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Glass Lewis 2020 Guidelines Include Director Negative Recommendations Depending on SEC Staff’s Response Under Recently Updated Staff Shareholder Proposal No-Action Letter Policy

Glass Lewis (GL) has recently released its 2020 U.S. proxy season voting guidelines, which contain a few notable developments to consider in preparation for the upcoming proxy season.  These updates include changes related to the exclusion of shareholder proposals and company responsiveness to say-on-pay opposition, among other amendments, all of which are described in the sections that follow.

Exclusion of Shareholder Proposals

In September 2019, the SEC staff announced that it may sometimes respond orally, rather than in writing, to company requests to exclude a shareholder proposal from a proxy statement, and may also decline to state a view altogether (discussed in a Davis Polk Client Alert).
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Spencer Stuart Shows How Boards Are Transforming

The 2019 U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index (Index) reflects the board practices and trends of S&P 500 companies. According to the Index, boards are responding to investors’ increasing calls for greater diversity of “gender, age, race/ethnicity and professional backgrounds.” Spencer Stuart found that “boards are accelerating the addition of women and minority directors,” which in turn is driving notable changes in board composition. Spencer Stuart predicts that the biggest drivers of board refreshment will be replacing retiring directors and adding new skills to the board.

The Index covers public companies in the S&P 500 as of May 15, 2019 and the proxy statements released between May 30, 2018 and May 15, 2019.
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How Does Your Audit Committee Disclosure Compare?

Deloitte and EY both recently published studies about audit committee disclosure in the proxy statements of the largest companies.  Deloitte examined the S&P 100 while EY concentrated on the Fortune 100.  This time of post-season review for most companies provides an opportunity to benchmark and consider additional audit committee disclosures for next year.

Disclosure about the audit committee.  Audit committees are increasingly providing information about their composition and responsibilities.  The vast majority of large companies have more than one audit committee financial expert, with 86% at S&P 100 companies and 83% at Fortune 100 companies (35% name two experts and 48% have three or more). 
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