalize reserves for bonus issues of shares or to increase par value.

 

4. COMPENSATION

Compensation Guidelines

Preamble

The assessment of compensation follows the ISS Global Principles on Executive and Director Compensation which are detailed below. These principles take into account global corporate governance best practice.

The ISS Global Principles on Compensation underlie market-specific policies in all markets:

 

  1. Provide shareholders with clear, comprehensive compensation disclosures;
  2. Maintain appropriate pay-for-performance alignment with emphasis on long-term shareholder value;
  3. Avoid arrangements that risk “pay for failure;”
  4. Maintain an independent and effective compensation committee;
  5. Avoid inappropriate pay to non-executive directors.

In line with European Commission Recommendation 2004/913/EC, ISS believes that seeking annual shareholder approval for a company’s compensation policy is a positive corporate governance provision.

In applying the Five Global Principles, ISS has formulated European Compensation Guidelines which take into account local codes of governance, market best practice, and the Recommendations published by the European Commission. ISS analyzes compensation-related proposals based on the role of the beneficiaries and has therefore divided its executive and director compensation policy into two domains:

 

   I.  Executive compensation-related proposals; and
  II.  Non-executive director compensation-related proposals

 

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Executive compensation-related proposals

General Recommendation: ISS will evaluate management proposals seeking ratification of a company’s executive compensation-related items on a case-by-case basis, and where relevant, will take into account the European Pay for Performance Model2 outcomes within a qualitative review of a company’s remuneration practices. ISS will generally recommend a vote against a company’s compensation-related proposal if such proposal fails to comply with one or a combination of several of the global principles and their corresponding rules:

 

  1. Provide shareholders with clear and comprehensive compensation disclosures:
  1.1. Information on compensation-related proposals shall be made available to shareholders in a timely manner;
  1.2. The level of disclosure of the proposed compensation policy shall be sufficient for shareholders to make an informed decision and shall be in line with what local market best practice standards dictate;
  1.3. Companies shall adequately disclose all elements of the compensation, including:
  1.3.1. Any short- or long-term compensation component must include a maximum award limit.
  1.3.2. Long-term incentive plans must provide sufficient disclosure of (i) the exercise price/strike price (options); (ii) discount on grant; (iii) grant date/period; (iv) exercise/vesting period; and, if applicable, (v) performance criteria.
  1.3.3. Discretionary payments, if applicable.
  2. Maintain appropriate pay structure with emphasis on long-term shareholder value:
  2.1. The structure of the company’s short-term incentive plan shall be appropriate.
  2.1.1. The compensation policy must notably avoid guaranteed or discretionary compensation.
  2.2. The structure of the company’s long-term incentives shall be appropriate, including, but not limited to, dilution, vesting period, and, if applicable, performance conditions.
  2.2.1. Equity-based plans or awards that are linked to long-term company performance will be evaluated using ISS’ general policy for equity-based plans; and
  2.2.2. For awards granted to executives, ISS will generally require a clear link between shareholder value and awards, and stringent performance-based elements.

 

 

 

 

2  Definition of Pay-for-Performance Evaluation:

ISS annually conducts a pay-for-performance analysis to measure the alignment between pay and performance over a sustained period. With respect to companies in the European Main Indices, this analysis considers the following:

  Peer Group Alignment:
  The degree of alignment between the company’s annualized TSR rank and the CEO’s annualized total pay rank within a peer group, each measured over a three-year period.
  The multiple of the CEO’s total pay relative to the peer group median.
  Absolute Alignment – the absolute alignment between the trend in CEO pay and company TSR over the prior five fiscal years – i.e., the difference between the trend in annual pay changes and the trend in annualized TSR during the period.

 

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  2.3. The balance between short- and long-term variable compensation shall be appropriate
  2.3.1. The company’s executive compensation policy must notably avoid disproportionate focus on short-term variable element(s)
  3. Avoid arrangements that risk “pay for failure”:
  3.1. The board shall demonstrate good stewardship of investor’s interests regarding executive compensation practices (principle being supported by Pay for Performance Evaluation2).
  3.1.1. There shall be a clear link between the company’s performance and variable awards.
  3.1.2. There shall not be significant discrepancies between the company’s performance and real executive payouts.
  3.1.3. The level of pay for the CEO and members of executive management should not be excessive relative to peers, company performance, and market practices.
  3.1.4. Significant pay increases shall be explained by a detailed and compelling disclosure.
  3.2. Severance pay agreements must not be in excess of (i) 24 months’ pay or of (ii) any more restrictive provision pursuant to local legal requirements and/or market best practices.
  3.3. Arrangements with a company executive regarding pensions and post-mandate exercise of equity-based awards must not result in an adverse impact on shareholders’ interests or be misaligned with good market practices.
  4. Maintain an independent and effective compensation committee:
  4.1. No executives may serve on the compensation committee.
  4.2. In certain markets the compensation committee shall be composed of a majority of independent members, as per ISS policies on director election and board or committee composition.

In addition to the above, ISS will generally recommend a vote against a compensation-related proposal if such proposal is in breach of any other supplemental market-specific ISS voting policies.

Non-Executive Director Compensation

 

  5. Avoid inappropriate pay to non-executive directors.

General Recommendation: ISS will generally recommend a vote for proposals to award cash fees to non-executive directors, and will otherwise:

Recommend a vote against where:

 

Documents (including general meeting documents, annual report) provided prior to the general meeting do not mention fees paid to non-executive directors.
Proposed amounts are excessive relative to other companies in the country or industry.
The company intends to increase the fees excessively in comparison with market/sector practices, without stating compelling reasons that justify the increase.

 

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Proposals provide for the granting of stock options, performance-based equtiy compensation (including stock appreciation rights and performance-vesting restricted stock), and performance-based cash to non-executive directors.
Proposals introduce retirement benefits for non-executive directors.

And recommend a vote on a case-by-case basis where:

 

Proposals include both cash and share-based components to non-executive directors.
Proposals bundle compensation for both non-executive and executive directors into a single resolution.

Equity-based Compensation Guidelines

General Recommendation: ISS will generally recommend a vote for equity based compensation proposals for employees if the plan(s) are in line with long-term shareholder interests and align the award with shareholder value. This assessment includes, but is not limited to, the following factors:

The volume of awards transferred to participants must not be excessive: the potential volume of fully diluted issued share capital from equity-based compensation plans must not exceed the following ISS guidelines:

 

The shares reserved for all share plans may not exceed 5 percent of a company’s issued share capital, except in the case of high-growth companies or particularly well-designed plans, in which case we allow dilution of between 5 and 10 percent: in this case, we will need to have performance conditions attached to the plans which should be acceptable under ISS criteria (challenging criteria);
The plan(s) must be sufficiently long-term in nature/structure: the minimum vesting period must be no less than three years from date of grant;
The awards must be granted at market price. Discounts, if any, must be mitigated by performance criteria or other features that justify such discount.
If applicable, performance standards must be fully disclosed, quantified, and long-term, with relative performance measures preferred.

Market-specific provisions for France:

 

The potential volume from equity-based compensation plans must not exceed 10 percent of fully diluted issued share capital.
In addition, for companies that refer to the AFEP-MEDEF Code, all awards (including stock options and warrants) to executives shall be conditional upon challenging performance criteria or premium pricing. For companies referring to the Middlenext Code (or not referring to any code) at least part of the awards to executives shall be conditional upon performance criteria or premium pricing. In both cases, free shares shall remain subject to performance criteria for all beneficiaries.

Finally, for large- and mid-cap companies, the company’s average three year unadjusted burn rate (or, if lower, the maximum volume per year implied by the proposal made at the general meeting) must not exceed the mean plus one standard deviation of its sector. If necessary, these sector-specific caps are adjusted so that they do not change by more than one percentage point from year to year.

In 2016, the GICS methodology was amended. Real Estate is now a separate sector rather than an industry group within the Financials sector. ISS has computed caps for the new Real Estate sector and for the new Financials sector (i.e. excluding the Real Estate group). It has also computed a cap based on the old definition of the Financials sector (i.e. including the Real Estate group). In 2017, ISS will compare the average burn rate of companies in these sectors with the

 

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appropriate cap according to the new sector definitions and with the cap computed based on the old definition of the Financials sector. The less stringent of these caps will be used in formulating recommendations. Starting in 2018, the caps calculated according to the new sector definitions will be the only ones affecting the recommendations.

French Burn Rate Table for 2017

 

GICS   SECTOR   Mean  

Standard

Deviation

 

Burn Rate

Cap

1010

 

ENERGY

  0.51%     0.39%     0.91%  

1510

 

MATERIALS

  0.26%     0.16%     0.42%  

2010-2030

 

INDUSTRIALS

  0.33%     0.27%     0.60%  

2510-2550

 

CONSUMER

DISCRETIONARY

  0.46%     0.56%     1.02%  

3010-3030

 

CONSUMER STAPLES    

  0.13%     0.09%     0.22%  

3510-3520

 

HEALTHCARE

  0.75%     1.29%     2.04%  

4510-5010

 

TECHNOLOGY &

TELECOM

  0.47%     0.53%     1.00%  

5510

 

UTILITIES

  0.12%     0.11%     0.23%  

4010-4030

(NEW)

 

FINANCIALS

(EXCLUDING REAL

ESTATE)

  0.32%     0.45%     0.77%  

6010

(NEW)

 

REAL ESTATE

  0.26%     0.28%     0.54%  

4010-

4030/6010

(OLD)

 

FINANCIALS

(INCLUDING REAL

ESTATE)

  0.30%     0.39%     0.69%  

Compensation-Related Voting Sanctions

General Recommendation: Should a company be deemed to have egregious remuneration practices (as a result of one or a combination of several factors highlighted above) and has not followed market practice by submitting a resolution on executive compensation, vote against other “appropriate” resolutions as a mark of discontent against such practices.

An adverse vote recommendation could be applied to any of the following on a case-by case basis:

1. The (re)election of members of the remuneration committee;

2. The discharge of directors; or

3. The annual report and accounts.

Failure to propose a resolution on executive compensation to shareholders in a market where this is routine practice may, by itself, lead to one of the above adverse vote recommendations regardless of the companies remuneration practices.

 

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Stock Option Plans – Adjustment for Dividend (Nordic Region)

General Recommendation: Vote against stock option plans in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden if evidence is found that they contain provisions that may result in a disconnect between shareholder value and employee/executive reward.

This includes one or a combination of the following:

 

Adjusting the strike price for future ordinary dividends AND including expected dividend yield above 0 percent when determining the number of options awarded under the plan;
Having significantly higher expected dividends than actual historical dividends;
Favorably adjusting the terms of existing options plans without valid reason; and/or
Any other provisions or performance measures that result in undue award.

This policy applies to both new plans and amendments to introduce the provisions into already existing stock option plans. ISS will make an exception if a company proposes to reduce the strike price by the amount of future special (extraordinary) dividends only.

Generally vote against if the potential increase of share capital amounts to more than 5 percent for mature companies or 10 percent for growth companies or if options may be exercised below the market price of the share at the date of grant, or that employee options do not lapse if employment is terminated.

 

Share Matching Plans (Sweden and Norway)

General Recommendation: ISS considers the following factors when evaluating share matching plans:

 

For every share matching plan, ISS requires a holding period.
For plans without performance criteria, the shares must be purchased at market price.
For broad-based share matching plans directed at all employees, ISS accepts an arrangement up to a 1:1 ratio, i.e. no more than one free share is awarded for every share purchased at market value.
In addition, for plans directed at executives, we require that sufficiently challenging performance criteria be attached to the plan. Higher discounts demand proportionally higher performance criteria.

The dilution of the plan when combined with the dilution from any other proposed or outstanding employee stock purchase/stock matching plans, must comply with ISS’ guidelines.

 

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5. ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES

Voting on Social and Environmental Proposals

Issues covered under the policy include a wide range of topics, including consumer and product safety, environment and energy, labor standards and human rights, workplace and board diversity, and corporate political issues. While a variety of factors goes into each analysis, the overall principle guiding all vote recommendations focuses on how the proposal may enhance or protect shareholder value in either the short-term or long-term.

General Recommendation: ISS will generally recommend a vote on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration whether implementation of the proposal is likely to enhance or protect shareholder value, and in addition the following will be considered:

 

If the issues presented in the proposal are more appropriately or effectively dealt with through legislation or government regulation;
If the company has already responded in an appropriate and sufficient manner to the issue(s) raised in the proposal;
Whether the proposal’s request is unduly burdensome (scope, timeframe, or cost) or overly prescriptive;
The company’s approach compared with any industry standard practices for addressing the issue(s) raised by the proposal;
If the proposal requests increased disclosure or greater transparency, whether or not reasonable and sufficient information is currently available to shareholders from the company or from other publicly available sources; and
If the proposal requests increased disclosure or greater transparency, whether or not implementation would reveal proprietary or confidential information that could place the company at a competitive disadvantage.

6. OTHER ITEMS

Reorganizations/Restructurings

General Recommendation: Vote reorganizations and restructurings on a case-by-case basis.

Mergers and Acquisitions

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on mergers and acquisitions taking into account the following:

For every M&A analysis, ISS reviews publicly available information as of the date of the report and evaluates the merits and drawbacks of the proposed transaction, balancing various and sometimes countervailing factors including:

 

Valuation - Is the value to be received by the target shareholders (or paid by the acquirer) reasonable? While the fairness opinion may provide an initial starting point for assessing valuation reasonableness, ISS places emphasis on the offer premium, market reaction, and strategic rationale.
Market reaction - How has the market responded to the proposed deal? A negative market reaction will cause ISS to scrutinize a deal more closely.
Strategic rationale - Does the deal make sense strategically? From where is the value derived? Cost and revenue synergies should not be overly aggressive or optimistic, but reasonably achievable. Management should also have a favorable track record of successful integration of historical acquisitions.

 

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Conflicts of interest - Are insiders benefiting from the transaction disproportionately and inappropriately as compared to non-insider shareholders? ISS will consider whether any special interests may have influenced these directors and officers to support or recommend the merger.
Governance - Will the combined company have a better or worse governance profile than the current governance profiles of the respective parties to the transaction? If the governance profile is to change for the worse, the burden is on the company to prove that other issues (such as valuation) outweigh any deterioration in governance.

Vote against if the companies do not provide sufficient information upon request to allow shareholders to make an informed voting decision.

Mandatory Takeover Bid Waivers

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to waive mandatory takeover bid requirements on a case-by-case basis.

Reincorporation Proposals

General Recommendation: Vote reincorporation proposals on a case-by-case basis.

Expansion of Business Activities

General Recommendation: Vote for resolutions to expand business activities unless the new business takes the company into risky areas.

Related-Party Transactions

General Recommendation: In evaluating resolutions that seek shareholder approval on related-party transactions (RPTs), vote on a case-by-case basis, considering factors including, but not limited to, the following:

 

The parties on either side of the transaction;
The nature of the asset to be transferred/service to be provided;
The pricing of the transaction (and any associated professional valuation);
The views of independent directors (where provided);
The views of an independent financial adviser (where appointed);
Whether any entities party to the transaction (including advisers) is conflicted; and
The stated rationale for the transaction, including discussions of timing.

If there is a transaction that ISS deemed problematic and that was not put to a shareholder vote, ISS may recommend against the election of the director involved in the related-party transaction or the full board.

Antitakeover Mechanisms

General Recommendation: Generally vote against all antitakeover proposals, unless they are structured in such a way that they give shareholders the ultimate decision on any proposal or offer.

 

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For the Netherlands, vote recommendations regarding management proposals to approve protective preference shares will be determined on a case-by-case basis. In general, ISS will recommend voting for protective preference shares (PPS) only if:

 

The supervisory board needs to approve an issuance of shares and the supervisory board is independent within the meaning of ISS’ categorization rules (ISS’ European Director Independence Guidelines) and the Dutch Corporate Governance Code (i.e. a maximum of one member can be non-independent);
No call / put option agreement exists between the company and a foundation for the issuance of PPS;
The issuance authority is for a maximum of 18 months;
The board of the company-friendly foundation is fully independent;
There are no priority shares or other egregious protective or entrenchment tools;
The company states specifically that the issue of PPS is not meant to block a takeover, but will only be used to investigate alternative bids or to negotiate a better deal;
The foundation buying the PPS does not have as a statutory goal to block a takeover; and
The PPS will be outstanding for a period of maximum 6 months (an EGM must be called to determine the continued use of such shares after this period).

As of Feb. 1, 2016, for French companies listed on a regulated market, generally vote against any general authorities impacting the share capital (i.e. authorities for share repurchase plans and any general share issuances with or without preemptive rights, including by capitalization of reserves) if they can be used for antitakeover purposes without shareholders’ prior explicit approval.

Shareholder Proposals

General Recommendation: Vote all shareholder proposals on a case-by-case basis.

Vote for proposals that would improve the company’s corporate governance or business profile at a reasonable cost.

Vote against proposals that limit the company’s business activities or capabilities or result in significant costs being incurred with little or no benefit.

Policies dealing with environmental and social themes are covered by their own dedicated policy, presented separately in this document.

Authority to Reduce Minimum Notice Period for Calling a Meeting

General Recommendation: A recommendation to approve the “enabling” authority proposal would be on the basis that ISS would generally expect companies to call EGMs/GMs using a notice period of less than 21 days only in limited circumstances where a shorter notice period will be to the advantage of shareholders as a whole, for example, to keep a period of uncertainty about the future of the company to a minimum. This is particularly true of capital raising proposals or other price sensitive transactions. By definition, AGMs, being regular meetings of the company, should not merit a notice period of less than 21 days.

In a market where local legislation permits an EGM/GM to be called at no less than 14-days’ notice, ISS will generally recommend in favor of a resolution to approve the enabling authority if the company discloses that the shorter notice period of between 20 and 14 days would not be used as a matter of routine for such meetings, but only when the flexibility is merited by the

 

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business of the meeting. Where the proposal(s) at a given EGM/GM is (are) not time-sensitive, such as the approval of incentive plans, ISS would not expect a company to invoke the shorter notice notwithstanding any prior approval of the enabling authority proposal by shareholders.

In evaluating an enabling authority proposal, ISS would first require that the company make a clear disclosure of its compliance with any hurdle conditions for the authority imposed by applicable law, such as the provision of an electronic voting facility for shareholders. In addition, with the exception of the first AGM at which approval of the enabling authority is sought following implementation of the European Shareholder Rights Directive, when evaluating an enabling authority proposal ISS will take into consideration the company’s use (if any) of shorter notice periods in the preceding year to ensure that such shorter notice periods were invoked solely in connection with genuinely time-sensitive matters. Where the company has not limited its use of the shorter notice periods to such time sensitive-matters and fails to provide a clear explanation for this, ISS will consider a vote against the enabling authority for the coming year.

Auditor Report Including Related Party Transactions (France)

General Recommendation: ISS will review all auditor reports on related-party transactions and screen for and evaluate agreements with respect to the following issues:

 

Director Remuneration (including Severance Packages and Pension Benefits)
Consulting Services
Liability Coverage
Certain Business Transactions

In general, ISS expects companies to provide the following regarding related-party transactions:

 

Adequate disclosure of terms under listed transactions (including individual details of any severance, consulting, or other remuneration agreements with directors and for any asset sales and/or acquisitions);
Sufficient justification on transactions that appear to be unrelated to operations and/or not in shareholders’ best interests;
Fairness opinion (if applicable in special business transactions); and
Any other relevant information that may affect or impair shareholder value, rights, and/or judgment.

In the event that the company fails to provide an annual report in a timely manner, generally at least 21 days prior to the meeting, ISS will recommend votes against these proposals.

 

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This document and all of the information contained in it, including without limitation all text, data, graphs, and charts (collectively, the “Information”) is the property of Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS), its subsidiaries, or, in some cases third party suppliers.

The Information has not been submitted to, nor received approval from, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission or any other regulatory body. None of the Information constitutes an offer to sell (or a solicitation of an offer to buy), or a promotion or recommendation of, any security, financial product or other investment vehicle or any trading strategy, and ISS does not endorse, approve, or otherwise express any opinion regarding any issuer, securities, financial products or instruments or trading strategies.

The user of the Information assumes the entire risk of any use it may make or permit to be made of the Information.

ISS MAKES NO EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE INFORMATION AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF ORIGINALITY, ACCURACY, TIMELINESS, NON-INFRINGEMENT, COMPLETENESS, MERCHANTABILITY, AND FITNESS for A PARTICULAR PURPOSE) WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE INFORMATION.

Without limiting any of the foregoing and to the maximum extent permitted by law, in no event shall ISS have any liability regarding any of the Information for any direct, indirect, special, punitive, consequential (including lost profits), or any other damages even if notified of the possibility of such damages. The foregoing shall not exclude or limit any liability that may not by applicable law be excluded or limited.

