MM&K News

  • October 18, 2018

    How do not-for-profits design their long-term incentives?

    MM&K investigated the LTIP policies for 59 of the largest not-for-profit organisations to answer this question.

    Our sample consists of Charities, Housing Associations, Co-operatives, Building Societies, Mutual Insurance companies and Education Establishments (Universities and College Groups). It is important to note that the vast majority of these organisations do not operate an LTIP. Policy data is publicly available for 16 companies, which we have analysed.

    Firstly, we found that the performance measures are very specific to the individual organisation. This contrasts with what we see in many listed companies, which often have very similar designs of LTIPs within certain sectors, especially the performance measures. For example, Oil & Gas exploration and production companies will often place a heavy weighting on a TSR based target. In contrast, in not-for profit companies the performance measures vary greatly; examples include return on capital, revenue, profit and net debt to EBITDA ratio. There are a few measures we do see recurring – such as employee engagement and customer service, but even these only occur in just over half of the companies we looked at.

    This isn’t the only way in which the designs differ from listed companies. All the not-for-profit plans are cash-based (as there aren’t any shares available!) whereas it is much more common for listed companies to award shares through their LTIPs. Also, the earnings opportunity is generally more modest, with exceptions such as Liverpool Victoria offering a maximum opportunity of 300% of salary to its CEO.

    In all cases, awards are granted annually and vest over a period of three years, a paradigm often seen in listed companies’ LTIP designs. We found only two cases in which an additional deferral/holding period is required. This is where the company defers the award for a further period of time (usually between one and three years), with no further performance conditions, a practice that is rapidly becoming the norm among listed companies.

    For further information contact harry.mccreddie@mm-k.com

  • October 18, 2018

    Negative Feedback is Good for You

    It is curious how many technical expressions slip into the common language with a meaning entirely different from their true meaning – and often opposite.

    A couple of examples are “epicentre” and “lowest common denominator”.  People commonly use “epicentre” to mean the very heart of the centre.  The press might report “Tottenham was the epicentre of the London riots in summer 2011”. Users of the word clearly think that there is something especially central about the epicentre.  But the word is borrowed from seismology and refers to earthquakes.  The epicentre is the point on the surface of the Earth above (usually some miles above), the place deep underground, where the rock slip happened.

    The lowest common denominator of a set of numbers is the lowest number that all the numbers in the set will divide into exactly.  By definition it is as high as or higher than all the numbers in the set.  If it is borrowed as a metaphor it should mean the best in the set.  But people don’t mean that at all; they mean the lowest in the set, the slowest vessel in the convoy. lowest sounds appropriately disparaging.

    Another expression misused in management is “negative feedback”.  It is used to mean giving people performance feedback which criticises. as opposed to praising them.  “You did a great job in that project but (points one to ten…)”

    “Negative feedback has a very specific meaning in systems design.  A common example is in electronic amplification. By taking a small amount of the output of the amplifier, reversing the polarity and feeding it back into the input stage, the signal becomes stabilised. If ever you have held a microphone too near a loud-speakers you will know what positive feedback does – the system starts screaming.  Negative feedback damps down the system output and ensures a high quality output.

    It occurred to me that performance reviewers do, unconsciously, provide negative feedback in the true meaning of the expression. They tell the appraisee the opposite of the truth to keep them on the rails.  You don’t say “you did a total lousy job” even if they did.  You say, you missed your targets, but the strategy report you wrote was good.  Why? Because we want to keep them motivated.

    On the other hand, to the successful appraisee we don’t say “you did a fantastic job, the best we ever saw”.  We don’t want it going to their head.  So we tone it down – “you did well, but here are some areas you could improve”. In other words, we tell a few white lies – we give negative feedback.  We are not taught to do this – it’s something we pick up in the process of managing effectively.  The important thing, however, is not to overdo it.  Otherwise the appraisee will be confused.  There are some famous stories about people who went into a meeting with the boss where he (women don’t make this mistake) was supposed to be firing them, and who came out thinking they had been promoted, he was so lavish with his praise!

    For advice on Performance Management systems contact damien.knight@mm-k.com

  • September 27, 2018

    When is an employees’ share scheme not an employees’ share scheme?

    The answer is: when it’s an Inclusive Ownership Fund (IOF).

