Talkin' Baseball and Proxy Statements Again: Compensation Risk and Director Qualifications Revisited
(The following post originally appeared on ONSecurities, a top Minnesota legal blog founded by Martin Rosenbaum to address securities, governance and compensation issues facing public companies.)
October 7, 2010
In the hope that it will bring the Minnesota Twins better luck in their upcoming trip to Yankee Stadium, I am providing this link to my post from March 29, 2010, entitled: “Talkin' Baseball, Joe Mauer and Proxy Statements: Hypothetical Disclosures of Compensation Risk and Qualifications.” In the post, I included “hypothetical” proxy statement language, as if Joe Mauer were the CEO of a public company. The language was meant to illustrate the following disclosures, which were required this year for the first time for public companies in their proxy statements:
- A discussion of compensation-related risk under Item 402(s) of Regulation S-K, required if compensation is determined to create material risks. Of course, the “hypothetical” disclosure focused on the merits and risks of Joe’s then-newly signed $184 million contract.
- A discussion of the qualifications of each member of the board of directors, including their special qualifications and skills. Of course, the “hypothetical” set of reasons read, in full, as follows: “HE’S JOE MAUER.”
Comment: In preparing for the upcoming proxy season, companies should focus anew on these sections of the proxy statement, even though they will generally be included for the second time:
- Whether or not the Item 402(s) risk disclosure is technically required, many companies have chosen to discuss the process used by the Board or the Compensation Committee to analyze compensation–related risks. These discussions often include an analysis of features of the compensation program that mitigate risks. Such a discussion of risk mitigation factors will likely be one factor considered by shareholders in evaluating whether to vote in favor of the Say-on-Pay resolution on the ballot at the 2011 annual shareholders meeting. Therefore, the risk mitigation factors should be emphasized in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis section of the proxy statement.
- The discussion of the qualifications of board members will take on added importance in future years (probably starting in 2012), when proxy access will likely give large long-term investors the ability to nominate director candidates and have them included in management’s proxy statement. It’s not too early to consider whether the reasons stated in the coming year’s proxy statement wlll provide shareholders a compelling reason to vote for management’s candidates in future years.