 

 

LOGO

 

 

The Global Leader In Corporate Governance

www.issgovernance.com

 

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LOGO

  EMEA Regional

  Proxy Voting Summary Guidelines

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  2017 Benchmark Policy Recommendations

   Effective for Meetings on or after February 1, 2017

   Published January 18, 2017

    www.issgovernance.com

    © 2017 ISS | Institutional Shareholder Services

 

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TABLE OF CONTENTS   

COVERAGE UNIVERSE

     56  

1.

  OPERATIONAL ITEMS      56  
 

Financial Results/Director and Auditor Reports

     56  
 

Appointment of Auditors and Auditor Fees

     56  
 

Appointment of Internal Statutory Auditors

     56  
 

Allocation of Income

     57  
 

Stock (Scrip) Dividend Alternative

     57  
 

Amendments to Articles of Association

     57  
 

Change in Company Fiscal Term

     57  
 

Lower Disclosure Threshold for Stock Ownership

     57  
 

Amend Quorum Requirements

     57  
 

Transact Other Business

     57  
2.   BOARD OF DIRECTORS      57  
 

Director Elections

     57  
 

ISS Classification of Directors – EMEA Regional Policy

     59  
 

Contested Director Elections

     60  
 

Discharge of Directors

     61  
 

Director, Officer, and Auditor Indemnification and Liability Provisions

     61  
 

Board Structure

     61  
3.   CAPITAL STRUCTURE      61  
 

Share Issuance Requests

     61  
 

General Issuances

     61  
 

Specific Issuances

     61  
 

Increases in Authorized Capital

     62  
 

Reduction of Capital

     62  
 

Capital Structures

     62  
 

Preferred Stock

     62  
 

Debt Issuance Requests

     63  
 

Pledging of Assets for Debt

     63  
 

Increase in Borrowing Powers

     63  
 

Share Repurchase Plans

     63  
 

Reissuance of Repurchased Shares

     64  
 

Capitalization of Reserves for Bonus Issues/Increase in Par Value

     64  
4.   COMPENSATION      64  
 

Compensation Plans

     64  
 

Director Compensation

     64  
5.   OTHER ITEMS      65  
 

Reorganizations/Restructurings

     65  
 

Mergers and Acquisitions

     65  
 

Mandatory Takeover Bid Waivers

     65  
 

Reincorporation Proposals

     65  
 

Expansion of Business Activities

     65  

 

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Related-Party Transactions

     66  
 

Antitakeover Mechanisms

     66  
 

Shareholder Proposals

     66  

6.

  SOCIAL/ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES      66  
 

Global Approach

     66  

7.

  FOREIGN PRIVATE ISSUERS LISTED ON U.S. EXCHANGES      67  

 

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COVERAGE UNIVERSE

The following is a condensed version of the proxy voting recommendations contained in ISS’ EMEA Regional Proxy Voting Manual.

These guidelines cover all markets in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) that are not covered under a separate market-specific or region-specific ISS policy. Therefore, markets covered by this document exclude UK, Ireland, Israel, Russia, Kazakhstan, and South Africa, and all markets that are covered under ISS’ European Policy.

 

1. OPERATIONAL ITEMS

Financial Results/Director and Auditor Reports

 

General Recommendation: Vote for approval of financial statements and director and auditor reports, unless:
There are concerns about the accounts presented or audit procedures used; or
The company is not responsive to shareholder questions about specific items that should be publicly disclosed.

Appointment of Auditors and Auditor Fees

 

General Recommendation: Vote for the (re)election of auditors and/or proposals authorizing the board to fix auditor fees, unless:

 

There are serious concerns about the procedures used by the auditor;
There is reason to believe that the auditor has rendered an opinion which is neither accurate nor indicative of the company’s financial position;
External auditors have previously served the company in an executive capacity or can otherwise be considered affiliated with the company;
The name(s) of the proposed auditors has not been published;
The auditors are being changed without explanation; or
For widely-held companies, fees for non-audit services exceed either 100 percent of standard audit-related fees or any stricter limit set in local best practice recommendations or law.

In circumstances where fees for non-audit services include fees related to significant one-time capital structure events (initial public offerings, bankruptcy emergencies, and spinoffs) and the company makes public disclosure of the amount and nature of those fees, which are an exception to the standard “non-audit fee” category, then such fees may be excluded from the non-audit fees considered in determining the ratio of non-audit to audit fees.

For concerns related to the audit procedures, independence of auditors, and/or name of auditors, ISS may recommend against the auditor (re)election. For concerns related to fees paid to the auditors, ISS may recommend against remuneration of auditors if this is a separate voting item; otherwise, ISS may recommend against the auditor election.

Appointment of Internal Statutory Auditors

 

General Recommendation: Vote for the appointment or (re)election of statutory auditors, unless:

 

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There are serious concerns about the statutory reports presented or the audit procedures used;
Questions exist concerning any of the statutory auditors being appointed; or
The auditors have previously served the company in an executive capacity or can otherwise be considered affiliated with the company.

Allocation of Income

General Recommendation: Vote for approval of the allocation of income, unless:

 

The dividend payout ratio has been consistently below 30 percent without adequate explanation; or
The payout is excessive given the company’s financial position.

Stock (Scrip) Dividend Alternative

General Recommendation: Vote for most stock (scrip) dividend proposals.

Vote against proposals that do not allow for a cash option unless management demonstrates that the cash option is harmful to shareholder value.

Amendments to Articles of Association

General Recommendation: Vote amendments to the articles of association on a case-by-case basis.

Change in Company Fiscal Term

General Recommendation: Vote for resolutions to change a company’s fiscal term unless a company’s motivation for the change is to postpone its AGM.

Lower Disclosure Threshold for Stock Ownership

General Recommendation: Vote against resolutions to lower the stock ownership disclosure threshold below 5 percent unless specific reasons exist to implement a lower threshold.

Amend Quorum Requirements

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to amend quorum requirements for shareholder meetings on a case-by-case basis.

Transact Other Business

General Recommendation: Vote against other business when it appears as a voting item.

 

2. BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Director Elections

 

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General Recommendation: Vote for management nominees in the election of directors, unless:

 

Adequate disclosure has not been provided in a timely manner;
There are clear concerns over questionable finances or restatements;
There have been questionable transactions with conflicts of interest;
There are any records of abuses against minority shareholder interests;
The board fails to meet minimum corporate governance standards;
There are specific concerns about the individual, such as criminal wrongdoing or breach of fiduciary responsibilities; or
Repeated absences at board meetings have not been explained (in countries where this information is disclosed).

Vote for employee and/or labor representatives if they sit on either the audit or compensation committee and are required by law to be on those committees. Vote against employee and/or labor representatives if they sit on either the audit or compensation committee, if they are not required to be on those committees.

Vote against the election of directors at all companies if the name of the nominee is not disclosed in a timely manner prior to the meeting.

For MEA markets, in cases where:

Directors are proposed for (re)election through a cumulative voting system, or
Director elections do not take place through a cumulative voting system, but the number of nominees up for (re)election exceeds the number of board vacancies,

ISS will recommend a vote on a case-by-case basis, considering additional factors, for the purpose of identifying the best suited nominees to add value for shareholders. Positive vote recommendations will be issued preferentially in favor of the following categories of candidates:

Candidates who can be identified as representatives of minority shareholders of the company, or independent candidates, namely:
  Candidates who can be classified as independent according to ISS’ policy, or, failing that,
  Candidates explicitly classified as independent per the company’s director classification.

 

Candidates whose professional background may have the following benefits:
  Increasing the diversity of incumbent directors ‘ professional profiles and skills (thanks to their financial expertise, international experience, executive positions/directorships at other listed companies, or other relevent factors).
  Bringing to the current board of directors relevant experience in areas linked to the company’s business, evidenced by current or past board memberships or management functions at other companies.

 

Incumbent board members and candidates explicitly supported by the company’s management.

Under extraordinary circumstances, vote against individual directors, members of a committee, or the entire board, due to:

Material failures of governance, stewardship, risk oversight, or fiduciary responsibilities at the company;
Failure to replace management as appropriate; or

 

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Egregious actions related to a director’s service on other boards that raise substantial doubt about his or her ability to effectively oversee management and serve the best interests of shareholders at any company.

[Please see the ISS EMEA Regional Classification of Directors.]

ISS Classification of Directors – EMEA Regional Policy

 

Executive Director

  Employee or executive of the company;
  Any director who is classified as a non-executive, but receives salary, fees, bonus, and/or other benefits that are in line with the highest-paid executives of the company[6].

Non-Independent Non-Executive Director (NED)

  Any director who is attested by the board to be a non-independent NED;
  Any director specifically designated as a representative of a significant shareholder of the company;
  Any director who is also an employee or executive of a significant shareholder of the company;
  Any director who is nominated by a dissenting significant shareholder, unless there is a clear lack of material[5] connection with the dissident, either currently or historically;
  Beneficial owner (direct or indirect) of at least 10 percent of the company’s stock, either in economic terms or in voting rights (this may be aggregated if voting power is distributed among more than one member of a defined group, e.g., family members who beneficially own less than 10 percent individually, but collectively own more than 10 percent), unless market best practice dictates a lower ownership and/or disclosure threshold (and in other special market-specific circumstances);
  Government representative;
  Currently provides (or a relative[1] provides) professional services[2] to the company, to an affiliate of the company, or to an individual officer of the company or of one of its affiliates in excess of $10,000 per year;
  Represents customer, supplier, creditor, banker, or other entity with which company maintains transactional/commercial relationship (unless company discloses information to apply a materiality test[3]);
  Any director who has conflicting or cross-directorships with executive directors or the chairman of the company[6];
  Relative[1] of a current or former executive of the company or its affiliates;
  A new appointee elected other than by a formal process through the General Meeting (such as a contractual appointment by a substantial shareholder);
  Founder/co-founder/member of founding family but not currently an employee;
  Former executive (five-year cooling off period) [6];
  Years of service is generally not a determining factor unless it is recommended best practice in a market and/or in extreme circumstances, in which case it may be considered.[4]
  Any additional relationship or principle considered to compromise independence under local corporate governance best practice guidance.[7]

Independent NED

  No material[5] connection, either direct or indirect, to the company (other than a board seat) or to a significant shareholder.

Employee Representative

  Represents employees or employee shareholders of the company (classified as “employee

 

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representative” but considered a non-independent NED).

 

Footnotes

[1] “Relative” follows the definition of “immediate family members” which covers spouses, parents, children, stepparents, step-children, siblings, in-laws, and any person (other than a tenant or employee) sharing the household of any director, nominee for director, executive officer, or significant shareholder of the company.

[2] Professional services can be characterized as advisory in nature and generally include the following: investment banking/financial advisory services; commercial banking (beyond deposit services); investment services; insurance services; accounting/audit services; consulting services; marketing services; and legal services. The case of participation in a banking syndicate by a non-lead bank should be considered a transaction (and hence subject to the associated materiality test) rather than a professional relationship.

[3] A business relationship may be material if the transaction value (of all outstanding transactions) entered into between the company and the company or organization with which the director is associated is equivalent to either 1 percent of the company’s turnover or 1 percent of the turnover of the company or organization with which the director is associated. OR, A business relationship may be material if the transaction value (of all outstanding financing operations) entered into between the company and the company or organization with which the director is associated is more than 10 percent of the company’s shareholder equity or the transaction value, (of all outstanding financing operations), compared to the company’s total assets, is more than 5 percent.

[4] For example, in continental Europe, directors with a tenure exceeding 12 years will be considered non-independent. In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Singapore, directors with a tenure exceeding nine years will be considered non-independent, unless the company provides sufficient and clear justification that the director is independent despite his/her long tenure.

[5] For purposes of ISS’ director independence classification, “material” will be defined as a standard of relationship financial, personal, or otherwise that a reasonable person might conclude could potentially influence one’s objectivity in the boardroom in a manner that would have a meaningful impact on an individual’s ability to satisfy requisite fiduciary standards on behalf of shareholders.

[6] For purposes of independence classification of directors incorporated in the Middle East and Africa region, this criterion will be taken into account in accordance with market best practice and disclosure standards and availability.

[7] For MEA markets, directors’ past services as statutory auditor/partner of the statutory audit firm will be taken into account, with cooling-off periods in accordance with local market best practice.

Contested Director Elections

General Recommendation: For contested elections of directors, e.g. the election of shareholder nominees or the dismissal of incumbent directors, ISS will make its recommendation on a case-by-case basis, determining which directors are best suited to add value for shareholders.

The analysis will generally be based on, but not limited to, the following major decision factors:

Company performance relative to its peers;
Strategy of the incumbents versus the dissidents;
Independence of directors/nominees;
Experience and skills of board candidates;
Governance profile of the company;
Evidence of management entrenchment;
Responsiveness to shareholders;
Whether a takeover offer has been rebuffed;
Whether minority or majority representation is being sought.

When analyzing a contested election of directors, ISS will generally focus on two central questions: (1) Have the dissidents proved that board change is warranted? And (2) if so, are the dissident board nominees likely to effect positive change (i.e., maximize long-term shareholder value).

 

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Discharge of Directors

General Recommendation: Generally vote for the discharge of directors, including members of the management board and/or supervisory board, unless there is reliable information about significant and compelling controversies as to whether the board is fulfilling its fiduciary duties, as evidenced by:

 

A lack of oversight or actions by board members that invoke shareholder distrust related to malfeasance or poor supervision, such as operating in private or company interest rather than in shareholder interest; or
Any legal proceedings (either civil or criminal) aiming to hold the board responsible for breach of trust in the past or related to currently alleged actions yet to be confirmed (and not only the fiscal year in question), such as price fixing, insider trading, bribery, fraud, and other illegal actions; or
Other egregious governance issues where shareholders will bring legal action against the company or its directors.

For markets that do not routinely request discharge resolutions (e.g. common law countries or markets where discharge is not mandatory), investors may voice concern in other appropriate agenda items, such as approval of the annual accounts or other relevant resolutions, to enable shareholders to express discontent with the board.

Director, Officer, and Auditor Indemnification and Liability Provisions

General Recommendation: Vote proposals seeking indemnification and liability protection for directors and officers on a case-by-case basis.

Vote against proposals to indemnify external auditors.

Board Structure

General Recommendation: Vote for proposals to fix board size.

Vote against the introduction of classified boards and mandatory retirement ages for directors.

Vote against proposals to alter board structure or size in the context of a fight for control of the company or the board.

3. CAPITAL STRUCTURE

Share Issuance Requests

General Issuances

General Recommendation: Vote for issuance requests with preemptive rights to a maximum of 100 percent over currently issued capital.

Vote for issuance requests without preemptive rights to a maximum of 20 percent of currently issued capital.

Specific Issuances

 

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General Recommendation: Vote on a case-by-case basis on all requests, with or without preemptive rights.

Increases in Authorized Capital

General Recommendation: Vote for non-specific proposals to increase authorized capital up to 100 percent over the current authorization unless the increase would leave the company with less than 30 percent of its new authorization outstanding.

Vote for specific proposals to increase authorized capital to any amount, unless:

The specific purpose of the increase (such as a share-based acquisition or merger) does not meet ISS guidelines for the purpose being proposed; or
The increase would leave the company with less than 30 percent of its new authorization outstanding after adjusting for all proposed issuances.

Vote against proposals to adopt unlimited capital authorizations.

Reduction of Capital

General Recommendation: Vote for proposals to reduce capital for routine accounting purposes unless the terms are unfavorable to shareholders.

Vote proposals to reduce capital in connection with corporate restructuring on a case-by-case basis.

Capital Structures

General Recommendation: Vote for resolutions that seek to maintain or convert to a one-share, one-vote capital structure.

Vote against requests for the creation or continuation of dual-class capital structures or the creation of new or additional super-voting shares.

Preferred Stock

General Recommendation: Vote for the creation of a new class of preferred stock or for issuances of preferred stock up to 50 percent of issued capital unless the terms of the preferred stock would adversely affect the rights of existing shareholders.

Vote for the creation/issuance of convertible preferred stock as long as the maximum number of common shares that could be issued upon conversion meets ISS guidelines on equity issuance requests.

Vote against the creation of a new class of preference shares that would carry superior voting rights to the common shares.

 

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Vote against the creation of blank check preferred stock unless the board clearly states that the authorization will not be used to thwart a takeover bid.

Vote proposals to increase blank check preferred authorizations on a case-by-case basis.

Debt Issuance Requests

General Recommendation: Vote non-convertible debt issuance requests on a case-by-case basis, with or without preemptive rights.

Vote for the creation/issuance of convertible debt instruments as long as the maximum number of common shares that could be issued upon conversion meets ISS guidelines on equity issuance requests.

Vote for proposals to restructure existing debt arrangements unless the terms of the restructuring would adversely affect the rights of shareholders.

Pledging of Assets for Debt

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to approve the pledging of assets for debt on a case-by-case basis.

Increase in Borrowing Powers

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to approve increases in a company’s borrowing powers on a case-by-case basis.

Share Repurchase Plans

General Recommendation: Generally vote for market repurchase authorities (share repurchase programs) if the terms comply with the following criteria:

 

A repurchase limit of up to 10 percent of outstanding issued share capital;
A holding limit of up to 10 percent of a company’s issued share capital in treasury (“on the shelf”); and
A duration of no more than five years, or such lower threshold as may be set by applicable law, regulation, or code of governance best practice.

Authorities to repurchase shares in excess of the 10 percent repurchase limit will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. ISS may support such share repurchase authorities under special circumstances, which are required to be publicly disclosed by the company, provided that, on balance, the proposal is in shareholders’ interests. In such cases, the authority must comply with the following criteria:

 

A holding limit of up to 10 percent of a company’s issued share capital in treasury (“on the shelf”); and
A duration of no more than 18 months.

In markets where it is normal practice not to provide a repurchase limit, evaluate the proposal based on the company’s historical practice. However, companies should disclose such limits and,

 

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in the future, a vote against may be warranted at companies that fail to do so. In such cases, the authority must comply with the following criteria:

A holding limit of up to 10 percent of a company’s issued share capital in treasury (“on the shelf”); and
A duration of no more than 18 months.

In addition, vote against any proposal where:

The repurchase can be used for takeover defenses;
There is clear evidence of abuse;
There is no safeguard against selective buybacks; and/or
Pricing provisions and safeguards are deemed to be unreasonable in light of market practice.

Reissuance of Repurchased Shares

General Recommendation: Vote for requests to reissue any repurchased shares unless there is clear evidence of abuse of this authority in the past.

Capitalization of Reserves for Bonus Issues/Increase in Par Value

General Recommendation: Vote for requests to capitalize reserves for bonus issues of shares or to increase par value.

4. COMPENSATION

Compensation Plans

General Recommendation: Vote compensation plans on a case-by-case basis.

Director Compensation

General Recommendation: Vote for proposals to award cash fees to non-executive directors unless the amounts are excessive relative to other companies in the country or industry.

Vote non-executive director compensation proposals that include both cash and share-based components on a case-by-case basis.

Vote proposals that bundle compensation for both non-executive and executive directors into a single resolution on a case-by-case basis.

Vote against proposals to introduce retirement benefits for non-executive directors.

 

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5. OTHER ITEMS

Reorganizations/Restructurings

General Recommendation: Vote reorganizations and restructurings on a case-by-case basis.

Mergers and Acquisitions

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on mergers and acquisitions taking into account the following:

For every M&A analysis, ISS reviews publicly available information as of the date of the report and evaluates the merits and drawbacks of the proposed transaction, balancing various and sometimes countervailing factors including:

Valuation - Is the value to be received by the target shareholders (or paid by the acquirer) reasonable? While the fairness opinion may provide an initial starting point for assessing valuation reasonableness, ISS places emphasis on the offer premium, market reaction, and strategic rationale.
Market reaction - How has the market responded to the proposed deal? A negative market reaction will cause ISS to scrutinize a deal more closely.
Strategic rationale - Does the deal make sense strategically? From where is the value derived? Cost and revenue synergies should not be overly aggressive or optimistic, but reasonably achievable. Management should also have a favorable track record of successful integration of historical acquisitions.
Conflicts of interest - Are insiders benefiting from the transaction disproportionately and inappropriately as compared to non-insider shareholders? ISS will consider whether any special interests may have influenced these directors and officers to support or recommend the merger.
Governance - Will the combined company have a better or worse governance profile than the current governance profiles of the respective parties to the transaction? If the governance profile is to change for the worse, the burden is on the company to prove that other issues (such as valuation) outweigh any deterioration in governance.

Vote against if the companies do not provide sufficient information upon request to make an informed voting decision.

Mandatory Takeover Bid Waivers

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to waive mandatory takeover bid requirements on a case-by-case basis.

Reincorporation Proposals

General Recommendation: Vote reincorporation proposals on a case-by-case basis.

Expansion of Business Activities

General Recommendation: Vote for resolutions to expand business activities unless the new business takes the company into risky areas.