    Few would disagree that an engaged workforce delivers greater productivity or that offering shares to employees creates direct engagement with the financial and economic performance of the business. But proposals announced at the Labour Party Conference this week that would require companies employing more than 250 people to set aside up to 10% of their shares to be held in an IOF fall short of the mark. In common with many proposals from political parties, a shortage of detail raises a number of questions.

    Shares will be held collectively – who bears the cost of transferring shares to an IOF? Shares cannot be traded; individual employees will not enjoy the full benefits of share ownership – who will be the legal owner and who benefits from any capital growth? Voting will be in the hands of fund representatives – will they be subject to the same requirements to disclose how they have engaged with and taken account of the interests of the workforce as boards of directors will be under recent changes to corporate governance codes and regulation? The extent of an individual employee’s rights will be to receive dividends capped at £500 per year – any excess going to the Government.

    This has been variously described as part nationalisation of the private sector and a tax on private sector companies. The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/23/labour-private-sector-employee-ownership-plan-john-mcdonnell referred to the proposals as “a new levy on private business”. Concerns have been raised about the potential adverse effect on investment in the UK, on productivity and employment if businesses curtail recruitment, go private/private equity owned or relocate overseas.

    Whilst the upside is limited, it has to be said that there appears to be little downside for employees in Labour’s proposals. But if Labour’s motive is to promote wider share ownership, engagement and alignment, a framework already exists read more

    For more information about employee share plans, executive pay and corporate governance, please contact: Paul Norris paul.norris@mm-k.com or Damien Knight damien.knight@mm-k.com

  • September 27, 2018

    How will Remuneration Committees cope with their expanded remit?

    Changes to UK corporate governance guidance and disclosure regulations introduced this summer have expanded the remit of remuneration committees. The effects reach beyond quoted companies. We have designed a programme to help navigate through the added complexity.

    The UK Corporate Governance Code (UKCGC), applicable to companies with a premium listing in London, now requires remuneration committees to have delegated responsibility for setting remuneration for senior managers. It goes further, requiring remuneration committees to review workforce remuneration and related polices and the alignment of incentives and rewards with culture, and to take these into account when setting executive remuneration policy.

    Regulations made under the Companies Act, which govern the content of the Directors’ Report, Strategic Report and Directors’ Remuneration Report (DRR), will require enhanced disclosures. Some of the changes will affect all companies, depending on size but only quoted companies are required to publish a DRR. Most of the changes come into force for financial years starting on or after 1 January 2019, so their effect will not be seen until the annual reports published in 2020 are available. However, some committees may wish voluntarily to comply in their 2019 annual report to test the water.

    The objective is greater clarity about actions taken, the reasons why they were taken and their effect on key decisions made during the year to which the relevant report relates. Specifically in relation to the DRR, remuneration committees will have to make additional disclosures about read more

    For more information about remuneration committee training programmes, please contact: Paul Norris paul.norris@mm-k.com, Damien Knight damien.knight@mm-k.com or Stuart James stuart.james@mm-k.com

     

  • September 27, 2018

    Commons Committee on the tail of the fat cats again

    The Commons Committee is chasing a myth again. Its chair, Rachel Reeves, has told the Mail on Sunday that the Committee is going to ramp up its attack on fat cats this autumn. She believes that executive pay is increasing at a rate that vastly exceeds increases for ordinary employees and which seemingly is at odds with the value created in the Company. Damien Knight shows that neither part of this belief is true. But fat cat pay is too easy a target for the press to leave it alone. Read more or for more information contact damien.knight@mm-k.com

     

  • September 27, 2018

    Governance landscape at a glance “the most eventful year in history”

    2018 has been, probably, the most eventful year in UK history on remuneration governance. The year saw the culmination of the Government’s wide initiative on corporate governance reform, with a revised UK Corporate Governance Code published by the FRC in July and new corporate disclosure regulations approved by Parliament in June. This was supplemented by a revised corporate governance code from the Quoted Companies Alliance in April and the draft of new governance principles for private companies from the Wates committee.

    In addition we have had the reports on the first gender pay gap disclosure by companies, and a new AIM rule requiring all AIM-listed companies to publish by the end of September details of the recognised corporate governance code they intend to adopt and their level of compliance.

