Issuers should disclose consulting contracts with proxy advisors

Leading US mutual fund manager Oppenheimer Funds has written to the SEC supporting improved disclosure of commercial relationships which might create a conflict of interest.

In a Sept.24 letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission commenting on the SEC’s proposed new rules entitled “Proxy Disclosure and Solicitation Enhancements,” OppenheimerFunds said it supports the Commission’s efforts to “enhance transparency to investors around the use of compensation consultants by publicly-held corporate issuers” and calls for greater disclosure of compensation-related consulting by proxy advisory firms. … Read the rest

Guest Column: FairPensions makes the case for RI

This month’s guest article has been written by Catherine Howarth, CEO of FairPensions.

Corporate governance reform isn’t perhaps the most glamorous area of public policy for your ordinary man or woman on the street. Indeed it’s easy to forget how vital it is to the long-term well-being of millions of citizens, particularly those of us with a money purchase (DC) pension plan. … Read the rest

NBIM turns up the heat on governance

One of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, Norway’s $325 billion oil fund, has written to Volskwagen AG expressing its “deep concern” about the Porsche merger saying the deal favors the Porsche and Piech families which together own 51 percent of VW. … Read the rest

Press Update: Executive Pay

The Manifest/MM&K Total Remuneration Survey 2009 was published this week. Here is the press coverage it has received so far:

Bloomberg: Chief executive officers at Britain’s leading 100 companies received pay increases last year even as the FTSE 100 Index fell the most on record and may be handed more this year after the stock market rally, a study said.… Read the rest

Retailers slated over poverty wages

Labour rights campaigners have accused leading British retailers of trapping their overseas garment workers in poverty. In a report published by anti-poverty charity War on Want and NGO Labour Behind the Label, Asda and Matalan are accused of lacking any coherent strategy to ensure a living wage for people who make their clothes abroad.… Read the rest

Audit conflicts – more consultation

Consultations and accounting news appears to be a bit like London buses, there’s not one for ages and then three of them arrive all at once. This week the FRC got busy with a slew of announcments, notably the Auditing Practices Board (APB) looking for input on the vexed issue of non-audit work for auditors.… Read the rest

CSR standards out for review

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has issued its draft international standard for social responsibility ISO 26000. The guidance in ISO 26000 draws on best practices developed by existing public and private sector social responsibility initiatives, according to ISO.

ISO 26000 has been drawn up in consultation with many of the leading CSR thinkers and has been designed to be consistent with the declarations and conventions set out by the U.N.… Read the rest

Regulator best practices – do we need more harmonisation?

It’s interesting to compare and contrast the approach taken by securities regulators in relation to complaints and investigations. Last week the Swiss regulator, SIX Exchange Regulation, announced that it had begun an investigation into possible breaches of the Directive on Ad hoc Publicity and the Directive on Information relating to Corporate Governance by UBS AG.… Read the rest

SEC sends in the proxy plumbers

The SEC has reaffirmed its commitment to reform the US proxy voting system. In a speech to Chicago’s Northwestern University School of Law on October 2nd Commissioner Elisse B. Walter outlined the SEC’s position on the mechanics of shareholder voting: “To further our goal of improved corporate governance, our staff is also taking an in-depth look into proxy voting mechanics (such as over and empty voting) and shareholder communications issues (including the “NOBO/OBO” distinction), a project we refer to as “Proxy Plumbing.Read the rest

Manifest wins voting disclosure battle against Ryanair

In early September, Manifest filed a complaint with the Irish Stock Exchange against Ryanair regarding a breach of their obligations under the Listing Rules. We noted that while Provision D.2.2 of the Combined Code recommends disclosure of the proxies lodged at general meetings on a website, that Ryanair had failed to do so.… Read the rest

Who should drive governance reforms – courts or shareholders?

Dell, the world’s second largest PC maker has agreed strengthen its accounting and corporate governance rules as part of a settlement tied to an investigation into its past accounting procedures. At the same time it will will also pay $1.75 million in legal fees according to a settlement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.… Read the rest

Icelandic police raid KPMG and PwC Reykjavik offices

The government investigator charged with examining the collapse of the three Icelandic banks, Ólafur Þór Hauksson, has confirmed that 22 policemen and six French and Norwegian accountants have raided the offices of KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Reykjavik, seizing documents and computer data as part of an investigation into alleged criminal activity.… Read the rest