 

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Related-Party Transactions

General Recommendation: In evaluating resolutions that seek shareholder approval on related-party transactions (RPTs), vote on a case-by-case basis, considering factors including, but not limited to, the following:

 

The parties on either side of the transaction;
The nature of the asset to be transferred/service to be provided;
The pricing of the transaction (and any associated professional valuation);
The views of independent directors (where provided);
The views of an independent financial adviser (where appointed);
Whether any entities party to the transaction (including advisers) is conflicted; and
The stated rationale for the transaction, including discussions of timing.

If there is a transaction that ISS deemed problematic and that was not put to a shareholder vote, ISS may recommend against the election of the director involved in the related-party transaction or the full board.

Antitakeover Mechanisms

General Recommendation: Generally vote against all antitakeover proposals, unless they are structured in such a way that they give shareholders the ultimate decision on any proposal or offer.

Shareholder Proposals

General Recommendation: Vote all shareholder proposals on a case-by-case basis.

Vote for proposals that would improve the company’s corporate governance or business profile at a reasonable cost.

Vote against proposals that limit the company’s business activities or capabilities or result in significant costs being incurred with little or no benefit.

6. SOCIAL/ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Global Approach

Issues covered under the policy include a wide range of topics, including consumer and product safety, environment and energy, labor covered standards and human rights, workplace and board diversity, and corporate political issues. While a variety of factors goes into each analysis, the overall principle guiding all vote recommendations focuses on how the proposal may enhance or protect shareholder value in either the short term or long term.

General Recommendation: Generally vote case-by-case, taking into consideration whether implementation of the proposal is likely to enhance or protect shareholder value, and in addition the following will be considered:

 

If the issues presented in the proposal are more appropriately or effectively dealt with through legislation or government regulation;
If the company has already responded in an appropriate and sufficient manner to the issue(s) raised in the proposal;

 

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Whether the proposal’s request is unduly burdensome (scope, timeframe, or cost) or overly prescriptive;
The company’s approach compared with any industry standard practices for addressing the issue(s) raised by the proposal;
If the proposal requests increased disclosure or greater transparency, whether or not reasonable and sufficient information is currently available to shareholders from the company or from other publicly available sources; and
If the proposal requests increased disclosure or greater transparency, whether or not implementation would reveal proprietary or confidential information that could place the company at a competitive disadvantage.

7. FOREIGN PRIVATE ISSUERS LISTED ON U.S. EXCHANGES

Foreign private issuers (“FPIs”) are defined as companies whose business is administered principally outside the U.S., with more than 50 percent of assets located outside the U.S.; a majority of whose directors/officers are not U.S. citizens or residents; and a majority of whose outstanding voting shares are held by non-residents of the U.S.

Companies that are incorporated outside of the U.S. and listed solely on U.S. exchanges, where they qualify as FPIs, will be subject to the following policy:

General Recommendation: Vote against (or withhold from) non-independent director nominees at companies which fail to meet the following criteria: a majority-independent board, and the presence of an audit, a compensation, and a nomination committee, each of which is entirely composed of independent directors.

Where the design and disclosure levels of equity compensation plans are comparable to those seen at U.S. companies, U.S. compensation policy will be used to evaluate the compensation plan proposals. In all other cases, equity compensation plans will be evaluated according to ISS’ EMEA Regional Proxy Voting Guidelines.

All other voting items will be evaluated using the relevant ISS regional or market proxy voting guidelines.

 

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This document and all of the information contained in it, including without limitation all text, data, graphs, and charts (collectively, the “Information”) is the property of Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS), its subsidiaries, or, in some cases third party suppliers.

The Information has not been submitted to, nor received approval from, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission or any other regulatory body. None of the Information constitutes an offer to sell (or a solicitation of an offer to buy), or a promotion or recommendation of, any security, financial product or other investment vehicle or any trading strategy, and ISS does not endorse, approve, or otherwise express any opinion regarding any issuer, securities, financial products or instruments or trading strategies.

The user of the Information assumes the entire risk of any use it may make or permit to be made of the Information.

ISS MAKES NO EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE INFORMATION AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF ORIGINALITY, ACCURACY, TIMELINESS, NON-INFRINGEMENT, COMPLETENESS, MERCHANTABILITY, AND FITNESS for A PARTICULAR PURPOSE) WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE INFORMATION.

Without limiting any of the foregoing and to the maximum extent permitted by law, in no event shall ISS have any liability regarding any of the Information for any direct, indirect, special, punitive, consequential (including lost profits), or any other damages even if notified of the possibility of such damages. The foregoing shall not exclude or limit any liability that may not by applicable law be excluded or limited.

 

 

LOGO

 

The Global Leader In Corporate Governance

www.issgovernance.com

 

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LOGO

United Kingdom and Ireland

Proxy Voting Guidelines

 

2017 Benchmark Policy Recommendations

 

Effective for Meetings on or after February 1, 2017

 

Published January 18, 2017

 

www.issgovernance.com

© 2017 ISS | Institutional Shareholder Services

 

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  

INTRODUCTION

     72  
  

Application of this policy

     73  
  

Voting disclosure and the response to significant shareholder dissent

     73  
  

Coverage universe

     74  
  

Smaller companies

     74  
  

Investment companies

     75  

1.

  

OPERATIONAL ITEMS

     75  
  

Accept Financial Statements and Statutory Reports

     75  
  

Amendments to the Articles of Association

     75  
  

Approve Final Dividend

     75  
  

Appointment of External Auditors

     76  
  

Authorise Board to Fix Remuneration of Auditors

     76  

2.

  

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

     77  
  

Director Elections

     77  
  

Other resolutions

     78  
  

Controlling shareholders

     78  
  

Board independence classification

     78  
  

Tenure

     79  
  

Board and committee composition

     79  
  

Combined Chairman and CEO

     80  
  

Election of a Former CEO as Chairman

     81  
  

Contested Director Elections

     81  

3.

  

REMUNERATION

     81  
  

Remuneration Policy

     83  
  

Remuneration Report

     88  
  

Approval of a new or amended LTIP

     91  

4.

  

CAPITAL STRUCTURE

     92  
  

Authorise Issue of Equity with and without Pre-emptive Rights

     92  
  

Authorise Market Purchase of Ordinary Shares

     92  

5.

  

OTHER ITEMS

     93  
  

Mergers and Acquisitions

     93  
  

Related-Party Transactions

     94  
  

Mandatory Takeover Bid Waivers

     94  
  

Reincorporation Proposals

     94  
  

Authorise the Company to Call a General Meeting with Two Weeks’ Notice

     95  
  

Authorise EU Political Donations and Expenditure

     95  
  

Shareholder Proposals (ESG)

     96  

6.

  

SMALLER COMPANIES

     96  
  

Accept Financial Statements and Statutory Reports

     96  
  

Authorise Board to Fix Remuneration of Auditors

     97  
  

Director Elections

     97  

 

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Board independence classification

  

97

  

Board and Committee Composition

  

98

  

Election of a Former CEO as Chairman

  

98

  

Authorise Issue of Equity without Pre-emptive Rights

  

98

  

Remuneration Policy Resolutions

  

99

  

Remuneration Report Resolutions

  

99

7.    INVESTMENT COMPANIES    99
  

Director Elections

  

100

  

Board independence classification

  

100

  

Board and committee composition

  

100

  

Authorise Issue of Equity without Pre-emptive Rights

  

101

  

Remuneration

  

101

  

Continuation of Investment Trust

  

101

8.    OTHER POINTS TO NOTE    101
  

Board Diversity

  

101

  

Board Director acts as Company Secretary

  

101

9.    APPENDIX    102
  

Good practice guidance referenced in this policy

  

102

 

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INTRODUCTION

ISS has operated a standalone policy for the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland since 2015. Previously, we used the voting guidelines of the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (formerly known as the National Association of Pension Funds, or NAPF) as our standard reference. The ISS policy remains broadly consistent with that of the Association, and continues to reflect other good practice standards relevant to the UK market. A number of good practice guidelines are referenced in this document; a full list of these guidelines is available in the appendix.

The “comply or explain” approach is the foundation of corporate governance in the UK and Ireland. While ISS operates a policy-based approach, we recognise that in certain cases there may be a good reason why non-standard corporate governance arrangements fit a company’s particular circumstances. When assessing the quality of a company’s explanation, ISS follows the guidance provided by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) in the UK Corporate Governance Code (the Code.)

The principle underpinning the ISS approach is that shareholders are the owners of listed companies. To that end, ISS designs its proxy voting guidelines to enhance shareholders’ long-term economic interests. ISS’ benchmark proxy voting guidelines serve as a tool to assist institutional investors in meeting their responsibilities with respect to voting by promoting shareholder value creation and risk mitigation at their portfolio firms. ISS also manages fully custom voting policies and implements voting recommendations for clients who want to vote their proxies according to their own specific guidelines and philosophies.

Shareholders are entitled to assess every resolution that seeks their approval in terms of how it affects their long-term interests as the owners of the company. ISS’ Global Voting Principles1 include four key tenets – accountability, stewardship, independence, and transparency – which underlie our approach to developing recommendations on both management and shareholder proposals at publicly traded companies. How we interpret this is described below:

Accountability - Boards should be accountable to shareholders, the owners of the companies, by holding regular board elections, by providing sufficient information for shareholders to be able to assess directors and board composition, and by providing shareholders with the ability to remove directors. Directors should respond to investor input such as that expressed through vote results on management and shareholder proposals and other shareholder communications. Shareholders should have meaningful rights on structural provisions, such as approval of or amendments to the corporate governing documents and a vote on takeover defenses. In addition, shareholders’ voting rights should be proportional to their economic interest in the company; each share should have one vote. In general, a simple majority vote should be required to change a company’s governance provisions or to approve transactions.

Stewardship - A company’s governance, social, and environmental practices should meet or exceed the standards of its market regulations and general practices and should take into account

 

 

1 http://www.issgovernance.com/policy-gateway/iss-global-voting-principles/

 

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relevant factors that may impact significantly the company’s long-term value creation. Issuers and investors should recognize constructive engagement as both a right and responsibility.

Independence - Boards should be sufficiently independent so as to ensure that they are able and motivated to effectively supervise management’s performance and remuneration, for the benefit of all shareholders. Boards should include an effective independent leadership position and sufficiently independent committees that focus on key governance concerns such as audit, compensation, and the selection and evaluation of directors.

Transparency - Companies should provide sufficient and timely information that enables shareholders to understand key issues, make informed vote decisions, and effectively engage with companies on substantive matters that impact shareholders’ long-term interests in the company.

These principles guide our work assisting institutional investors in meeting their responsibilities to clients with respect to voting and engagement services. The UK and Ireland policy has been designed to be in alignment with these principles, and the section on remuneration is also in accordance with the ISS Global Principles on Executive and Director Compensation2 as well as other UK good practice recommendations.

Application of this policy

This policy forms the basis of the ISS benchmark vote recommendations for companies listed in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It will also be applied to companies incorporated in other territories such as the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey, and which are either listed in the UK and Ireland or on the Channel Islands Securities Exchange.

This document is intended to provide investors with an insight into how ISS analyses companies in the UK and Irish markets. However, it is not possible to address every eventuality, and inevitably many issues will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. ISS will apply this policy as a guideline, but analysts will take a holistic view of the company’s situation, and consider any explanation for non-standard practice, when determining voting recommendations.

Investors recognize that appropriate corporate governance practices for companies can differ according to the company type, location and nature of operations, and index. The principles of good corporate governance are generally applicable to companies whatever their size, but we recognize that investors and other market participants have differing expectations for certain market segments.

Voting disclosure and the response to significant shareholder dissent

Investors expect that information regarding the voting outcomes on the resolutions presented at the AGM will be made available as soon as reasonably practicable after the AGM. The information should include the number of votes for the resolution, the number of votes against the resolution and the number of shares in respect of which the vote was directed to be withheld, and the overall percentages for each group.

 

 

2 Page 18 https://www.issgovernance.com/file/policy/2017-europe-summary-voting-guidelines.pdf

 

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The UK Corporate Governance Code states that when, in the opinion of the board, a significant proportion of votes have been cast against a resolution at any general meeting, the company should explain when announcing the results of voting what actions it intends to take to understand the reasons behind the vote result. The FRC does not include a threshold for significant dissent, and market practice is bound to evolve in this area. However, many investors will use the 20 percent figure, initially suggested by the GC100 and Investor Group as a guideline for remuneration concerns, as a threshold for identifying significant issues more generally, although there may be reasons why, for some companies and/or types of resolution, a higher or lower level might be more appropriate.

In a feedback statement issued in 2014, the FRC clarified that it was not the intention that votes withheld should be included, although other market participants such as the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association are of the view that dissent should be taken to mean both active abstentions and votes against. The GC100 and Investor Group advises that, although “votes withheld” (abstentions) are not votes in law, companies may wish to consider viewing votes withheld (or in combination with votes against) exceeding 20 percent as indicating a low level of support from investors that they would wish to address, although this will depend on the company concerned. Across other markets globally, ISS sees a consensus emerging with a figure somewhere in the range 20 percent to 30 percent consistently seen as a threshold for significant dissent.

Where a company has received a significant level of dissent on a resolution at a general meeting, ISS will consider if and how the company has sought to understand the reasons behind the vote result, and how the company has communicated its response to the dissent. As a starting point, dissent of 20 percent or more will generally be used as the trigger for this analysis. In certain circumstances, ISS may recommend a vote against the relevant resolution at a future general meeting if the company has not explained its reaction to the dissent.

Coverage universe

For the UK, the core ISS policy applies to all companies in the FTSE All Share index, excluding investment trusts. Certain provisions of the UK Corporate Governance Code do not apply to companies outside the FTSE 350, or there are different requirements for these companies. The core ISS policy recognizes these exceptions, and they are indicated in the relevant sections.

Smaller companies

Our approach in the UK to companies outside of the FTSE All Share has historically been based around the voting guidelines formerly issued by the NAPF (now the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association) for smaller companies. The Quoted Companies Alliance Corporate Governance Code for Small and Mid-Size Quoted Companies (QCA Code) may also be a helpful guide to good corporate governance practices for AIM-listed companies.

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association’s current guidelines advise that, when assessing the practice of a smaller company, investors should be mindful of the individual circumstances of the business, including its size and complexity.

 

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ISS applies its approach to smaller companies to companies which are members of the FTSE Fledgling index, those listed on AIM and other companies which are not widely-held. Further details can be found in Chapter 6 of this document.

Investment companies

The voting guidelines formerly issued by the NAPF for investment companies are the historic source of our benchmark recommendations for investment trusts and venture capital trusts. Also relevant are the key principles of the Association of Investment Companies (AIC) Code. Further details can be found in Chapter 7 of this document.

 

1. OPERATIONAL ITEMS

Accept Financial Statements and Statutory Reports

General Recommendation: Generally vote for approval of financial statements and statutory reports, unless:

There are concerns about the accounts presented or audit procedures used; or
There has been an accounting fraud or material misstatement during the year.

The overall quality of disclosure will be considered, and the weakest examples, such as where the meeting documents are not released in time for investors to review these ahead of the meeting, are likely to attract a negative vote recommendation.

Amendments to the Articles of Association

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on amendments to the articles of association. Requests to amend a company’s articles of association are usually motivated by changes in the company’s legal and regulatory environment, although evolution of general business practice can also prompt amendments.

When reviewing proposals to revise the existing articles or to adopt a new set of articles, ISS analyses the changes proposed according to what is in the best interest of shareholders.

As noted in the guidelines of the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, changes to the company’s articles should not be ‘bundled’ into a single resolution when they cover non-routine matters. When a company seeks to increase its borrowing powers, a limit should be stated in the revised articles.

Approve Final Dividend

General Recommendation: Generally vote for proposals to approve the final dividend, unless:

 

The payout is excessive given the company’s financial position.

The annual report includes a review of the company’s performance during the year and should contain a justification for the dividend level. Unless there are major concerns about the payout ratio, ISS usually recommends approval of this item.

 

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Appointment of External Auditors

General Recommendation: Generally vote for proposals to ratify the appointment of the external auditors, unless:

There are serious concerns about the procedures used by the auditor; or
The auditors are being changed without explanation;

It is best practice in the UK to present the resolutions to appoint the external auditors and to fix their remuneration as two separate items.

In line with the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association position, where the tenure of the external auditor extends beyond ten years and there has not been a recent tender process and no plans to put the audit out to tender are reported, then the chairman of the audit committee may receive a negative voting recommendation when he or she is next standing for re-election.

Where the auditor has resigned, the resignation letter should be posted on the company’s website. If the company proposes a new auditor, or an auditor resigns and does not seek re-election, the company should offer an explanation to shareholders. If no explanation is provided, ISS recommends a vote against the election of the new auditor.

Authorise Board to Fix Remuneration of Auditors

General Recommendation: Generally vote for proposals authorising the board to fix the fees payable to the external auditors, unless:

 

Fees for non-audit services routinely exceed standard audit-related fees.

While the use of auditors for non-audit work can on occasion be justified on grounds of cost and relevant expertise, the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association has proposed a cap on the level of non-audit fees as a proportion of audit fees, absent an explanation of any exceptional circumstances which may apply such as an initial public offering. Historically, this cap has been set at 100 percent of audit fees, although the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association guidelines now refer to 75 percent.

Companies are encouraged to make a full public disclosure of the amount and nature of any payments for non-audit services, to enable investors to appropriately assess these when considering the ratio of audit to non-audit services. Where payments to the auditor for non-audit services appear under the category of “other fees” in the annual report, ISS expects that the company will disclose the nature of these services.

Where the ratio of non-audit fees to audit fees has been over 100 per cent for more than one year, and the company appears unwilling to address the issue, ISS may recommend a vote against the remuneration of the external auditors. In addition, the chairman of the audit committee is likely to receive a negative voting recommendation when he or she is next standing for re-election.

 

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2. BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Director Elections

General Recommendation: Generally vote for the election or re-election of directors, unless:

 

Adequate disclosure has not been provided in a timely manner;
The board fails to meet minimum corporate governance standards – please see the following sections on independence classification and board and committee composition for further details of how this is interpreted in practice; or
There are specific concerns about the individual, such as his/her ability to commit sufficient time to the role.

An appropriate level of biographical detail should include a statement of a director’s other directorships and responsibilities (including any relevant previous positions held), the experience and skills that he/she brings and the contribution that the director can make to the board. If the board provides no biographical details for a director who is standing for election for the first time, this is likely to result in a negative vote recommendation. A negative vote recommendation may also be considered in the absence of a supporting statement from the board where a director is standing for re-election.

Where directors have multiple board appointments, ISS may recommend a vote against directors who appear to hold an excessive number of board roles at publicly-listed companies, defined as follows:

Directors who hold more than five non-chair non-executive director positions.
A non-executive chairman who, in addition to this role, holds (i) more than three non-chair non-executive director positions, (ii) more than one other non-executive chair position and one non-chair non-executive director position, or (iii) any executive position.
Executive directors holding (i) more than two non-chair non-executive director positions, (ii) any other executive positions, or (iii) any non-executive chair position.

When applying this policy, ISS will consider the nature and scope of the various appointments and the companies concerned, and if any exceptional circumstances exist. A stricter view may apply for directors who serve on the boards of complex companies, those in highly regulated sectors, or directors who chair a number of key committees.

An adverse vote recommendation will not be applied to a director within a company where he/she serves as CEO; instead, any adverse vote recommendations will be applied to his/her additional seats on other company boards. The same is also valid for chairmen, except (i) where they exclusively hold other chair and/or executive positions or (ii) where they are elected as chairman for the first time.

In terms of considering attendance, ISS may recommend against the re-election of a director if, in the absence of a suitable explanation, attendance at board and committee meetings has been lower than 75 percent for two or more consecutive years. This applies to all directors, not just those with multiple outside directorships.

Under extraordinary circumstances, ISS will consider recommending a vote against individual directors for material failures of governance, stewardship, or risk oversight.

 

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Other resolutions

Where there is evidence of long-standing poor practice and the company seems unwilling to address shareholder concerns, then the analyst may choose to escalate the issue. Typically, this is achieved through a negative vote recommendation applied to the election or re-election of the board chairman or a committee chairman. Resolutions which take this approach are listed below:

Appointment of external auditors
Authorise board to fix remuneration of auditors
Board and committee composition
Remuneration policy and remuneration report

Other relevant issues

In addition to the above factors, ISS may recommend against due to concerns related to at least one of the following specific factors, which are presented below as separate subsections:

Representatives of a controlling shareholder where no relationship agreement is in place
Board independence classification
Tenure

Controlling shareholders

Following changes to the UK Listing Rules in 2014 which apply to companies with a controlling shareholder, the election or re-election of an independent director must now be approved by a normal ordinary resolution and separately approved by the minority shareholders. Both new applicants and existing listed companies must also have a written and legally binding relationship agreement with any controlling shareholder(s). Details of the relationship with the controlling shareholder should be disclosed to investors.