    Starting from last December we have now had two reports from the Investor Association of the voting “name and shame list”, showing AGM resolutions that fail to gain more than 80% of the votes. Read more

    For more information contact: damien.knight@mm-k.com

  • September 17, 2018

    SEC rescinds guidance providing regulatory support for using proxy advisors

    On Thursday 13th September, the SEC rescinded two guidance letters from 2004 in a move that will potentially reduce the influence that ISS has on, among other things, Say-on-Pay votes.

    These guidance letters informed investment managers that outsourcing their proxy voting decisions to proxy advisors would satisfy their obligations as fiduciaries to vote their shares while avoiding potential conflicts of interest with regards to companies whose funds they may be managing. For example, if Vanguard has proxies to vote for a company in one of its index funds, and that company also uses Vanguard in managing its pension fund, Vanguard could conceivably be influenced by its business relationship with that company to vote with management on the proxy matters. By essentially delegating to ISS or Glass-Lewis the votes on its shares in that company, Vanguard would be “cleansed” of potential allegations of conflict, based on the 2004 letters. With that guidance rescinded, Vanguard and others can choose to vote according to their own determination of the merits of each proxy resolution, which may or may not correspond to proxy advisor recommendations.

    Critics of these SEC guidance letters have argued that they effectively institutionalized proxy advisory firms, especially ISS, as de facto regulators without the oversight required of actual regulators, and that over-reliance on such firms may not be in investors’ best interests.

    ISS’s business model is arguably built largely on regulatory requirements, especially the 2003 SEC rule mandating that investment managers disclose their proxy voting policies (and votes) and the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act mandating Say-on-Pay, among other provisions. Many of the larger institutional investors have built internal governance expertise to guide voting decisions, using ISS data to help them screen companies to target, while smaller funds have generally found it more cost effective to meet these requirements by essentially outsourcing their votes to ISS. The larger firms, however, have also outsourced many of their votes due, in part, to the 2004 guidance letters because they are more likely to sell investment management to the companies that they also invest in.

    Research indicates that ISS has gained significant influence over shareholder voting and, consequently, on corporate governance policies. As their influence has grown, ISS’s dominance has been increasingly challenged by public companies and certain governance critics who have focused on ISS’s own potential conflicts of interest and the quality of the research and standards behind their recommendations.

    Following more recent SEC guidance for casting their votes in their client’s best interest should provide investment managers a strong basis for defending their voting decisions, even as they reduce their reliance on proxy advisors. The impact of this rescission is not expected to be very significant in terms of how investors generally oversee compensation governance. But it does portend continued push-back on ISS’s influence as the SEC prepares for its November roundtable on potential regulation of proxy advisors.

    However, the outcome is uncertain. Our advice from s UK proxy advisor is that the drafting of the original letters was poor, and the SEC may well issue new guidance.

    For more information contact: damien.knight@mm-k.com or paul.norris@mm-k.com

  • August 30, 2018

    Investment Association register of AGM votes 2018

    On 30 August the Investment Association published its analysis of voting in the 2018 AGM season. Company resolutions are added to the register if they fail to achieve an 80% vote in favour.
    The picture is rather confused. For all listed companies the number of resolutions not achieving the hurdle dropped from 68 in 2017 to 61 in 2017. But the number in the FTSE 100 doubled from 9 to 18.

    Most of the “failed” failed votes were for the advisory vote on remuneration implementation. Only 12 in total concerned the remuneration policy. This is remarkable in a year when many companies would have been coming back to shareholders to renew the policy since the three year validity would now be up.

    The poor showing of a relatively small number of FTSE 100 companies is indicative of the intention of institutional investors to go after the high profile cases – WPP, Persimmon, BT. It is no indication of a general breakdown in corporate governance: indeed the improved general voting this year suggests practice is improving.

    For more information contact damien.knight@mm-k.com

  • August 29, 2018

    Pay Ratios Disclosure Regulations

    Which companies do the pay ratio requirements apply to?
    Quoted companies (not AIM companies) with >250 UK employees (average no. over the financial year). This includes all UK employees who have a contract of service with the company, regardless of hours worked, although it is the FTE pay figure that is used.
    The draft regulations provide a ‘smoothing provision’ in paragraph 19B which provides for a two-year time lag before a company either drops out of, or is covered again, by the pay ratio disclosure requirement.

