Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Democratizing Canadian Corporate Governance

The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) recently posted a notice seeking feedback on some key shareholder democracy issues: slate voting for directors, majority election of directors, and shareholder voting on CEO pay ('say on pay').  Why are these issues important?  Well, imagine if you couldn't directly vote for your Member of Parliament, but had to vote for a group of members, including some candidates that you support, but some that you don't?  If you were dissatisfied with your representative, there would be no way of voting that person out of office without voting against the entire group.

Currently, some companies in Canada still adhere to slate voting for boards of directors.  This means the owners (i.e. voters) are forced to vote against the whole slate if they are dissatisfied with only one member.  It is totally inefficient.  Some companies also continue to allow directors to be elected even if they do not receive majority support from the shareholders.  This is an outdated practice that needs to be changed.  And finally, CEO pay has been outpacing the salary of the average citizen and in some cases has no bearing on corporate performance.   Allowing shareholders to vote to approve the CEO's pay check every year helps establish greater corporate accountability, and helps link executive compensation practices to shareholder expectations and corporate performance.

Here is my short but sweet submission calling for the OSC to strengthen corporate governance standards in Canada:

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Great Divestment Debate

I recently gave a keynote speech to the British Columbia Teachers' Federation Social Justice Committee on the topic of Pensions & Ethical Investing.  One of the issues I talked about was the issue of divestment and negative screening.  Its a controversial topic that often gets a lot of attention, and so I thought I would share some of my thoughts which I outlined in my speech.

I find that often when we talk about responsible investing, people get stuck on the issue of divestment.  They think that the ONLY way you can take a stand on an issue and be a responsible or ethical investor is by dumping your stock in the company in question.  This is problematic because divestment is positioned as a very black and white issue, when in fact there are many shades of gray.  There are many strategies available to responsible investors - such as ESG Integration, positive screening, and shareholder engagement (see my previous blog The ABCs of ESG for more information on these strategies).