Board independence classification

ISS classifies a director as either an executive director or a non-executive director. Non-executive directors may be considered either independent or non-independent; an executive director is always considered to be non-independent.

The chairman may be either a non-executive or an executive, although the designation of an executive chairman could be interpreted negatively by investors as evidence of one individual combining leading the board with bearing some executive responsibility for the company’s operations.

The independence of the non-executive directors is assessed on an ongoing basis, while the independence of the chairman is assessed on appointment.

General Recommendation: Directors are assessed on a case-by-case basis, although a non-executive director is likely to be considered as non-independent if one (or more) of the issues listed below apply.

 

In line with the UK Corporate Governance Code:

  Has been an employee of the company or group during the last FIVE years;
  Has, or a connected person has had, within the last THREE years, a material business relationship with the company either directly, or as a partner, shareholder, director or senior employee of a body that has such a relationship with the company;

 

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  Has received or receives additional remuneration from the company apart from a director’s fee, participates in the company’s share option or performance-related pay schemes, or is a member of the company’s pension scheme;
  Has close family ties with any of the company’s advisers, directors or senior employees;
  Holds cross-directorships or has significant links with other directors through involvement in other companies or bodies; or
  Represents a significant shareholder.

In addition:

  Is attested by the board to be a non-independent non-executive director;
  Is a former board chairman;
  Has a substantial personal shareholding of ³ 1 per cent ; or
  Tenure (see next section).

Tenure

On tenure, one of the conditions the Code includes to determine independence is whether a director has served on the board for more than nine years from the date of his or her first election. ISS follows the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association position that if a non-executive director has served concurrently with an executive director for over nine years, that director should no longer be deemed to be independent. If a non-executive director has served for fifteen years on the board, ISS considers their independence has been impaired.

Board and committee composition

General Recommendation: Generally vote against any non-independent non-executive director whose presence on the board, audit or remuneration committee renders the board or committee insufficiently independent, unless:

The company discloses details of how the issue of concern will be resolved by the next AGM.

Non-independent non-executive directors serving on the nomination committee are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The re-election of a board chairman who was not considered independent upon appointment (and who would not be considered independent on an ongoing basis) will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the overall balance of the board and his/her committee responsibilities.

Discussion

ISS will support the election of non-independent directors to the board, so long as the overall board and committee composition is in line with the Code’s requirements. A negative vote recommendation against a non-independent non-executive director would normally be warranted only where the composition of the key committees or the balance of the board was compromised.

For companies in the FTSE 350, in line with the Code, at least half the board excluding the chairman should comprise non-executive directors determined by the board to be independent. The audit committee should comprise at least three independent non-executive directors. The company chairman should not be a member of the audit committee. The remuneration committee should comprise at least three independent non-executive directors. In addition the company chairman may also be a member of, but not chair, the remuneration committee if he or

 

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she was considered independent on appointment as chairman. A majority of the nomination committee should be independent non-executive directors.

Companies in the FTSE All Share below the FTSE 350 should have at least two independent non-executive directors on the board, not including the company chairman. The board should establish audit and remuneration committees with at least two independent non-executive directors on each committee. The company chairman may be a member of, but not chair, either committee in addition to the independent non-executive directors, provided he or she was considered independent on appointment as chairman. A majority of the nomination committee should be independent non-executive directors.

For all companies in the FTSE All Share (excluding investment trusts), the independence of the company chairman is assessed on appointment. Following his/her appointment, the chairman is considered separately to the other directors. The chairman may sit on certain board committees (as noted above) but ISS’ policy is to expect a minimum level of representation of independent non-executives on the committees.

If there is evidence of long-running, systemic issues around board and committee composition which the company seems unable or unwilling to address, the chairman may receive a negative vote recommendation on his or her reappointment, given he or she retains overall responsibility for the board’s corporate governance arrangements.

Combined Chairman and CEO

General Recommendation: Generally vote against a director who combines the CEO and chairman roles, unless:

The company can provide a strong justification as to why this non-standard governance arrangement is appropriate for their specific situation for a limited period of time.

Separation of these roles is a cornerstone of governance in the UK, and thus one person holding the roles of both chairman and CEO is a serious breach of good practice. However, as recognised by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, the temporary combination of the roles may be justified, for example when a chairman “bridges the gap” between the departure of a CEO and the appointment of his or her successor. ISS would not usually recommend support for the election of a director to serve as a combined chairman and CEO, but when the company provides an explanation which states that the company has adopted this arrangement in exceptional circumstances, this will be considered.

In some circumstances an executive chairman may be considered to effectively combine the chairman and CEO roles, notwithstanding the presence of another director on the board with the title CEO. In assessing this, ISS will pay close attention to the disclosures surrounding the split of responsibilities between the two individuals and their comparative pay levels.

 

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Election of a Former CEO as Chairman

General Recommendation: Generally vote against the election of a former CEO as chairman, unless:

 

The company can provide a strong justification as to why this non-standard governance arrangement is appropriate for their specific situation and for a limited period of time.

 

The succession of the CEO to chairman is a significant issue, acceptable only on rare occasions. The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association notes that investors would expect confirmation that external search consultants had been engaged and that external candidates of at least equivalent stature had been considered. The complexity of the business is an insufficiently persuasive argument to justify this type of succession. Given the issues posed by a former CEO assuming the role of chair of the board, it is important for shareholder approval to be sought at the AGM coinciding with or following the appointment.

Contested Director Elections

General Recommendation: Assess contested director elections on a case-by-case, considering the following factors in particular:

 

Company performance relative to its peers;
Strategy of the incumbents versus the dissidents;
Independence of directors/nominees;
Experience and skills of board candidates;
Governance profile of the company;
Evidence of management entrenchment;
Responsiveness to shareholders; and
Whether minority or majority representation is being sought.

When analysing a contested election of directors, which may include the election of shareholder nominees or the dismissal of incumbent directors, ISS will generally focus on two central questions: whether the dissidents have proved that board change is warranted, and if yes, whether the dissident board nominees seem likely to bring about positive change and maximize long-term shareholder value.

 

3. REMUNERATION

The ISS approach is aligned with the five remuneration principles for building and reinforcing long-term business success developed by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association in conjunction with a number of leading UK institutional investors, originally published in 2013. The principles state that:

 

Remuneration committees should expect executive management to make a material long-term investment in shares of the businesses they manage;
Pay should be aligned to the long-term strategy and the desired corporate culture throughout the organisation;
Pay schemes should be clear, understandable for both investors and executives, and ensure that executive rewards reflect returns to long-term shareholders;
Remuneration committees should use the discretion afforded them by shareholders to ensure that rewards properly reflect business performance; and
Companies and shareholders should have appropriately regular discussions on strategy and long-term performance.

 

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While ISS’ approach to remuneration is informed by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association’s voting guidelines which contain the above principles, the Investment Association Principles of Remuneration, and The Directors’ Remuneration Reporting Guidance produced by the GC100 and Investor Group, also influence the recommendations ISS makes, as does the remuneration section of the UK Corporate Governance Code. In addition, for a number of years, ISS has supplemented these other sources with its own remuneration guidelines.

Discussion

Remuneration should motivate executives to achieve the company’s strategic objectives, while ensuring that executive rewards reflect returns to long-term shareholders. Pay should be aligned to the long-term strategy, and companies are encouraged to use the statement by the chairman of the remuneration committee to outline how their chosen remuneration approach aligns with the company’s strategic goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). The remuneration committee should also closely examine the behaviour that the design of a remuneration package will promote.

A good performance target is aligned with company strategy, future direction, performance and shareholder value creation, without promoting or rewarding disproportionate risk-taking. Targets should be challenging but realistic and should closely reflect a company’s ongoing business expectations. Where non-financial objectives are used as part of the performance conditions, ISS expects the majority of the payout to be triggered by the financial performance conditions. There should also be a clear link between the objectives chosen and the company’s strategy.

Pay should not be excessive and remuneration committees should exercise due caution when considering pay increases. Any increases in total remuneration for executives should not be out of line with general increases at the company. Remuneration committees are discouraged from market benchmarking for pay reviews, unless it is applied infrequently (at no more than three-to-five year intervals) and then only as one part of an assessment of the remuneration policy. One-off pay awards to address concerns over the retention of an executive director have frequently been shown to be ineffective and are therefore not typically supported by ISS.

Many investors are concerned that remuneration has become too complex and question its effectiveness in motivating management. Thus, remuneration committees are encouraged to adopt simpler remuneration structures. In particular, the introduction of new share award schemes on top of existing plans is likely to be viewed sceptically. Remuneration arrangements should be clearly disclosed, and sufficient detail provided about the performance conditions adopted in order to allow shareholders to make their own assessment of whether they are appropriate. Bringing a remuneration policy into line with accepted good market practice should not be used as justification for an increase in the size of the overall package.

In 2016, the Executive Remuneration Working Group established by the Investment Association recommended that remuneration committees should have the flexibility to choose a pay structure which is appropriate for the company’s strategy and business needs. This structure may be different to the salary/bonus/LTIP model typically followed by many UK companies. When forming a view on such arrangements, ISS will pay particular attention to the following points:

 

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  (1) How far the proposals are consistent with the good practice principles set out in these voting guidelines;
  (2) The linkage between the proposals and the company’s strategic objectives;
  (3) Whether or not the proposals have an appropriate long-term focus;
  (4) The extent to which the proposals help simplify executive pay; and
  (5) The impact on the overall level of potential pay. Any proposal which provides for a greater level of certainty regarding the ultimate rewards should be accompanied by a material reduction in the overall size of awards.

Investors expect that a company will work within its remuneration policy, and only seek approval to go outside the policy in genuinely exceptional circumstances. Seeking approval for awards outside the policy is likely to be viewed sceptically by investors. Boards must avoid rewarding failure or poor performance; for this reason ISS does not support the re-testing of performance conditions or the re-pricing of share options under any circumstances. Implementing a tax-efficient mechanism that favours the participants should not lead to increased costs for the company, including the company’s own tax liabilities.

Engagement initiated by remuneration committees is expected to be in the form of a meaningful, timely and responsive consultation with shareholders prior to the finalisation of the remuneration package; it should not just be a statement of changes already agreed by the remuneration committee.

Remuneration in the banking sector

The amendments to the Capital Requirements Directive limit the ratio between variable and fixed remuneration for certain key bank staff to 1:1, unless shareholders approve a higher ratio (up to a maximum of 2:1). ISS will consider banks’ remuneration policies in the context of its overall approach to assessing executive pay on a case-by-case basis.

Remuneration Policy

General Recommendation: Vote the resolution to approve the remuneration policy on a case-by-case approach, paying particular attention as to whether:

 

The overall remuneration policy or specific scheme structures are not over-complex, have an appropriate long-term focus and have been sufficiently justified in light of the company’s specific circumstances and strategic objectives;
The company’s approach to fixed remuneration is appropriate;
The award levels for the different components of variable pay are capped, and the quantum is reasonable when compared to peers, and any increase in the level of certainty of reward is accompanied by a material reduction in the size of awards;
Increases to the maximum award levels for the LTIP and bonus have been adequately explained;
Performance conditions for all elements of variable pay are clearly aligned with the company’s strategic objectives, and vesting levels are in line with UK good practice;
Change of control, good leaver and malus/clawback provisions are in line with standard practice in the UK market;
The shareholding requirement for executive directors is a minimum of 200 percent of base salary;
Service contracts contain notice periods of no more than twelve months’ duration and potential termination payments are linked to fixed pay with no contractual entitlements to unearned bonus on termination;
Non-executive directors do not receive any performance-related remuneration beyond their standard fees;

 

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The treatment of new joiners is appropriate, with particular attention paid to the use of buy-out awards, and that the potential for any additional awards is capped;
The remuneration committee seeks to reserve a degree of discretion in line with standard UK practice; and
There are no issues in the policy which would be of concern to shareholders.

Where a policy contains multiple areas of non-compliance with good practice, the vote recommendation will reflect the severity of the issues identified. A small number of minor breaches may still result in an overall recommendation of a “For”, whereas a single, serious deviation may be sufficient to justify an “Against” vote recommendation.

In cases where a serious breach of good practice is identified, and typically where issues have been raised over a number of years, the chair of the remuneration committee (or, where relevant, another member of the remuneration committee) may receive a negative voting recommendation.

The binding vote on the remuneration policy is forward-looking and in most cases will apply for three years. Therefore, many shareholders will want to ensure that the policy takes into account good market practice in a number of key areas.

 

Policy component

  

Good market practice

 

The start and end 

date of the policy 

   The GC100 and Investor Group guidance states that investors are generally in favour of the remuneration policy coming in to effect immediately following approval at the general meeting. It also notes that investors generally expect to see companies put forward their policy for approval every three years. ISS will consider the start date of each policy and its duration based upon the explanation provided by the company.

Base salaries

   The remuneration committee should explain its policy for setting and reviewing salary levels. The GC100 and Investor Group guidance states that there is a requirement to disclose the maximum that might be paid. This must be explained in monetary terms or any other way appropriate to the company (for example, a percentage of salary).

Benefits and

pensions

  

Companies must describe the benefits provided to directors, which are expected to be in line with standard UK practice and which should not be excessive. The maximum participation level should be stated, and not be uncapped.

Companies must give a clear explanation of pension-related benefits, including the approach taken to making payments in lieu of retirement benefits or defined benefit arrangements. The Investment Association Principles note the pension provision for executives should, where possible, be in line with the general approach to the employees as a whole. No element of variable pay should be pensionable.

Annual bonus

   As set out in the Investment Association Principles, annual bonuses exist to reward contribution to the business during the year above the level expected for being in receipt of a salary. They should be clearly linked to business targets, ideally through the key performance indicators (KPIs) reported in the Strategic Report. Companies should explain the performance measures chosen.

 

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Policy component  

  

Good market practice

 

    

The GC100 and Investor Group states that the maximum amount of the short-term incentive that might be earned must be disclosed as well as the amounts that could be paid for reaching certain thresholds or targets. In cases where a remuneration committee increases the maximum bonus opportunity, the performance targets should be made sufficiently more challenging to justify the additional reward that can be earned. Any increase in this limit from one policy period to another should be fully explained. ISS does not typically support uncapped bonus schemes.

Deferring a portion of the bonus into shares can create a greater alignment with shareholders, particularly where there is no long term incentive, although the introduction of deferral should not of itself result in an increase to the overall quantum of the bonus. Dividends may be credited on deferred bonus shares held during the deferral period, but no further dividends should be paid on undelivered shares or options after the end of the designated deferral period.

Provisions to pay a guaranteed annual bonus will attract a negative vote recommendation.

Long-term

incentive plans

(LTIPs)

  

In line with the Investment Association Principles, scheme and individual participation limits must be fully disclosed, and any change to the maximum award should be explained and justified. Any matching shares will be considered as part of the overall quantum. Performance periods longer than three years and compulsory post-vesting holding periods are encouraged. Firms should avoid operating multiple long-term schemes.

ISS does not typically support uncapped LTIPs in line with the Code recommendation that upper limits should be set and disclosed. The fact that the remuneration committee will not be able to grant share awards higher than the limits set out in the remuneration policy is not a sufficient reason for removing individual limits from the rules of the relevant incentive scheme.

Performance conditions, including non-financial metrics where appropriate, should be relevant, stretching and designed to promote the long-term success of the company. The Investment Association Principles state that comparator groups used for performance purposes should be both relevant and representative. Remuneration committees should satisfy themselves that the comparative performance will not result in arbitrary outcomes.

ISS prefers to see vesting levels at no more than 25 percent for threshold performance. Vesting should not occur for below median performance.

Dividends relating to the duration of the performance period may be paid retrospectively on shares that the executive retains after the performance targets have been measured, but no dividends should be paid on any part of the award that lapsed. The practice of crediting dividend payments on undelivered shares or options after the end of the performance period or beyond a compulsory post-vesting holding period is opposed.

Malus and/or    Malus means to forfeit some or all of a variable remuneration award before

 

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Policy component

  

Good market practice

 

clawback    it has vested, while clawback allows the company to recover payments already made through the LTIP or annual bonus schemes. When designing schemes of performance-related remuneration for executive directors, the Code states that schemes should include provisions that would enable the company to recover sums paid or withhold the payment of any sum, and specify the circumstances in which the committee considers it would be appropriate to do so. The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association advises that such provisions should not be restricted solely to material misstatements of the financial statements.
Good leavers   

Where individuals choose to terminate their employment before the end of the service period, or in the event that employment is terminated for cause, the Investment Association Principles suggest that any unvested options or conditional share-based awards should normally lapse.

In other circumstances of cessation of employment, some portion of the award may vest, but always subject to the achievement of the relevant performance criteria and with an appropriate reduction in award size to reflect the shortened period between grant and vesting. In general, the originally stipulated performance measurement period should continue to apply. However, where in the opinion of the remuneration committee, early vesting is appropriate, or where it is otherwise necessary, awards should vest by reference to performance criteria achieved over the period to date.

Change of control    The Investment Association suggests that scheme rules should state that there will be no automatic waiving of performance conditions in the event of a change of control. Any early vesting as a consequence of a change of control should take into account the vesting period that has elapsed at the time of the change of control, with a consequent reduction in the size of the awards which vest. ISS does not support special one-off payments to executives on a change of control event.

Shareholding

requirement

   The Code advises that the remuneration committee should consider requiring directors to hold a minimum number of shares. The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association argues for minimum shareholding guidelines of 200 percent of basic salary. Unvested holdings in share incentive plans do not count towards fulfilment of the requirement.

Executive directors’  

service contracts,

including exit

payments

  

Executive directors should have service contracts in place with notice periods set at one year or less. If it is necessary to offer longer notice or contract periods to new directors recruited from outside, such periods should reduce to one year or less after the initial period. All termination payments should be subject to phased payment and mitigation.

Exit payments should be linked to the fixed pay due for the notice period, with no guaranteed entitlement to any unearned variable pay. The vesting of outstanding long-term awards should be pro-rated for time and performance. Guidance from the Investment Association and the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association states that severance payments arising from poor corporate performance should not extend beyond fixed pay and benefits.

 

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Policy component

  

Good market practice

 

Arrangements for new joiners   

The GC100 and Investor Group suggests that companies may wish to consider a statement that new directors will participate in short-term and long-term incentive plans on the same basis as existing directors. If companies wish to have the ability to make sign-on payments or awards, they must ensure the remuneration policy covers such arrangements. When describing their sign-on policies, companies must disclose the type of awards that could be made, the potential use of performance criteria and holding periods, and any application of recovery or withholding policies. The potential to offer sign-on payments or awards should not be open-ended. Remuneration of this nature should be subject to specific caps.

Where remuneration committees offer buy-out awards to compensate executives for awards foregone at their previous employer, the cost is expected to be kept to a minimum and not exceed the realistic value of rewards forfeited by changing employer. Remuneration policies will be opposed if the door is left open to potential “golden hellos” or other non-performance related awards which do not clearly align with shareholders’ interests.

Discretion    Recognising that payments cannot be made outside of the framework voted on by shareholders, there is a balance to be found between a committee having scope to make appropriate changes within the policy, and a committee having broad flexibility to go outside the standard policy in certain circumstances. The GC100 and Investor Group guidance advises against including a general statement that the remuneration policy may be amended at the complete discretion of the remuneration committee. ISS will recommend a vote against any policy which gives the remuneration committee the ability to make open-ended changes to the policy, or where the policy does not operate within fixed overall limits.
Non-executive director pay    Additional remuneration, other than fees, including participation in a share option scheme, pension scheme and/or performance related pay is likely to impair a NED’s independence, and for that reason it is usually looked upon unfavourably by ISS.
All-employee schemes    ISS generally supports all-employee schemes, such as Save As You Earn (SAYE) schemes and Share Incentive Plans (SIPs) as a way of promoting employee ownership. ISS follows the Investment Association position that if newly issued shares are utilised, the overall dilution limits for share schemes should be complied with.

 

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Remuneration Report

General Recommendation: Vote the resolution to approve the remuneration report on a case-by-case approach, where relevant taking into account the European Pay for Performance model3 outcomes with the qualitative review of a company’s remuneration practices, paying particular attention as to whether:

 

Any increases, either to fixed or variable remuneration, for the year under review or the upcoming year were well-explained and not excessive;
The bonus received and/or the proportion of the LTIP which vested was a fair reflection of the performance achieved;
Performance targets are measured over an appropriate period and are sufficiently stretching;
Targets for the bonus or the LTIP are disclosed in an appropriate level of detail;
Any exit payments to good leavers were reasonable, with appropriate pro-rating (if any) applied to outstanding long-term share awards;
Any special arrangements for new joiners were in line with good market practice;
The remuneration committee exercised discretion appropriately; and
There are no issues in the report which would be of concern to shareholders.