    What are companies required to do?
    Report in tabular form within their annual Directors’ Remuneration Report the ratio of their CEO’s latest Single Total Figure Remuneration to the 25th, 50th and 75th percentile of the company’s UK employees’ FTE remuneration.
    Underneath the ratios table, companies must provide some supporting information and an explanation, including:
    • the methodology chosen for calculating the ratios;
    • the reason(s) for any changes to the ratios compared to the previous year;
    • in the case of the median ratio, whether, and if so why, the company believes this ratio is consistent with the company’s wider policies on employee pay, reward and progression.

    How many years of pay ratio reporting should be included in the table?
    Going forward, the pay ratios table should cover a ten-year reporting period. The disclosure will build in the table incrementally to a ten-year period, with only one set of ratios therefore being disclosed in the first year of disclosure.

    The three methods/options for calculating the pay ratio
    The three options (A, B or C) essentially boil down to where the company gets their data from; collect it specifically for this purpose, use of gender pay gap data or use of other pre-existing data.

    Option A

    1. Calculate (on a day no earlier than three months before the end of the relevant financial year) the pay and benefits for every UK employee for the relevant financial year;
    2. Identify the employees whose pay and benefits places them at the 25th, 50th and 75th percentiles;
    3. Compare to the CEO to obtain the ratios.

    Option B (use of gender pay gap information)

    1. Use the most recent gender pay gap information to identify three UK employees whose remuneration place them at the 25th, 50th and 75th percentiles.
    2. Calculate these employees’ pay and benefits for the relevant financial year;
    3. Make any necessary adjustments to the pay and benefits identified in step 2 (e.g. if an employee identified using gender pay gap information receives an atypical variable pay in the relevant financial year);
    4. Compare to the CEO to obtain the ratios.

    Option C (use of other pre-existing pay data)

    1. Use pre-existing pay information for UK employees as an alternative to, or in combination with, gender pay gap information.

    More detailed information can be found in The Companies (Miscellaneous Reporting) Regulations 2018 – FAQ: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/corporate-governance-new-reporting-regulations

    Or contact harry.mccreddie@mm-k.com for further information

  • July 16, 2018

    The Companies (Miscellaneous Reporting) Regulations 2018

    On 11 June the Government put before Parliament a substantial and important statutory instrument, “The Companies (Miscellaneous Reporting) Regulations 2018” (2018  Regulations) which gives effect to a wide range of corporate governance reporting improvements that BEIS has been working on ever since its Corporate Governance Green Paper of 29 November 2016 .  These make several amendments to existing disclosure regulations, and are potentially quite onerous. There are exemptions, however, depending on company size.  Regulation requirements:

    • Production of a full statement in the Strategic Report explaining how Section 172(1) of the 2006 Companies Act has been complied with, i.e. how directors have met their obligation to promote the success of the company with regard for the interests of or impact on various stakeholders, including employees – applies ONLY to large companies (over £36m turnover plus 250 employees and/or assets of £18m) – unquoted companies can publish this on the website).

    • Modifications to the director’s report (applies to large companies only)
    – A statement summarising how the directors have had regard to the need to foster business relationships with suppliers, customers and others and the effect of that regard
    – A comprehensive report on engagement with employees and its effect.  Applies to companies with more than 250 employees (no turnover or assets limit).

    • A statement of corporate governance arrangements including identifying the corporate governance code the company has chosen to apply in the year, how it has done so and reasons for departure from the code.  This applies from 1 January 2019 to all companies (public and private) with more than 2000 employees and/or turnover of £200m and assets of more than £2 Bn.  Note that in March the Stock Exchange brought in a broadly similar requirement for all AIM listed companies with no size exemption, to apply from 28 September. Unquoted and AIM companies are expected to use their websites for this purpose.

    • Several modifications to the Directors’ Remuneration Reporting Regulations (2013), including
    – explanation of discretion on pay awards
    – provision of data on the pay ratio of the CEO to the median employee – extended now to upper and lower quartile (for companies with more than 250 employees)
    – Impact of share price increase on the historical single figure of remuneration and on future pay as shown in the “scenario charts” for each director.

    These changes have been introduced, in part, to reinforce the application of the revised UK Corporate Governance Code, issued by the FRC on 16 July. Contact damien.knight@mm-k.com or paul.norris@mm-k.com for advice on implementing the new disclosure regulations.