Where the report contains multiple areas of non-compliance with good practice, the vote recommendation will reflect the severity of the issues identified. A small number of minor breaches may still result in an overall recommendation of a “For”, whereas a single, serious deviation may be sufficient to justify an ‘Against” vote recommendation.

In cases where a serious breach of good practice is identified, and typically where issues have been raised over a number of years, the chair of the remuneration committee (or, where relevant, another member of the remuneration committee) may receive a negative voting recommendation.

The remuneration report serves as a way for shareholders to make their views known on the company’s pay practices during the year under review, and the extent to which these were compliant with the remuneration policy as approved by shareholders. The elements of the report which ISS considers are described in more detail in the following section.

 

Report component

 

  

Good market practice

 

Base salaries, benefits and pensions   

Remuneration committees are required to justify salary levels and increases in basic salary with reference to their remuneration policy.

Annual increases in salary are expected to be low and in line with general increases across the broader workforce. Post-freeze ‘catch-

 

3 Definition of Pay-for-Performance Evaluation:

ISS annually conducts a pay-for-performance analysis to measure alignment between pay and performance over a sustained period. With respect to companies in the European Main Indices, this analysis considers the following:

 

  Peer Group Alignment:

 

  The degree of alignment between the company’s annualised TSR rank and the CEO’s annualised total pay rank within a peer group, each measured over a three-year period.

 

  The multiple of the CEO’s total pay relative to the peer group median.

 

  Absolute Alignment: The absolute alignment between the trend in CEO pay and company TSR over the prior five fiscal years – i.e., the difference between the trend in annual pay changes and the trend in annualised TSR during the period.

 

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Report component

 

  

Good market practice

 

    

up’ salary increases or benchmarking-related increases are not generally supported. Exceptions may be made for promotions, increases in responsibilities and new recruits to the board. Changes in pay levels should take into account the pay and conditions across the company. The Investment Association Principles advise that where remuneration committees seek to increase base pay, salary increases should not be approved purely on the basis of benchmarking against peer companies.

Pension contribution payments for executives should be clearly disclosed. Any compensation to executives for changes in the tax treatment of pensions is not considered to be acceptable.

Annual bonus   

The annual bonus earned for the year under review should be explained in a fashion which allows shareholders to clearly link performance with pay. Any increases in the maximum from one year to the next should be explicitly justified. The lowering of targets should generally be accompanied by a reduction in the bonus potential.

There is an increasing expectation among investors that bonus targets will be disclosed retrospectively. Targets for both financial and non-financial targets should be disclosed in an appropriate level of detail, preferably with a full target range (e.g. threshold, target and maximum) set out. If a remuneration committee believes that bonus target disclosure – even on a retrospective basis – is difficult for reasons of commercial sensitivity, it should explain the rationale for its decision, when such considerations will fall away and provide a commitment to disclosure at that time. ISS may recommend a vote against a remuneration report where bonus targets are not disclosed retrospectively, and there is no commitment to disclosure in the future. It is now standard market practice for retrospective disclosure to be provided no more than one year after the end of the relevant performance year. Where consideration of commercial sensitivities may prevent a fuller disclosure of specific short-term targets at the start of the performance period, shareholders expect to be informed of the main performance parameters, both corporate and personal.

The payment of a ‘one-off’ special bonus is likely to attract a negative vote recommendation. ISS will not typically support transaction-related bonuses.

Long-term incentive plans (LTIPs)   

Under the resolution to approve the remuneration report, ISS considers both the LTIP awards granted and those vested or lapsed during the year under review.

When assessing the awards which vested, the Investment Association Principles advise that remuneration committees should ensure that the result does not produce outcomes that are out of line with the overall performance of the company, its future

 

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Report component

 

  

Good market practice

 

    

prospects or the experience of its shareholders over the performance period. The definition of any performance measurement should be clearly disclosed.

For awards granted in the year under review, the Investment Association Principles note that companies should disclose the potential value of awards due to individual scheme participants on full vesting, expressed by reference to the face value of shares or shares under option at point of grant, and expressed as a multiple of base salary. The lowering of targets should generally be reflected in a reduction of the amount that can vest and, similarly, any increase in award size should be linked to more challenging targets.

Dilution limits   

The operation of share incentive schemes should not lead to dilution in excess of the limits acceptable to shareholders. ISS supports the limits recommended as good practice by the Investment Association.

The rules of a scheme must provide that commitments to issue new shares or to re-issue treasury shares, when aggregated with awards under all of the company’s other schemes, must not exceed 10 percent of the issued ordinary share capital, adjusted for share issuance and cancellation, in any rolling 10 year period.

Commitments to issue new shares or re-issue treasury shares under executive (discretionary) schemes should not exceed 5 percent of the issued ordinary share capital of the company, adjusted for share issuance and cancellation, in any rolling 10 year period.

Any exit payments to departing directors    Exit payments to departing directors should not go beyond those to which the director is entitled under the terms of his or her service contract or the rules of the relevant incentive schemes. Ex gratia or special payments on termination are not supported. “Good leaver” treatment should only apply to those who are genuinely good leavers. Appropriate pro-rating should be applied to outstanding long-term share awards.
Arrangements for new joiners   

For new joiners, where an executive is appointed at an ‘entry-level’ salary-point which the remuneration committee expects to increase to a higher level once the individual has proved him or herself in the role, the roadmap for increases should be disclosed at the time of appointment. In general, ISS does not support special awards for new joiners (e.g. sign-on bonuses or one-off share awards) except in exceptional situations and only if accompanied by an appropriate explanation.

Pay for new joiners during a year should match the period of the year for which they served.

The pay of the NEDs    Any increases to NED pay during the year under review will be considered alongside pay increases to executive directors and the broader workforce.

 

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Report component

 

  

Good market practice

 

The company’s disclosure as to the use of remuneration consultants    The annual remuneration report must name any person who provided material advice or services to a relevant committee in the reported year, and set out additional details in respect of some of them. The GC100 and Investor Group suggest these persons may include principal internal providers of material advice and services, remuneration consultants or external lawyers who provided any material advice other than advice on compliance with the relevant legislation.
Discretion   

In cases where a remuneration committee uses its discretion to determine payments, it should provide a clear explanation of its reasons, which are expected to be clearly justified by the financial results and the underlying performance of the company.

It is relatively rare that a remuneration committee chooses to amend the targets used for either the annual bonus or the LTIP following the start of the performance period, but where this has occurred, it is good practice for the company to demonstrate how the revised targets are in practice no less challenging than the targets which were originally set.

 

Approval of a new or amended LTIP

General Recommendation: Vote the resolution to approve a new or amended LTIP on a case-by-case approach, paying particular attention as to whether:

 

The LTIP is aligned with the company’s strategy, is not over-complex and fosters an appropriately long-term mindset;
The proposed award levels are appropriate, and, in the case of an amended plan, any increases to the previous award levels are well-explained;
Any increase in the level of certainty of reward is matched by a material reduction in the size of awards;
The maximum payout is capped;
The vesting levels for threshold and on target performance are in line with market norms, with threshold vesting no higher than 25 percent;
The LTIP is in line with the current remuneration policy;
Change of control, good leaver and malus/clawback provisions are present and the terms are in line with standard practice in the UK market;
The remuneration committee seeks to reserve a degree of discretion in line with standard UK practice;
The company is operating within the dilution limits of the company’s share-based incentive schemes; and
There are no issues with the plan which would be of concern to shareholders.

Where the plan contains multiple areas of non-compliance with good practice, the vote recommendation will reflect the severity of the issues identified. A small number of minor breaches may still result in an overall recommendation of a flagged ‘For”, whereas a single, serious deviation may be sufficient to justify an “Against” vote recommendation.

The Investment Association Principles emphasise that all new incentives or any substantive changes to existing schemes should be subject to prior approval by shareholders by means of a

 

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separate and binding resolution. When a new or amended LTIP is presented to shareholders for approval, ISS considers the points listed above, plus others which are relevant to the specific plan. Relevant issues are discussed in more detail in the earlier sections on the remuneration policy and report.

4. CAPITAL STRUCTURE

Authorise Issue of Equity with and without Pre-emptive Rights

General Recommendation: Generally vote for a resolution to authorise the issuance of equity, unless:

 

The general issuance authority exceeds one-third (33 percent) of the issued share capital. Assuming it is no more than one-third, a further one-third of the issued share capital may also be applied to a fully pre-emptive rights issue taking the acceptable aggregate authority to two-thirds (66 percent); or
The routine authority to disapply preemption rights exceeds 10 percent of the issued share capital, provided that any amount above 5 percent is to be used for the purposes of an acquisition or a specified capital investment.

ISS will generally support resolutions seeking authorities in line with the Investment Association’s Share Capital Management Guidelines and the Pre-Emption Group Statement of Principles.

ISS will support an authority to allot up to two-thirds of the existing issued share capital, providing that any amount in excess of one-third of existing issued shares would be applied to fully pre-emptive rights issues only.

Under the Pre-Emption Group Principles, the routine authority to disapply pre-emption rights should not exceed more than 5 percent of ordinary share capital in any one year, with an overall limit of 7.5 percent in any rolling three-year period. Companies can seek shareholder approval for an authority up to 10 percent, provided that any amount in excess of the standard 5 percent is to be used only for purposes of an acquisition or a specified capital investment. A company which receives approval for an authority of this nature but is then subsequently viewed to abuse the authority during the year (for example, by issuing shares up to 10 percent for purposes other than set out in the revised guidelines) is likely to receive a negative recommendation on the authority at the following AGM.

In line with the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association guidelines, the authority to issue shares and the authority to disapply pre-emption rights should not be bundled together, or with any other voting issue. It is good practice, in terms of duration, for the authorities to require renewal at the following year’s AGM.

Authorise Market Purchase of Ordinary Shares

General Recommendation: Generally vote for the resolution to authorise the market purchase of ordinary shares, unless:

 

The authority requested exceeds the levels permitted under the Listing Rules; or
The company seeks an authority covering a period longer than 18 months.

 

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AGM agendas routinely include a resolution allowing companies to make market purchases of their shares. ISS will usually support this resolution if it is in line with the Listing Rules LR 12.4.1 which allows companies to buy back up to 15 percent of their shares in any given year, provided that the maximum price paid is not more than 5 percent above the average trading price.

Under the Companies Act 2006, the share buyback authority cannot be for a period longer than five years. ISS recommends that the renewal of such authorities be requested annually, and that the duration be no longer than 18 months or until the next AGM, if sooner. However, ISS will support a five-year authority if, in practice, the company has a history of reverting to shareholders annually.

5. OTHER ITEMS

Mergers and Acquisitions

General Recommendation: Vote mergers and acquisitions on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the factors of valuation, market reaction, strategic rationale, conflicts of interest and governance.

When evaluating the merits of a proposed acquisition, merger or takeover offer, ISS focuses on the impact of the proposal on shareholder value, both in the immediate and long term. For every M&A analysis, ISS reviews publicly available information as of the date of the report and evaluates the merits and drawbacks of the proposed transaction, balancing various and sometimes countervailing factors including:

 

Factor

 

  

Approach

 

Valuation    Is the value to be received by the target shareholders, or paid by the acquirer, reasonable? While the fairness opinion, where one is provided, may provide an initial starting point for assessing the appropriateness of the valuation, ISS places particular emphasis on the offer premium, market reaction and strategic rationale in the analysis.
Market reaction    How has the market responded to the proposed deal? A negative market reaction will be viewed with caution.
Strategic rationale     Does the deal make sense strategically? From where is the value derived? Cost and revenue synergies should not be overly aggressive or optimistic, but reasonably achievable. Management should also have a favourable track record of successful integration of historical acquisitions.
Conflicts of interest    Are insiders benefiting from the transaction disproportionately and inappropriately as compared to outside shareholders? ISS will consider whether any special interests may have influenced these directors to support or recommend the merger.
Governance    Will the combined company have a better or worse governance profile than the current governance profiles of the respective parties to the transaction? If the governance profile is to change for the worse, the burden is on the company to prove that other issues, such as valuation, outweigh any deterioration in governance.

 

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Related-Party Transactions

General Recommendation: In evaluating resolutions that seek shareholder approval on related-party transactions (RPT), vote on a case-by-case basis, considering factors including, but not limited to, the following:

 

The parties on either side of the transaction;
The nature of the asset to be transferred/service to be provided;
The pricing of the transaction (and any associated professional valuation);
The views of independent directors, where provided;
The views of an independent financial adviser, where appointed;
Whether any entities party to the transaction, including advisers, are conflicted; and
The stated rationale for the transaction, including discussions of timing.

In the UK, under the Listing Rules the listed company must obtain the approval of its shareholders for certain transactions either beforehand or, if the transaction is conditional on that approval, before it is completed. The company must ensure that the related party does not vote on the relevant resolution, and should take all reasonable steps to ensure that the related party’s associates do not vote on the relevant resolution.

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association notes that concerns may arise if the transaction does not seem to be subject to proper oversight, is not undertaken on fully commercial terms in the normal course of business, or the company has not clearly explained how the transaction is in the interests of the company and all shareholders.

Mandatory Takeover Bid Waivers

General Recommendation: Generally vote against mandatory takeover bid waivers.

The mandatory bid requirement, as contained in Rule 9 of the Takeover Code, seeks to prevent “creeping acquisitions” and to ensure that shareholders, other than the controlling shareholder, receive a control premium when control of the company shifts further to the large shareholder.

When the issue of new securities as consideration for an acquisition or a cash subscription would otherwise result in the controlling shareholder being obliged to make a general offer, the Takeover Panel will normally waive the obligation if there is an independent vote at a shareholders’ meeting. Waivers are usually sought where a company proposes to institute a share buyback programme in which a large investor or concert party does not intend to participate.

In line with the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, ISS will usually recommend a vote against Rule 9 waivers.

Reincorporation Proposals

 

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General Recommendation: Vote reincorporation proposals on a case-by-case basis. When examining a reincorporation proposal, ISS first examines the reasons for the move. Sometimes a reincorporation proposal is part of a restructuring effort or merger agreement that contributes significantly to a company’s growth, financial health and competitive position more than the anticipated negative consequences of incorporating in another country. However, reincorporation in a country with less stringent disclosure requirements or corporate governance provisions may be perceived as an attempt by management to lessen accountability to shareholders. In such cases, ISS may recommend voting against the proposal.

Authorise the Company to Call a General Meeting with Two Weeks’ Notice

General Recommendation: Generally vote for the resolution to authorise the company to call a general meeting with 14 days’ notice if the company has provided assurance that the authority will only be used when merited. An appropriate use of the authority is in circumstances where time is of the essence.

Before the implementation of the EU Shareholder Rights Directive, companies were able to hold general meetings on 14 days’ notice in line with the Companies Act 2006; however, since the Directive increased the minimum notice period to 21 days, shareholder authority must first be granted to opt out of the requirement.

Companies are expected to give as much notice as is practicable when calling a general meeting, with the additional flexibility afforded by this authority only being used in limited and time-sensitive circumstances where it would clearly be to the advantage of shareholders as a whole. ISS will generally support these resolutions, if the company has provided assurance that the shorter notice period would only be used when merited. Companies which have used this authority inappropriately by calling short-notice general meetings which are not obviously time-sensitive can expect future requests to be viewed sceptically when they attempt to renew this authority in future years. ISS may recommend against the authority at the next AGM in such cases.

The UK Corporate Governance Code was updated in 2014 to recommend that notices for general meetings (other than AGMs) should be sent to shareholders at least 14 working days before the meeting.

Authorise EU Political Donations and Expenditure

General Recommendation: Generally vote for the resolution to authorise EU political donations and expenditure, unless:

 

The company made explicit donations to political parties or election candidates during the year under review;
The duration of the authority sought exceeds one year and the company has not clarified that separate authorisation will be sought at the following AGM should the authority be used; or
No cap is set on the level of donations.

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donation or expenditure which might be considered to fall within the broader definition of ‘political’ under the Companies Act 2006.

Shareholder Proposals (ESG)

ISS applies a common approach globally to evaluating social and environmental proposals, which cover a wide range of topics including consumer and product safety, environment and energy, labour standards and human rights, workplace and board diversity, and corporate political issues.

General Recommendation: Vote on all environmental, social and governance proposals on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration whether implementation of the proposal is likely to enhance or protect shareholder value, and whether:

 

The issues presented in the proposal are more appropriately or effectively dealt with through legislation or government regulation;
The company has already responded in an appropriate and sufficient manner to the issue(s) raised in the proposal;
The proposal’s request is unduly burdensome, in terms of scope, timeframe or cost, or overly prescriptive, and how it compares with any industry standard practices for addressing the issue(s) raised by the proposal;
Sufficient information is currently available to shareholders from the company or from other publicly available sources, if the proposal requests increased disclosure or greater transparency; and
Implementation would reveal proprietary or confidential information that could place the company at a competitive disadvantage.

While a variety of factors are incorporated into each analysis, the overall principle guiding all vote recommendations is to focus on how the proposal may enhance or protect the position of shareholders in both the short-term and long-term.

6. SMALLER COMPANIES

ISS applies its smaller companies approach to companies which are members of the FTSE Fledgling index, those listed on AIM and other companies which are not widely-held. Further information can be found on Page 73 of this document. The approach is largely in line with the core policy, with the exceptions identified below.

Accept Financial Statements and Statutory Reports

General Recommendation: Generally vote for approval of financial statements and statutory reports, unless:

There are concerns about the accounts presented or audit procedures used; or
There has been an accounting fraud or material misstatement during the year.

As stated in the core policy for this resolution, the overall quality of disclosure will also be considered, and the weakest examples, such as where the meeting documents are not released in time for investors to review these ahead of the meeting, are likely to attract a negative vote recommendation. Other minimum disclosure requirements include:

The identity of all the directors, their board roles, committee memberships and independence classification;
List of major shareholders; and
Attendance at board and committee meetings.

 

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In addition, where no appropriate resolution to target an investor’s specific concern is on the ballot, ISS may recommend a vote against this resolution. Specific concerns include:

Absence of sufficient independent representation on the board and the key committees (if the relevant director is not standing for election/re-election)
Absence of regular re-election for all directors (once every three years at a minimum); and
Remuneration not aligned with expected market practice (if there is no remuneration report or remuneration policy resolution on the agenda).

Concerns raised in the first year may not lead to a negative vote recommendation; this is more likely in the event of repeated concerns identified over a number of years.

Authorise Board to Fix Remuneration of Auditors

General Recommendation: Generally vote for proposals authorizing the board to fix the fees payable to the external auditors, unless:

Fees for non-audit services routinely exceed standard audit-related fees.

Where the ratio of non-audit fees to audit fees has been over 100 per cent for more than one year, and the company appears unwilling to address the issue, ISS may recommend a vote against the remuneration of the external auditors. In addition, the chairman of the audit committee is likely to receive a negative voting recommendation when he or she is next standing for re-election.

Director Elections

General Recommendation: Generally vote for the election or re-election of directors, unless:

 

Adequate disclosure has not been provided in a timely manner;
The board fails to meet minimum corporate governance standards – please see the following sections on independence classification and board and committee composition for details of how this is interpreted in practice; or
There are specific concerns about the individual, such as his/her ability to commit sufficient time to the role.

Board independence classification

In addition to the conditions stated in the main policy, a non-executive director of a smaller company is likely to be considered as non-independent if he or she has a substantial personal shareholding of greater than 3 per cent.

Discussion

The requirements for FTSE Fledgling companies are the same as for FTSE SmallCap companies, as set out in the core policy. A non-executive director of an AIM or ISDX company, who formerly served as board chairman, may still be considered independent.

The award of share options, the receipt of additional remuneration from the company apart from a director’s fee, or participation in performance-related pay schemes, can result in the independence of NEDs being impaired. Options will not impact upon a NED’s independence if the quantum is not considered to be material and if the company has a policy of no longer granting options to non-executives.

 

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Board and Committee Composition

The requirements for FTSE Fledgling companies are the same as for FTSE SmallCap companies, as set out in the core policy. This means that the board should include a minimum of two independent non-executive directors. The audit and remuneration committees should be fully independent, and should include a minimum of two independent non-executives. For the board and the audit and remuneration committees, the board chairman cannot count as one of the independent directors. The majority of the members of the nomination committee should be independent.

The chairman may sit on all committees provided that he/she continues to be considered independent.

For companies listed on AIM, and for other companies which are not a member of the FTSE All Share or FTSE Fledgling indices and in line with the QCA Code, the audit and remuneration committees should include independent non-executive directors only,4 and half the members of the nomination committee need to be independent.

For all companies, executive directors should not serve on the audit or remuneration committees.

If there is evidence of long-running, systemic issues around board and committee composition which the company seems unable or unwilling to address, the board chairman may receive a negative vote recommendation on his or her reappointment, given he/ she retains overall responsibility for the board’s corporate governance arrangements.

Election of a Former CEO as Chairman

Similar to the core policy, ISS may recommend a vote against the election of a former CEO as chairman, unless the company can provide a strong justification as to why this non-standard governance arrangement is appropriate for their specific situation and for a limited period of time.

Authorise Issue of Equity without Pre-emptive Rights

General Recommendation: Generally vote for a resolution to authorise the issuance of equity, unless:

 

The general issuance authority exceeds one-third (33 percent) of the issued share capital. Assuming it is no more than one-third, a further one-third of the issued share capital may also be applied to a fully pre-emptive rights issue taking the acceptable aggregate authority to two-thirds (66 percent); or
The routine authority to disapply preemption rights exceeds 10 percent of the issued share capital in any one year.

 

 

4 This position will be reflected in ISS vote recommendations from February 2018. Until then, and in line with ISS’ previous policy position, a negative voting recommendation will not be applied to AIM companies which have at least a majority of independent non-executive directors sitting on the audit and remuneration committees, respectively.

 

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Remuneration Policy Resolutions

General Recommendation: When assessing remuneration policy resolutions, a negative vote recommendation would be considered if any of the following applied:

 

Executive directors are not employed under formal service contracts, or their service contracts, in the event of termination, provide for more than 12 months’ notice;
Vesting of incentive awards is not conditional on the achievement of performance hurdles;
Re-testing is allowed throughout the performance period; or
There are any other serious issues with the policy when measured against good market practice.

Remuneration Report Resolutions

General Recommendation: When assessing remuneration report resolutions, a negative vote recommendation would be considered if any of the following applied:

 

Disclosure of pay practices is poor. This would include if the individual emoluments paid to each director are not disclosed, or if the performance metrics which applied to LTIP awards made during the year under review are not disclosed;
NEDs have received performance-related pay during the year under review;
Options have been re-priced during the period under review;
Re-testing is allowed throughout the performance period;
Share awards granted to executive directors during the year under review feature a performance period of less than three years; or
There are any other serious issues with the report when measured against good market practice.

The award of options to NEDs is not in line with best practice as it can cause a potential conflict of interest that may affect an NED’s independent judgment. Therefore, NEDs should be remunerated with basic fees only, in the form of cash and/or shares.

FTSE Fledgling companies are covered by the same remuneration reporting requirements which apply to companies in the FTSE All Share index. They are required by law to seek shareholder approval for a binding remuneration policy at least once every three years, and must also present their remuneration report to shareholders every year on an advisory basis. In contrast, companies listed on AIM are not required to provide shareholders with a vote on the remuneration report or the remuneration policy, although some do on a voluntary basis. An AIM-listed company which submits its remuneration report for shareholder approval (but not its remuneration policy) will be assessed on the basis of all the issues identified in both the remuneration policy and remuneration report sections above.

7. INVESTMENT COMPANIES

The voting guidelines previously issued by the NAPF (now the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association) form the basis of our benchmark recommendations for investment trusts and venture capital trusts; these guidelines also refer to the key principles of the AIC Code.

Investment companies differ significantly in terms of structure from the majority of companies covered by the UK and Ireland policy because they generally have: (i) a board comprising of non-executive directors (NEDs) who are responsible for safeguarding shareholder interests; and (ii) an investment manager (either a person or an organization) who is responsible for the

 

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company’s portfolio. The majority of trusts are externally-managed, but some investment trusts are internally-managed or self-managed. This means that they do not have third party investment managers, and instead have a managing director (normally a board member) who is responsible for investment decisions.

Director Elections

General Recommendation: Generally vote for the election or re-election of directors, unless:

 

Adequate disclosure has not been provided in a timely manner;
The board fails to meet minimum corporate governance standards – please see the following sections on independence classification and board and committee composition for details of how this is interpreted in practice; or
There are specific concerns about the individual, such as their ability to commit sufficient time to the role.

Board independence classification

In addition to the conditions stated in the main policy, the non-executive director of an investment company is likely to be considered as non-independent if he or she has a substantial shareholding of greater than 1 per cent providing the investment trust is listed in the FTSE All-Share index.

Also, the non-executive director of either a venture capital trust or an investment trust is likely to be considered as non-independent if he or she holds a directorship in one or more investment companies or venture capital trusts managed by the same manager, or they have a relationship with the investment manager.

At investment trusts, tenure is not taken into account when assessing independence. However, ossified boards are an issue of concern. As a result, if more than half the board has served in excess of nine years, a negative vote recommendation would over time be applied to the chairman’s re-election.

Board and committee composition

Whether executive directors are present or not, at least half of the board should comprise independent NEDs.

The audit committee should include independent NEDs only. The remuneration committee should comprise a majority of independent NEDs when no executive directors are present and independent NEDs only when executive directors are present. At least half of the members of a nomination committee should be independent.

The chairman may sit on all committees provided that he or she continues to be considered independent, but should not chair the audit or remuneration committees.

The AIC Code recommends that management engagement committees should be established, consisting solely of directors independent of the manager or executives of self-managed

 

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companies, which should review the manager’s performance and contractual arrangements annually and for any resulting decisions to be disclosed in the annual report.

Authorise Issue of Equity without Pre-emptive Rights

General Recommendation: Generally vote for a resolution to authorise the issuance of equity, unless:

 

The general issuance authority exceeds one-third (33 percent) of the issued share capital. Assuming it is no more than one-third, a further one-third of the issued share capital may also be applied to a fully pre-emptive rights issue taking the acceptable aggregate authority to two-thirds (66 percent); or
The routine authority to disapply preemption rights exceeds 5 percent of the issued share capital in any one year, or 10 percent if there is a commitment that any issuance will be at or above net asset value.

Share issuance proposals which involve the issue of C shares will be considered using the above guidance.

Remuneration

Remuneration resolutions are typically not contentious at externally-managed investment trusts. For internally-managed trusts which include executive directors on the board, ISS considers remuneration resolutions using the guidance set out under the smaller companies policy (see previous section).

Continuation of Investment Trust

General Recommendation: Generally vote the continuation resolution as described below:

ISS will vote for when the board has tabled the resolution to comply with the requirement in the trust’s articles of association that this vote be put to shareholders at regular intervals, and there are no issues of concern;
If the board has called a special meeting, due to the shares trading at a discount to net asset value over a prolonged period, ISS will consider the issues on a case-by-case basis.

8. OTHER POINTS TO NOTE

Board Diversity

ISS research includes commentary on the company’s approach to diversity. The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association expects companies to include a description of the board’s policy on diversity, including professional, international and gender diversity, any measurable objectives that it has set for implementing the policy, and progress on achieving the objectives.

Board Director acts as Company Secretary

The Code states that the company secretary should be responsible for advising the board through the chairman on all governance matters, and investors typically expect this role to be filled by a non-board member.

 

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9. APPENDIX

Good practice guidance referenced in this policy

The following documents are referred to in this document, and are listed here in alphabetical order with the year of publication included where relevant:

The AIC Code of Corporate Governance (2016)

http://www.theaic.co.uk/sites/default/files/hiddenfiles/AICCodeofCorporateGovernanceJUL16_0.pdf

Executive Remuneration Working Group Final Report (2016)

http://www.theinvestmentassociation.org/assets/files/press/2016/ERWG%20Final%20Report%20July%202016.pdf

The GC100 and Investor Group Directors’ Remuneration Reporting Guidance (2016)

http://uk.practicallaw.com/groups/uk-gc100-investor-group

The Investment Association Principles of Remuneration (2016)

http://www.theinvestmentassociation.org/assets/files/press/2016/Principles%20of%20Remuneration%202016.pdf

The Investment Association Share Capital Management Guidelines (2016)

https://www.ivis.co.uk/media/12250/Share-Capital-Management-Guidelines-July-2016.pdf

The ISS Global Principles on Executive and Director Compensation

https://www.issgovernance.com/file/policy/2017-europe-summary-voting-guidelines.pdf

The ISS Global Voting Principles

http://www.issgovernance.com/policy-gateway/iss-global-voting-principles/

The NAPF Corporate Governance Policy and Voting Guidelines for Investment Companies (2012)

The NAPF Corporate Governance Policy and Voting Guidelines for Smaller Companies (2012)

Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association Corporate Governance Policy and Voting Guidelines 2016/17 (2017)

http://www.plsa.co.uk/PolicyandResearch/DocumentLibrary/~/media/Policy/Documents/0611-Voting-%20Guidelines-%202016-17.pdf

The Pre-Emption Group – Disapplying Pre-emption Rights – A Statement of Principles (2015)

http://www.pre-emptiongroup.org.uk/getmedia/655a6ec5-fecc-47e4-80a0-7aea04433421/Revised-PEG-Statement-of-Principles-2015.pdf.aspx

The Quoted Companies Alliance Corporate Governance Code for Small and Mid-Size Quoted Companies (2013)

 

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http://www.theqca.com/shop/guides/70707/corporate-governance-code-for-small-and-midsize-quoted-companies-2013.thtml

Hermes EOS, NAPF and others - Remuneration Principles for Building and Reinforcing Long-Term Business Success (2013)

http://www.plsa.co.uk/PolicyandResearch/DocumentLibrary/~/media/Policy/Documents/0351_3_remuneration_principles_for_building_and_reinforcing%20_longterm_business_success_nov2013.pdf

The UK Corporate Governance Code (2016)

https://frc.org.uk/Our-Work/Publications/Corporate-Governance/UK-Corporate-Governance-Code-April-2016.pdf

 

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This document and all of the information contained in it, including without limitation all text, data, graphs, and charts (collectively, the “Information”) is the property of Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS), its subsidiaries, or, in some cases third party suppliers.

 

The Information has not been submitted to, nor received approval from, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission or any other regulatory body. None of the Information constitutes an offer to sell (or a solicitation of an offer to buy), or a promotion or recommendation of, any security, financial product or other investment vehicle or any trading strategy, and ISS does not endorse, approve, or otherwise express any opinion regarding any issuer, securities, financial products or instruments or trading strategies.

 

The user of the Information assumes the entire risk of any use it may make or permit to be made of the Information.

 

ISS MAKES NO EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE INFORMATION AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF ORIGINALITY, ACCURACY, TIMELINESS, NON-INFRINGEMENT, COMPLETENESS, MERCHANTABILITY, AND FITNESS for A PARTICULAR PURPOSE) WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE INFORMATION.

 

Without limiting any of the foregoing and to the maximum extent permitted by law, in no event shall ISS have any liability regarding any of the Information for any direct, indirect, special, punitive, consequential (including lost profits), or any other damages even if notified of the possibility of such damages. The foregoing shall not exclude or limit any liability that may not by applicable law be excluded or limited.

 

   LOGO

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   www.issgovernance.com

 

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LOGO

 

  Singapore

  Proxy Voting Guidelines

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  2017 Benchmark Policy Recommendations

 

   Effective for Meetings on or after February 1, 2017

 

   Published December 23, 2016

 

    www.issgovernance.com

    © 2016 ISS | Institutional Shareholder Services

 

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

1.    OVERVIEW   107
2.    OPERATIONAL ITEMS   107
      Approval of Financial Statements and Statutory Reports   107
      Dividend Distribution   107
3.    BOARD OF DIRECTORS   107
      Election of Directors   107
      Voting for Director Nominees in Contested Elections   109
4.    REMUNERATION   110
      Directors Fees   110
      Equity Compensation Plans   110
5.    AUDIT   110
6.    SHARE ISSUANCE REQUESTS   111
      General Issuance Requests   111
      General Issuance Requests – Real Estate Investment Trusts   111
      Specific Issuance Requests   111
      Share Repurchase Plans   111
7.    RELATED-PARTY TRANSACTIONS   112
8.    CAPITAL   112
      Debt Issuance Requests   112
9.    MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS   113
10.    SOCIAL/ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES   114

 

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1. OVERVIEW

Singapore companies are required to provide meeting notices at a minimum of 14 days before the meeting while accounts presented at the AGM shall be made up to a date of not more than four months before the AGM.

 

Approval of financial statements and statutory reports;
Dividend distribution;
Election of directors;
Approval of remuneration of directors;
Auditor appointment and approval of auditor remuneration;
Capital raising requests;
Compensation proposals.

Other items that may be submitted for shareholder approval include:

 

Debt issuance requests;
Amendments to articles of associations;
Related-party transactions;
Mergers and acquisitions.

Policies in this document are presented in the order that generally appears on the ballot.

 

2. OPERATIONAL ITEMS

Approval of Financial Statements and Statutory Reports

General Recommendation: Vote for approval of financial statements and director and auditor reports, unless:

 

There are concerns about the accounts presented or audit procedures used; or
The company is not responsive to shareholder questions about specific items that should be publicly disclosed.

Dividend Distribution

General Recommendation: Generally vote for approval of the allocation of income, unless:

 

The dividend payout ratio has been consistently below 30 percent without adequate explanation; or
The payout is excessive given the company’s financial position.

3. BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Election of Directors

General Recommendation: Generally vote for the re/election of directors, unless:

Attendance

 

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The nominee has attended less than 75 percent of board and key committee meetings over the most recent fiscal year, without a satisfactory explanation. Acceptable reasons for director absences are generally limited to the following:
  Medical issues/illness;
  Family emergencies;
  The director has served on the board for less than a year; and
  Missing only one meeting (when the total of all meetings is three or fewer).
 

Overboarding (unless exceptional circumstances exist)

The nominee sits on more than six 1 public company boards.

Independence Considerations

Board Independence

The nominee has been a partner of the company’s auditor within the last three years, and serves on the audit committee;
Any non-independent director nominees where the board is less than one-third independent under ISS classification of directors;
The nominee is a member of the nomination committee and the board does not have a lead/senior independent director and/or the board is not at least one-half independent2 under the following scenarios:
  The chairman and the CEO is the same person;
  The chairman and the CEO are immediate family members3;
  The chairman is part of the management team; or
  The chairman is not an independent director.

Committee Independence/Formulation

The nominee is an executive director serving on the audit, remuneration, and/or nomination committee;
The nominee is a non-independent director serving as the chairman of the audit committee, remuneration committee, and/or nomination committee.

When the board does not have a formal audit committee, remuneration committee, and/or nomination committee, vote against if:

 

The nominee is an executive director;
The nominee is a non-independent chairman of the board.

In making any of the above recommendations on the election of directors, ISS generally will not recommend against the election of a CEO, managing director, executive chairman, or founder whose removal from the board would be expected to have a material negative impact on shareholder value.

Problematic Audit-Related Practices

Generally vote against all members of the audit committee up for reelection if:

The non-audit fees paid to the auditor are excessive; or

 

 

1 A commitment to reduce the number of boards to six or fewer by the next annual meeting will be considered. The commitment would need to be disclosed prior to the AGM in the relevant meeting materials, such as the meeting notice, circular, or annual report.

2 The requirements for the board to have a lead/senior independent director and be at least one-half independent under the aforesaid circumstances would only be applicable to AGMs after the financial years commencing from May 1, 2016, which are those to be held on Oct. 1, 2017 onwards, to coincide with the transition schedule of the relevant requirements of one-half board independence.

3 “Immediate family members” refer to the person’s spouse, child, adopted child, step-child, sibling and parent.

 

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The company did not disclose the audit fees and/or non-audit fees in the latest fiscal year.

Governance Failures

Under extraordinary circumstances, vote against individual directors, members of a committee, or the entire board, due to:

Material failures of governance, stewardship, risk oversight, or fiduciary responsibilities at the company;
Failure to replace management as appropriate; or
Egregious actions related to a director’s service on other boards that raise substantial doubt about his or her ability to effectively oversee management and serve the best interests of shareholders at any company.

Director Tenure

Under the ISS Classification of Directors, an independent non-executive director shall be considered non-independent if such director serves as a director for more than 9 years, if the company fails to disclose the reasons why such director should still be considered independent, or where such reasons raise concerns regarding the director’s true level of independence.

Voting for Director Nominees in Contested Elections

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on the election of directors in contested elections, including election of shareholder nominees or the dismissal of incumbent directors.

For shareholder nominees, ISS places the persuasive burden on the nominee or the proposing shareholder to prove that they are better suited to serve on the board than management’s nominees. Serious consideration of shareholder nominees will be given only if there are clear and compelling reasons for the nominee to join the board. These nominees must also demonstrate a clear ability to contribute positively to board deliberations; some nominees may have hidden or narrow agendas and may unnecessarily contribute to divisiveness among directors.

The major decision factors are:

 

Company performance relative to its peers;
Strategy of the incumbents versus the dissidents;
Independence of directors/nominees;
Experience and skills of board candidates;
Governance profile of the company;
Evidence of management entrenchment;
Responsiveness to shareholders;
Whether a takeover offer has been rebuffed.

When analyzing proxy contests/shareholder nominees, ISS focuses on two central questions:

 

  (1) Have the dissidents proved that board change is warranted? and
  (2) If so, are the dissident board nominees likely to effect positive change (i.e., maximize long-term shareholder value)?

 

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4. REMUNERATION

Directors Fees

General Recommendation: Generally vote for resolutions regarding directors’ fees unless they are excessive relative to fees paid by other companies of similar size.

Equity Compensation Plans

General Recommendation: Generally vote for an equity-based compensation plan unless:

 

The maximum dilution level for the scheme exceeds 5 percent of issued capital for a mature company and 10 percent for a growth company. However, ISS will support plans at mature companies with dilution levels up to 10 percent if the plan includes other positive features such as challenging performance criteria and meaningful vesting periods as these features partially offset dilution concerns by reducing the likelihood that options will become exercisable unless there is a clear improvement in shareholder value. In addition, ISS will support a plan’s dilution limit that exceeds these thresholds if the annual grant limit under the plan is 0.5 percent or less for a mature company (1 percent or less for a mature company with clearly disclosed performance criteria) and 1 percent or less for a growth company.
The plan permits options to be issued with an exercise price at a discount to the current market price; or
Directors eligible to receive options or awards under the scheme are involved in the administration of the scheme and the administrator has the discretion over their awards.4

 

5. AUDIT

General Recommendation: Vote for the appointment of auditors and authorizing the board to fix their remuneration, unless:

 

There are serious concerns about the accounts presented or the audit procedures used;
The auditor is being changed without explanation; or
The non-audit fees exceed half the total fees paid to the external auditor in the latest fiscal year without satisfactory explanation.

Whilst ISS will consider the nature and scope of non-audit fees when assessing their magnitude, where non-audit fees have constituted more than 50 percent of total auditor compensation during the most recent fiscal year, ISS will ordinarily not recommend support for the reappointment of the audit firm. In circumstances where non-audit fees include fees related to significant one-time transactional fees that were accrued due to special projects or capital structure events (such as initial public offerings, bankruptcy emergence, and spin-offs) and the company makes public disclosure of the amount and nature of those fees that are an exception to the standard “non-audit fee” category, then such fees may be excluded from the non-audit fees considered in determining the ratio of non-audit to audit/audit-related fees for purposes of determining whether non-audit fees are excessive.

 

 

 

4  Equity awards granted or taken in lieu of cash fees generally would not be considered discretionary awards.

 

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6. SHARE ISSUANCE REQUESTS

General Issuance Requests

General Recommendation: For companies listed on the Mainboard of the Singapore Exchange, generally vote for a general issuance of equity or equity-linked securities without preemptive rights when the share issuance limit is not more than 10 percent of the company’s issued share capital and 50 percent with preemptive rights.

For companies listed on the Catalist market of the SGX, generally vote for a general issuance of equity or equity-linked securities without preemptive rights when the share issuance limit is not more than 20 percent of the company’s issued share capital and 100 percent with preemptive rights.

Discussion

The listing manual of the SGX allows companies to seek an annual mandate for the issuance of ordinary shares up to 50 percent of issued capital for issuance with preemptive rights and 20 percent without preemptive rights for Mainboard-listed companies and 100 percent with preemptive rights and 50 percent without preemptive rights for Catalist-listed companies. Most companies seek such a mandate every year, to prevent the need to convene a shareholder meeting for each share issuance, however small.

General Issuance Requests – Real Estate Investment Trusts

General Recommendation: Generally vote for a general issuance of equity or equity-linked securities without preemptive rights when the share issuance limit is not more than 10 percent of the company’s issued share capital and 50 percent with preemptive rights for all Singapore companies, with the exception of Catalist-listed companies and Real Estate Investment Trusts.

For Singapore companies listed on the Catalist market of the SGX, generally vote for a general issuance of equity or equity-linked securities without preemptive rights when the share issuance limit is not more than 20 percent of the company’s issued share capital and 100 percent with preemptive rights. For Real Estate Investment Trusts, generally vote for a general issuance of equity or equity-linked securities without preemptive rights when the unit issuance limit is not more than 20 percent of its issued unit capital and 50 percent with preemptive rights.

Specific Issuance Requests

General Recommendation: For issuance requests relating equity compensation plans, apply the policy on equity compensation plans.

For other issuance requests, vote on a case-by-case basis.

Share Repurchase Plans

General Recommendation: Generally vote for resolutions authorizing the company to repurchase its own shares.

 

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Discussion

These are routine items asking shareholders to authorize a company to repurchase its own shares within the limits imposed by company law and the company’s articles. Upon requesting the authority, companies must inform shareholders of the maximum number of shares that may be repurchased (which may be no more than 10 percent of issued capital), the reasons for the proposed buyback, and details of any share repurchases conducted during the previous 12 months. Shares may be repurchased either on market or off market by way of an “equal access scheme” designed to ensure that all shareholders have an opportunity to tender their shares. Market share repurchases must be at a price not more than 5 percent above the average closing market price over the five trading days before the day on which the purchases are made. Share repurchases may be made out of capital or profits that are available for distribution as dividends. Companies must cancel the repurchased shares or hold them as treasury shares. The right to attend and vote at meetings as well as to receive dividends will be suspended for as long as the repurchased shares are held in treasury. Legal mandates and SGX listing requirements limit the potential for abuses of this authority, making these requests routine.

 

7. RELATED-PARTY TRANSACTIONS

General Recommendation: Generally vote for mandate for recurrent interested-party transactions if such transactions are carried out at arms-length and on normal commercial terms.

Discussion

Singapore’s related-party transaction rules provide shareholders with substantial protection against insider trading abuses. Under the country’s related-party transaction rules, shares considered affiliated are excluded from voting on the related issues. A broad range of commercial transactions by companies or their subsidiaries require shareholder approval as related-party transactions. A company may seek a shareholder mandate for recurrent interested party transactions of a revenue or trading nature or those necessary for its day-to-day operations, such as purchases of supplies and materials, but not for the purchase or sale of assets, undertakings, or businesses. Such mandates are intended to facilitate transactions that occur in the normal course of the company’s business.

 

8. CAPITAL

Debt Issuance Requests

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on non-convertible debt issuance requests, with or without preemptive rights.

Vote for the creation/issuance of convertible debt instruments as long as the maximum number of common shares that could be issued upon conversion meets ISS’ guidelines on equity-issuance requests.

 

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Vote for proposals to restructure existing debt arrangements unless the terms of the restructuring would adversely affect the rights of shareholders.

In evaluating debt-related proposals, the following factors will be considered:

 

Rationale/use of proceeds - Why does the company need additional capital? How will that capital be used?
Terms of the debts - Are the debt instruments convertible into equity? What are the interest rate and maturity dates? Any call or put options? Often these terms will not be determined until the time of issuance of debt instruments (or when the actual loan agreement is signed). The terms of the debts would generally be determined by the market conditions, and lack of disclosure concerning these terms should not be a cause for significant concern so long as the debt is not convertible into equity.
Size - At a minimum, the size of the debt issuance/potential borrowing should be disclosed.
The company’s financial position - What is the company’s current leverage and how does that compare to its peers?
The risk of non-approval - What might happen if the proposal is not approved? Are there any alternative sources of funding? Could the company continue to fund its operations? Would it hinder the company’s ability to realize opportunities?

A distinction will be made between a specific debt issuance or pledging of assets, and authority to issue or increase debt; as in the case of specific equity issuances and requests for authority to issue equity. For specific debt issuances or pledging of assets, while the above factors will be examined, in general a vote for these proposals will be warranted if:

 

The size of the debt being requested is disclosed;
A credible reason for the need for additional funding is provided;
Details regarding the assets to be pledged are disclosed (for specific asset pledge proposals); and
There are no significant causes for shareholder concern regarding the terms and conditions of the debt.

So long as the proposal meets the above conditions, a vote for will be warranted even if the company has a high level of debt or the proposed issuance could result in a large increase in debt. A vote against will be warranted only in extremely egregious cases or where the company fails to provide sufficient information to enable a meaningful shareholder review.

Where a general authority to issue debt or pledge assets is requested, in addition to the above criteria, we will oppose such proposal if it could result in a potentially excessive increase in debt. A potential increase in debt may be considered excessive when:

 

The proposed maximum amount is more than twice the company’s total debt;
It could result in the company’s debt-to-equity ratio exceeding 300 percent (for non-financial companies); and
The maximum hypothetical debt-to-equity ratio is more than three times the industry and/or market norm.

When the above conditions are met, the proposed increase in debt may be considered excessive, and thus the proposal may warrant an against vote. If we do not have data regarding the normal level of debt in that particular industry or market, only the company-specific information will be considered.

 

9. MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on mergers and acquisition, taking into

 

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consideration of following factors:

 

Valuation - Is the value to be received by the target shareholders (or paid by the acquirer) reasonable? If a fairness opinion has been prepared, it provides an initial starting point for assessing valuation reasonableness, but ISS also places emphasis on the offer premium, market reaction, and strategic rationale.
Market reaction - How has the market responded to the proposed deal? A negative market reaction will cause ISS to scrutinize a deal more closely.
Strategic rationale - Does the deal make sense strategically? From where is the value derived? Cost and revenue synergies should not be overly aggressive or optimistic, but reasonably achievable. Management should also have a favorable track record of successful integration of historical acquisitions.
Negotiations and process - Were the terms of the transaction negotiated at arms-length? Was the process fair and equitable? A fair process helps to ensure the best price for shareholders.
Conflicts of interest - Are insiders benefiting from the transaction disproportionately and inappropriately as compared to non-insider shareholders? As the result of potential conflicts, the directors and officers of the company may be more likely to vote to approve a merger than if they did not hold these interests. ISS will consider whether these interests may have influenced these directors and officers to support or recommend the merger.
Governance - Will the combined company have a better or worse governance profile than the respective current governance profiles of the respective parties to the transaction? If the governance profile is to change for the worse, the burden is on the company to prove that other issues (such as valuation) outweigh any deterioration in governance.

 

10.   SOCIAL/ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Issues covered under the policy involve a wide range of topics, including consumer and product safety, environment and energy, labor covered standards and human rights, workplace and board diversity, and corporate political issues. While a variety of factors goes into each analysis, the overall principle guiding all vote recommendations focuses on how the proposal may enhance or protect shareholder value in either the short term or long term.

General Recommendation: Generally vote case-by-case, taking into consideration whether implementation of the proposal is likely to enhance or protect shareholder value. In addition the following will be considered:

 

If the issues presented in the proposal are more appropriately or effectively dealt with through legislation or government regulation;
If the company has already responded in an appropriate and sufficient manner to the issue(s) raised in the proposal;
Whether the proposal’s request is unduly burdensome (scope, timeframe, or cost) or overly prescriptive;
The company’s approach compared with any industry standard practices for addressing the issue(s) raised by the proposal;
If the proposal requests increased disclosure or greater transparency, whether or not reasonable and sufficient information is currently available to shareholders from the company or from other publicly available sources; and
If the proposal requests increased disclosure or greater transparency, whether or not implementation would reveal proprietary or confidential information that could place the company at a competitive disadvantage.

This document and all of the information contained in it, including without limitation all text, data, graphs, and charts (collectively, the “Information”) is the property of Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS), its subsidiaries, or, in some cases third party suppliers.

 

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The Information has not been submitted to, nor received approval from, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission or any other regulatory body. None of the Information constitutes an offer to sell (or a solicitation of an offer to buy), or a promotion or recommendation of, any security, financial product or other investment vehicle or any trading strategy, and ISS does not endorse, approve, or otherwise express any opinion regarding any issuer, securities, financial products or instruments or trading strategies.

The user of the Information assumes the entire risk of any use it may make or permit to be made of the Information.

ISS MAKES NO EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE INFORMATION AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF ORIGINALITY, ACCURACY, TIMELINESS, NON-INFRINGEMENT, COMPLETENESS, MERCHANTABILITY, AND FITNESS for A PARTICULAR PURPOSE) WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE INFORMATION.

Without limiting any of the foregoing and to the maximum extent permitted by law, in no event shall ISS have any liability regarding any of the Information for any direct, indirect, special, punitive, consequential (including lost profits), or any other damages even if notified of the possibility of such damages. The foregoing shall not exclude or limit any liability that may not by applicable law be excluded or limited.

 

 

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The Global Leader In Corporate Governance

www.issgovernance.com

 

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LOGO

 

Americas Regional

Proxy Voting Summary Guidelines

 

2017 Benchmark Policy Recommendations

 

Effective for Meetings on or after February 1, 2017

 

Published December 23, 2016

 

www.issgovernance.com

© 2016 ISS | Institutional Shareholder Services

 

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

COVERAGE UNIVERSE

  119

1.    OPERATIONAL ITEMS

  119

Financial Results/Director and Auditor Reports

  119

Appointment of Auditors and Auditor Fees

  119

Appointment of Internal Statutory Auditors

  119

Allocation of Income

  120

Stock (Scrip) Dividend Alternative

  120

Amendments to Articles of Association

  120

Change in Company Fiscal Term

  120

Lower Disclosure Threshold for Stock Ownership

  120

Amend Quorum Requirements

  120

Transact Other Business

  120

2.    BOARD OF DIRECTORS

  120

Director Elections

  120

ISS Classification of Directors - Americas Regional Policy

  121

Contested Director Elections

  122

Discharge of Directors

  123

Director, Officer, and Auditor Indemnification and Liability Provisions

  123

Board Structure

  123

3.    CAPITAL STRUCTURE

  124

SHARE ISSUANCE REQUESTS

  124

General Issuances

  124

Specific Issuances

  124

Increases in Authorized Capital

  124

Reduction of Capital

  124

Capital Structures

  124

Preferred Stock

  125

Debt Issuance Requests

  125

Pledging of Assets for Debt

  125

Increase in Borrowing Powers

  125

Share Repurchase Plans

  125

Reissuance of Repurchased Shares

  126

Capitalization of Reserves for Bonus Issues/Increase in Par Value

  126

4.    COMPENSATION

  126

Compensation Plans

  126

Director Compensation

  127

5.    OTHER ITEMS

  127

Reorganizations/Restructurings

  127

Mergers and Acquisitions

  127

Mandatory Takeover Bid Waivers

  128

Reincorporation Proposals

  128

 

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Expansion of Business Activities

  128

Related-Party Transactions

  128

Antitakeover Mechanisms

  128

Shareholder Proposals

  128

6.    FOREIGN PRIVATE ISSUERS  LISTED ON U.S. EXCHANGES

  129

 

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COVERAGE UNIVERSE

This document applies to all Latin American markets (excluding Brazil which has a separate market policy) as well as certain companies incorporated in “Tax Haven” markets. Tax Haven markets covered under this policy may include the following: Anguilla, Antigua/Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Panama, UK Virgin Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. (Companies incorporated in these markets that are listed in the U.S. are generally evaluated under U.S. guidelines, except those considered Foreign Private Issuers (FPIs) by the SEC, and thus exempt from most listing and disclosure requirements, and are subject to guidelines based on minimal governance standards under ISS’ FPI Policy or, otherwise, guidelines for the relevant regional or market policy.)

 

1. OPERATIONAL ITEMS

Financial Results/Director and Auditor Reports

 

General Recommendation: Vote for the approval of financial statements and director and auditor reports, unless:

 

There are concerns about the accounts presented or audit procedures used; or
The company is not responsive to shareholder questions about specific items that should be publicly disclosed.

Appointment of Auditors and Auditor Fees

 

General Recommendation: Vote for the (re)election of auditors and/or proposals authorizing the board to fix auditor fees, unless:

 

There are serious concerns about the procedures used by the auditor;
There is reason to believe that the auditor has rendered an opinion which is neither accurate nor indicative of the company’s financial position;
External auditors have previously served the company in an executive capacity or can otherwise be considered affiliated with the company; and
Fees for non-audit services exceed standard annual audit-related fees.

In circumstances where fees for non-audit services include fees related to significant one-time capital structure events (initial public offerings, bankruptcy emergencies, and spinoffs) and the company makes public disclosure of the amount and nature of those fees, which are an exception to the standard “non-audit fee” category, then such fees may be excluded from the non-audit fees considered in determining the ratio of non-audit to audit fees.

For concerns related to the audit procedures, independence of auditors, and/or name of auditors, ISS may recommend against the auditor’s (re)election. For concerns related to fees paid to the auditors, ISS may recommend against remuneration of auditors if this is a separate voting item; otherwise ISS may recommend against the auditor election.

Appointment of Internal Statutory Auditors

General Recommendation: Vote for the appointment or (re)election of statutory auditors, unless:

 

There are serious concerns about the statutory reports presented or the audit procedures used;

 

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Questions exist concerning any of the statutory auditors being appointed; or
The auditors have previously served the company in an executive capacity or can otherwise be considered affiliated with the company.

Allocation of Income

General Recommendation: Vote for approval of the allocation of income, unless:

 

The dividend payout ratio has been consistently below 30 percent without adequate explanation or in the absence of positive shareholder returns; or
The payout is excessive given the company’s financial position.

Stock (Scrip) Dividend Alternative

General Recommendation: Vote for most stock (scrip) dividend proposals.

Vote against proposals that do not allow for a cash option unless management demonstrates that the cash option is harmful to shareholder value.

Amendments to Articles of Association

General Recommendation: Vote amendments to the articles of association on a case-by-case basis.

Change in Company Fiscal Term

General Recommendation: Vote for resolutions to change a company’s fiscal term unless a company’s motivation for the change is to postpone its AGM.

Lower Disclosure Threshold for Stock Ownership

General Recommendation: Vote against resolutions to lower the stock ownership disclosure threshold below 5 percent unless specific reasons exist to implement a lower threshold.

Amend Quorum Requirements

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to amend quorum requirements for shareholder meetings on a case-by-case basis.

Transact Other Business

General Recommendation: Vote against other business when it appears as a voting item.

 

2. BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Director Elections

General Recommendation: Vote for management nominees in the election of directors, unless:

 

Adequate disclosure has not been provided in a timely manner;
There are clear concerns over questionable finances or restatements;
There have been questionable transactions with conflicts of interest;
There are any records of abuses against minority shareholder interests;
The board fails to meet minimum corporate governance standards;

 

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There are specific concerns about the individual, such as criminal wrongdoing or breach of fiduciary responsibilities; or
The company does not comply with market legal requirements for minimum board independence, or does not have at least one independent board member, whichever is higher.

Vote against the election of directors at all companies if the name(s) of the nominee(s) is not disclosed in a timely manner prior to the meeting, and if the company does not comply with market legal requirements for minimum board independence or does not have at least one independent board member.

Under extraordinary circumstances, vote against individual directors, members of a committee, or the entire board, due to:

Material failures of governance, stewardship, risk oversight, or fiduciary responsibilities at the company;
Failure to replace management as appropriate; or
Egregious actions related to a director’s service on other boards that raise substantial doubt about his or her ability to effectively oversee management and serve the best interests of shareholders at any company.

Vote against individual directors, members of a committee, or the entire board due to a conflict of interest that raises significant potential risk, in the absence of mitigating measures and/or procedures.

For Foreign Private Issuers (FPIs), vote against non-independent nominees if:

The board is less than majority independent;
Non-independent nominees sit on any key committee(s); or
The company lacks any formal key committee(s).

For FPIs, generally vote against directors nominated by slate ballot.

ISS Classification of Directors - Americas Regional Policy

 

Executive Director

  Employee or executive of the company;
  Any director who is classified as a non-executive, but receives salary, fees, bonus, and/or other benefits that are in line with the highest-paid executives of the company.

Non-Independent Non-Executive Director (NED)

  Any director who is attested by the board to be a non-independent NED;
  Any director specifically designated as a representative of a significant shareholder of the company;
  Any director who is also an employee or executive of a significant shareholder of the company;
  Any director who is nominated by a dissenting significant shareholder, unless there is a clear lack of material[5] connection with the dissident, either currently or historically;
  Beneficial owner (direct or indirect) of at least 10 percent of the company’s stock, either in economic terms or in voting rights (this may be aggregated if voting power is distributed among more than one member of a defined group, e.g., family members who beneficially own less than 10 percent individually, but collectively own more than 10 percent), unless market best practice dictates a lower ownership and/or disclosure threshold (and in other special market-specific circumstances);
  Government representative;
  Currently provides (or a relative[1] provides) professional services[2] to the company, to an affiliate of the company, or to an individual officer of the company or of one of its affiliates in excess of $10,000 per year;
  Represents customer, supplier, creditor, banker, or other entity with which the company maintains transactional/commercial relationship (unless company discloses information to apply a materiality test[3]);
  Any director who has conflicting or cross-directorships with executive directors or the chairman of the company;
  Relative[1] of a current employee of the company or its affiliates;

 

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  Relative[1] of a former executive of the company or its affiliates;
  A new appointee elected other than by a formal process through the General Meeting (such as a contractual appointment by a substantial shareholder);
  Founder/co-founder/member of founding family, but not currently an employee;
  Former executive (five-year cooling off period);
  Years of service is generally not a determining factor unless it is recommended best practice in a market and/or in extreme circumstances, in which case it may be considered.[4]
  Any additional relationship or principle considered to compromise independence under local corporate governance best practice guidance.

Independent NED

  No material[5] connection, either directly or indirectly, to the company (other than a board seat) or the dissenting significant shareholder.

Employee Representative

  Represents employees or employee shareholders of the company (classified as “employee representative” but considered a non-independent NED).

Footnotes:

[1] “Relative” follows the definition of “immediate family members” which covers spouses, parents, children, stepparents, step-children, siblings, in-laws, and any person (other than a tenant or employee) sharing the household of any director, nominee for director, executive officer, or significant shareholder of the company.

[2] Professional services can be characterized as advisory in nature and generally include the following: investment banking/financial advisory services; commercial banking (beyond deposit services); investment services; insurance services; accounting/audit services; consulting services; marketing services; and legal services. The case of participation in a banking syndicate by a non-lead bank should be considered a transaction (and hence subject to the associated materiality test) rather than a professional relationship.

[3] A business relationship may be material if the transaction value (of all outstanding transactions) entered into between the company and the company or organization with which the director is associated is equivalent to either 1 percent of the company’s turnover or 1 percent of the turnover of the company or organization with which the director is associated. OR, A business relationship may be material if the transaction value (of all outstanding financing operations) entered into between the company and the company or organization with which the director is associated is more than 10 percent of the company’s shareholder equity or the transaction value, (of all outstanding financing operations), compared to the company’s total assets, is more than 5 percent.

[4] For example, in continental Europe, directors with a tenure exceeding 12 years will be considered non-independent. In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong and Singapore, directors with a tenure exceeding nine years will be considered non-independent, unless the company provides sufficient and clear justification that the director is independent despite his long tenure.

[5] For purposes of ISS’ director independence classification, “material” will be defined as a standard of relationship financial, personal, or otherwise that a reasonable person might conclude could potentially influence one’s objectivity in the boardroom in a manner that would have a meaningful impact on an individual’s ability to satisfy requisite fiduciary standards on behalf of shareholders.

    

Contested Director Elections

General Recommendation: For contested elections of directors, e.g. the election of shareholder nominees or the dismissal of incumbent directors, ISS will make its recommendation on a case-by-case basis, determining which directors are best suited to add value for shareholders.

The analysis will generally be based on, but not limited to, the following major decision factors:

Company performance relative to its peers;
Strategy of the incumbents versus the dissidents;

 

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Independence of directors/nominees;
Experience and skills of board candidates;
Governance profile of the company;
Evidence of management entrenchment;
Responsiveness to shareholders;
Whether a takeover offer has been rebuffed;
Whether minority or majority representation is being sought.

When analyzing a contested election of directors, ISS will generally focus on two central questions: (1) Have the dissidents proved that board change is warranted? And (2) if so, are the dissident board nominees likely to effect positive change? (i.e., maximize long-term shareholder value).

Discharge of Directors

General Recommendation: Generally vote for the discharge of directors, including members of the management board and/or supervisory board, unless there is reliable information about significant and compelling controversies as to whether the board is fulfilling its fiduciary duties, as evidenced by:

 

A lack of oversight or actions by board members that invoke shareholder distrust related to malfeasance or poor supervision, such as operating in private or company interest rather than in shareholder interest; or
Any legal proceedings (either civil or criminal) aiming to hold the board responsible for breach of trust in the past or related to currently alleged actions yet to be confirmed (and not only the fiscal year in question), such as price fixing, insider trading, bribery, fraud, and other illegal actions; or
Other egregious governance issues where shareholders will bring legal action against the company or its directors.

For markets that do not routinely request discharge resolutions (e.g. common law countries or markets where discharge is not mandatory), analysts may voice concern in other appropriate agenda items, such as approval of the annual accounts or other relevant resolutions, to enable shareholders to express discontent with the board.

Director, Officer, and Auditor Indemnification and Liability Provisions

General Recommendation: Vote proposals seeking indemnification and liability protection for directors and officers on a case-by-case basis.

Vote against proposals to indemnify external auditors.

Board Structure

General Recommendation: Vote for proposals to fix board size.

Vote against the introduction of classified boards and mandatory retirement ages for directors.

Vote against proposals to alter board structure or size in the context of a fight for control of the company or the board.

 

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3. CAPITAL STRUCTURE

Share Issuance Requests

General Issuances

General Recommendation: Vote for issuance requests with preemptive rights to a maximum of 100 percent over currently issued capital.

Vote for issuance requests without preemptive rights to a maximum of 20 percent of currently issued capital.

Specific Issuances

General Recommendation: Vote on a case-by-case basis on all requests, with or without preemptive rights.

Increases in Authorized Capital

General Recommendation: Vote for non-specific proposals to increase authorized capital up to 100 percent over the current authorization unless the increase would leave the company with less than 30 percent of its new authorization outstanding.

Vote for specific proposals to increase authorized capital to any amount, unless:

The specific purpose of the increase (such as a share-based acquisition or merger) does not meet ISS guidelines for the purpose being proposed; or
The increase would leave the company with less than 30 percent of its new authorization outstanding after adjusting for all proposed issuances.

Vote against proposals to adopt unlimited capital authorizations.

Reduction of Capital

General Recommendation: Vote for proposals to reduce capital for routine accounting purposes unless the terms are unfavorable to shareholders.

Vote proposals to reduce capital in connection with corporate restructuring on a case-by-case basis.

Capital Structures

General Recommendation: Vote for resolutions that seek to maintain or convert to a one-share, one-vote capital structure.

Vote against requests for the creation or continuation of dual-class capital structures or the creation of new or additional super voting shares.

 

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Preferred Stock

General Recommendation: Vote for the creation of a new class of preferred stock or for issuances of preferred stock up to 50 percent of issued capital unless the terms of the preferred stock would adversely affect the rights of existing shareholders.

Vote for the creation/issuance of convertible preferred stock as long as the maximum number of common shares that could be issued upon conversion meets ISS guidelines on equity issuance requests.

Vote against the creation of a new class of preference shares that would carry superior voting rights to the common shares.

Vote against the creation of blank check preferred stock unless the board clearly states that the authorization will not be used to thwart a takeover bid.

Vote proposals to increase blank check preferred authorizations on a case-by-case basis.

Debt Issuance Requests

General Recommendation: Vote non-convertible debt issuance requests on a case-by-case basis, with or without preemptive rights.

Vote non-convertible debt issuance requests on a case-by-case basis, with or without preemptive rights.

Vote for the creation/issuance of convertible debt instruments as long as the maximum number of common shares that could be issued upon conversion meets ISS guidelines on equity issuance requests.

Vote for proposals to restructure existing debt arrangements unless the terms of the restructuring would adversely affect the rights of shareholders.

Pledging of Assets for Debt

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to approve the pledging of assets for debt on a case-by-case basis.

Increase in Borrowing Powers

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to approve increases in a company’s borrowing powers on a case-by-case basis.

Share Repurchase Plans

General Recommendation: Generally vote for market repurchase authorities (share repurchase programs) if the terms comply with the following criteria:

 

A repurchase limit of up to 10 percent of outstanding issued share capital;

 

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A holding limit of up to 10 percent of a company’s issued share capital in treasury (“on the shelf”); and
A duration that does not exceed market practice.

Authorities to repurchase shares in excess of the 10 percent repurchase limit will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. ISS may support such share repurchase authorities under special circumstances, which are required to be publicly disclosed by the company, provided that, on balance, the proposal is in shareholders’ interests.

In such cases, the authority must comply with the following criteria:

A holding limit of up to 10 percent of a company’s issued share capital in treasury (“on the shelf”); and
A duration of no more than 18 months.

In markets where it is normal practice not to provide a repurchase limit, ISS will evaluate the proposal based on the company’s historical practice. However, ISS expects companies to disclose such limits and, in the future, may recommend a vote against companies that fail to do so. In such cases, the authority must comply with the following criteria:

A holding limit of up to 10 percent of a company’s issued share capital in treasury (“on the shelf”); and
A duration of no more than 18 months.

In addition, ISS will recommend against any proposal where:

The repurchase can be used for takeover defenses;
There is clear evidence of abuse;
There is no safeguard against selective buybacks; and/or
Pricing provisions and safeguards are deemed to be unreasonable in light of market practice.

Reiss uance of Repurchased Shares

General Recommendation: Vote for requests to reissue any repurchased shares unless there is clear evidence of abuse of this authority in the past.

Capitalization of Reserves for Bonus Issues/Increase in Par Value

General Recommendation: Vote for requests to capitalize reserves for bonus issues of shares or to increase par value.

 

4. COMPENSATION

Compensation Plans

General Recommendation: Vote compensation plans on a case-by-case basis.

Vote against a stock option plan, or an amendment to the plan, if:

The maximum number of shares to be issued under the proposed plan is not disclosed; and/or
The company has not disclosed any information regarding the key terms of the proposed stock option plan.

For FPIs, vote against a stock option plan, or an amendment to the plan, if:

The total cost of the company’s equity plans is unreasonable;
The plan expressly permits repricing;
A pay-for-performance misalignment is found;
The company’s three year burn rate exceeds the burn rate cap of its industry group;

 

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The plan has a liberal change-of-control definition; or
The plan is a vehicle for problematic pay practices.

Where the design and disclosure levels of equity compensation plans are not comparable to those seen at U.S. companies, the plans will be evaluated according to the Americas Regional Proxy Voting Guidelines.

Director Compensation

General Recommendation: Vote for proposals to award cash fees to non-executive directors unless the amounts are excessive relative to other companies in the country or industry.

Vote non-executive director compensation proposals that include both cash and share-based components on a case-by-case basis.

Vote proposals that bundle compensation for both non-executive and executive directors into a single resolution on a case-by-case basis.

Vote against proposals to introduce retirement benefits for non-executive directors.

 

5. OTHER ITEMS

Reorganizations/Restructurings

General Recommendation: Vote reorganizations and restructurings on a case-by-case basis.

Mergers and Acquisitions

General Recommendation: Vote case-by-case on mergers and acquisitions taking into account the following:

For every M&A analysis, ISS reviews publicly available information as of the date of the report and evaluates the merits and drawbacks of the proposed transaction, balancing various and sometimes countervailing factors including:

Valuation - Is the value to be received by the target shareholders (or paid by the acquirer) reasonable? While the fairness opinion may provide an initial starting point for assessing valuation reasonableness, ISS places emphasis on the offer premium, market reaction, and strategic rationale.
Market reaction - How has the market responded to the proposed deal? A negative market reaction will cause ISS to scrutinize a deal more closely.
Strategic rationale - Does the deal make sense strategically? From where is the value derived? Cost and revenue synergies should not be overly aggressive or optimistic, but reasonably achievable. Management should also have a favorable track record of successful integration of historical acquisitions.
Conflicts of interest - Are insiders benefiting from the transaction disproportionately and inappropriately as compared to non-insider shareholders? ISS will consider whether any special interests may have influenced these directors and officers to support or recommend the merger.
Governance - Will the combined company have a better or worse governance profile than the current governance profiles of the respective parties to the transaction? If the governance profile is to change for the worse, the burden is on the company to prove that other issues (such as valuation) outweigh any deterioration in governance.

 

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Vote against if the companies do not provide sufficient information upon request to make an informed voting decision.

Mandatory Takeover Bid Waivers

General Recommendation: Vote proposals to waive mandatory takeover bid requirements on a case-by-case basis.

Reincorporation Proposals

General Recommendation: Vote reincorporation proposals on a case-by-case basis.

Expansion of Business Activities

General Recommendation: Vote for resolutions to expand business activities unless the new business takes the company into risky areas.

Related-Party Transactions

General Recommendation: In evaluating resolutions that seek shareholder approval on related-party transactions (RPTs), vote on a case-by-case basis, considering factors including, but not limited to, the following:

 

The parties on either side of the transaction;
The nature of the asset to be transferred/service to be provided;
The pricing of the transaction (and any associated professional valuation);
The views of independent directors (where provided);
The views of an independent financial adviser (where appointed);
Whether any entities party to the transaction (including advisers) is conflicted; and
The stated rationale for the transaction, including discussions of timing.

If there is a transaction that ISS deemed problematic and that was not put to a shareholder vote, ISS may recommend against the election of the director involved in the related-party transaction or the full board.

Antitakeover Mechanisms

General Recommendation: Generally vote against all antitakeover proposals, unless they are structured in such a way that they give shareholders the ultimate decision on any proposal or offer.

Shareholder Proposals

General Recommendation: Vote all shareholder proposals on a case-by-case basis.

Vote for proposals that would improve the company’s corporate governance or business profile at a reasonable cost.

Vote against proposals that limit the company’s business activities or capabilities or result in significant costs being incurred with little or no benefit.

 

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6. FOREIGN PRIVATE ISSUERS LISTED ON U.S. EXCHANGES

Foreign private issuers (“FPIs”) are defined as companies whose business is administered principally outside the U.S., with more than 50 percent of assets located outside the U.S.; a majority of whose directors/officers are not U.S. citizens or residents; and a majority of whose outstanding voting shares are held by non-residents of the U.S.

Companies that are incorporated outside of the U.S. and listed solely on U.S. exchanges, where they qualify as FPIs, will be subject to the following policy:

General Recommendation: Vote against (or withhold from) non-independent director nominees at companies that fail to have the following: a majority-independent board; standing audit, compensation, and nominating committees, each composed entirely of independent directors. Where the design and disclosure levels of equity compensation plans are comparable to those seen at U.S. companies, U.S. compensation policy will be used to evaluate the compensation plan proposals. In all other cases, equity compensation plans will be evaluated according to ISS’ Americas Regional Proxy Voting Guidelines.

All other voting items will be evaluated using the relevant ISS regional or market proxy voting guidelines

 

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This document and all of the information contained in it, including without limitation all text, data, graphs, and charts (collectively, the “Information”) is the property of Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS), its subsidiaries, or, in some cases third party suppliers.

The Information has not been submitted to, nor received approval from, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission or any other regulatory body. None of the Information constitutes an offer to sell (or a solicitation of an offer to buy), or a promotion or recommendation of, any security, financial product or other investment vehicle or any trading strategy, and ISS does not endorse, approve, or otherwise express any opinion regarding any issuer, securities, financial products or instruments or trading strategies.

The user of the Information assumes the entire risk of any use it may make or permit to be made of the Information.

ISS MAKES NO EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE INFORMATION AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF ORIGINALITY, ACCURACY, TIMELINESS, NON-INFRINGEMENT, COMPLETENESS, MERCHANTABILITY, AND FITNESS for A PARTICULAR PURPOSE) WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE INFORMATION.

Without limiting any of the foregoing and to the maximum extent permitted by law, in no event shall ISS have any liability regarding any of the Information for any direct, indirect, special, punitive, consequential (including lost profits), or any other damages even if notified of the possibility of such damages. The foregoing shall not exclude or limit any liability that may not by applicable law be excluded or limited.

 

LOGO

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Global Leader In Corporate Governance

www.issgovernance.com

 

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LOGO                 

 

Canada

Proxy Voting Guidelines

for TSX-Listed Companies

 

2017 Benchmark Policy Recommendations

 

Effective for Meetings on or After February 1, 2017

 

Published January 12, 2017

 

www.issgovernance.com

© 2017 ISS | Institutional Shareholder Services

 

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

1.

  ROUTINE/MISCELLANEOUS   134
 

AUDIT-RELATED

  134
 

Financial Statements/Director and Auditor Reports

  134
 

Ratification of Auditors

  134
 

OTHER BUSINESS

  134

2.

  BOARD OF DIRECTORS   135
 

VOTING ON DIRECTOR NOMINEES IN UNCONTESTED ELECTIONS

  135
 

Fundamental Principles

  135
 

TSX Listing Requirements

  136
 

Slate Ballots (Bundled Director Elections)

  136
 

ISS Canadian Definition of Independence

  137
 

Board Structure and Independence

  139
 

Insiders on Key Committees

  140
 

Audit Fee Disclosure

  141
 

Excessive Non-Audit Fees

  142
 

Persistent Problematic Audit Related Practices

  142
 

Director Attendance

  142
 

Overboarded Directors

  143
 

Former CEO/CFO on Audit/Compensation Committee

  144
 

Voting on Directors for Egregious Actions

  144
 

Board Responsiveness

  145
 

Unilateral Adoption of an Advance Notice Provision

  146
 

OTHER BOARD-RELATED PROPOSALS

  147
 

Classification/Declassification of the Board

  147
 

Independent Chair (Separate Chair/CEO)

  147
 

Majority of Independent Directors/Establishment of Committees

  148
 

Majority Vote Standard for the Election of Directors

  148
 

Proxy Access

  148
 

Proxy Contests - Voting for Director Nominees in Contested Elections

  148

3.

  SHAREHOLDER RIGHTS & DEFENSES   149
 

Advance Notice Requirements

  149
 

Enhanced Shareholder Meeting Quorum for Contested Director Elections

  150
 

Appointment of Additional Directors Between Annual Meetings

  151
 

Article/By-law Amendments

  151
 

Cumulative Voting

  152
 

Confidential Voting

  153
 

Poison Pills (Shareholder Rights Plans)

  153
 

Reincorporation Proposals

  155
 

Supermajority Vote Requirements

  156

4.

  CAPITAL/RESTRUCTURING   156
 

Mergers and Corporate Restructurings

  156
 

Increases in Authorized Capital

  156

 

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Private Placement Issuances

  157
 

Blank Cheque Preferred Stock

  158
 

Dual-class Stock

  158
 

Escrow Agreements

  159

5.

  COMPENSATION   159
 

EXECUTIVE PAY EVALUATION

  159
 

ADVISORY VOTE ON EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION (SAY-ON-PAY) MANAGEMENT PROPOSALS

  159
 

Pay for Performance Evaluation

  161
 

Problematic Pay Practices

  162
 

Board Communications and Responsiveness

  164
 

EQUITY-BASED COMPENSATION PLANS

  164
 

Plan Cost

  166
 

Overriding Negative Factors

  167
 

Plan Amendment Provisions

  167
 

Non-Employee Director (NED) Participation

  169
 

Repricing Options

  170
 

OTHER COMPENSATION PROPOSALS

  170
 

Individual Grants

  170
 

Employee Stock Purchase Plans (ESPPs, ESOPs)

  171
 

Management Deferred Share Unit (DSU) Plans

  172
 

DIRECTOR COMPENSATION

  172
 

Non-Employee Director (NED) Deferred Share Unit (DSU) Plans

  172
 

Problematic Director Compensation Practices

  173
 

SHAREHOLDER PROPOSALS ON COMPENSATION

  174
 

Shareholder Advisory Vote Proposals

  174
 

Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan (SERP) Proposals

  174

6.

  SOCIAL/ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES   175
 

Global Approach

  175

 

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1. ROUTINE/MISCELLANEOUS

Audit-Related

Financial Statements/Director and Auditor Reports

Companies are required under their respective Business Corporations Acts (BCAs) to submit their financial statements and the auditor’s report, which is included in the company’s annual report, to shareholders at every Annual General Meeting (AGM). This routine item is almost always non-voting.

Ratification of Auditors

General Recommendation: Vote for proposals to ratify auditors unless the following applies:

 

Non-audit (“other”) fees paid to the auditor > audit fees + audit-related fees + tax compliance/preparation fees.

Rationale: National Instrument 52-110 - Audit Committees defines “audit services” to include the professional services rendered by the issuer’s external auditor for the audit and review of the issuer’s financial statements or services that are normally provided by the external auditor in connection with statutory and regulatory filings or engagements.

The instrument also sets out disclosure requirements related to fees charged by external auditors. Every issuer is required to disclose in its annual information form, with a cross-reference in the related proxy circular, fees billed by the external audit firm in each of the last two fiscal years. These fees must be broken down into four categories: Audit Fees, Audit-Related Fees, Tax Fees, and All Other Fees.

ISS recognizes that certain tax-related services, e.g. tax compliance and preparation, are most economically provided by the audit firm. Tax compliance and preparation include the preparation of original and amended tax returns, refund claims, and tax payment planning. However, other services in the tax category, e.g. tax advice, planning, or consulting fall more into a consulting category. Therefore, these fees are separated from the tax compliance/preparation category and are added to the Non-audit (Other) fees for the purpose of determining whether excessive non-audit related fees have been paid to the external audit firm in the most recent year.

In circumstances where “Other” fees include fees related to significant one-time capital restructure events (for the purpose of this policy such events are limited to initial public offerings, emergence from bankruptcy, and spinoffs) and the company makes public disclosure of the amount and nature of those fees which are an exception to the standard “non-audit fee” category, then such fees may be excluded from the non-audit fees considered in determining whether non-audit fees are excessive.

Other Business

General Recommendation: Vote against all proposals on proxy ballots seeking approval for unspecified “other business” that may be conducted at the shareholder meeting as shareholders

 

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cannot know what they are approving.

 

2. BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Voting on Director Nominees in Uncontested Elections

Fundamental Principles

Four fundamental principles apply when determining votes on director nominees:

Board Accountability: Practices that promote accountability and enhance shareholder trust begin with transparency into a company’s governance practices (including risk management practices). These practices include the annual election of all directors by a majority of votes cast by all shareholders, affording shareholders the ability to remove directors, and providing detailed timely disclosure of voting results. Board accountability is facilitated through clearly defined board roles and responsibilities, regular peer performance review, and shareholder engagement.

Board Responsiveness: In addition to facilitating constructive shareholder engagement, boards of directors should be responsive to the wishes of shareholders as indicated by majority supported shareholder proposals or lack of majority support for management proposals (including election of directors). In the case of a company controlled through a dual-class share structure, the support of a majority of the minority shareholders should equate to majority support.

Board Independence: Independent oversight of management is a primary responsibility of the board. While true independence of thought and deed is difficult to assess, there are corporate governance practices with regard to board structure and management of conflicts of interest that are meant to promote independent oversight. Such practices include the selection of an independent chair to lead the board, structuring board pay practices to eliminate the potential for self-dealing, reducing risky decision-making, ensuring the alignment of director interests with those of shareholders rather than the interests of management, and structuring separate independent key committees with defined mandates. Complete disclosure of all conflicts of interest and how they are managed is a critical indicator of independent oversight.

Board Capability: The skills, experience, and competencies of board members should be a priority in director selection, but consideration should also be given to a board candidate’s ability to devote sufficient time and commitment to the increasing responsibilities of a public company director. Directors who are unable to attend board and committee meetings and/or who are overboarded (i.e., serving on too many boards) raise concern regarding the director’s ability to effectively serve in shareholders’ best interests.

 

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TSX Listing Requirements

Under Part IV of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) Company Manual, issuers are required to provide for the annual election of directors by individual ballot and to promptly and publicly disclose the votes received for the election of each director following the meeting.

In addition, effective June 30, 2014, issuers were required to adopt a majority voting director resignation policy1 providing that:

If director receives less than a majority of votes for his or her election, the director will be required to submit his or her resignation to the board for consideration;
The board will accept the resignation absent exceptional circumstances; and
The company will promptly issue a public statement with the board’s decision regarding the director’s resignation. If the board does not accept the resignation the statement must fully state the reasons for that decision.

Slate Ballots (Bundled Director Elections)

General Recommendation: Generally vote withhold for all directors nominated only by slate ballot at the annual/general or annual/special shareholders’ meetings. This policy will not apply to contested director elections.

Rationale: Slate ballots are contrary to best practices within the Canadian market. Affording shareholders the ability to individually elect directors allows shareholders to better articulate concerns by voting withhold for those specific directors deemed to be associated with significant concerns.

Individual director elections are required for companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

 

 

1 Controlled companies are exempt from this requirement.

 

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ISS Canadian Definition of Independence

 

   1. Inside Director (I)
  1.1. Employees of the company or its affiliatesi.
  1.2. Non-employee officer of the company or its affiliatesi if he/she is among the five most highly compensated.
  1.3. Current interim CEO or any other current interim executive of the company or its affiliatesi.
  1.4. Beneficial owner of company shares with more than 50 percent of the outstanding voting rights (this may be aggregated if voting power is distributed among more than one member of a group)ii.

 

   2. Affiliated Outside Director (AO)

Former/Interim CEOiii

  2.1. Former CEO of the company or its affiliatesi within the past five yearsiv or of an acquired company within the past five years.
  2.2. Former interim CEO of the company or its affiliatesi within the past five yearsiv if the service was longer than 18 months or if the service was between 12 and 18 months and the compensation was high relative to that of the other directors or in line with a CEO’s compensationv at that time.
  2.3. CEO of a former parent or predecessor firm at the time the company was sold or split off from the parent/predecessor within the past five yearsiv.

Non-CEO Executivesiii

  2.4.