The heart of proxy season is upon us with the majority of Annual General Meetings (AGMs) scheduled to take place over the next couple of months. These meetings will highlight shareholder votes on important issues such as the election of directors for the upcoming year and approval of the company’s auditors. In many cases, shareholders will also be voting on whether they approve or disapprove of the compensation provided to a company’s top executives (otherwise known as a “Say on Pay” vote) or re-approving a company’s equity compensation plans for employees. It is on these last two issues (Say on Pay and equity compensation plan approval) where a company’s disclosure on executive compensation can play a critical role in influencing the outcome of votes at the AGM.
In 1864, Herbert Spencer’s book, Principles of Biology, introduced the world to the phrase “survival of the fittest.” This phrase then sparked the ongoing argument surrounding competition and whether it is ingrained in human nature. So, it can be argued that if there is an opportunity to compare one thing to another, it is second nature for competition/comparisons to arise. In essence, once there is more than one of anything it is natural for competition/comparisons to surface.
It has been two eventful years since the Canadian federal government announced its plans to pass legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. In the U.S., over 80% of the states including California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have legalized recreational and/or medicinal use of marijuana at the state level. The California industry alone is projected to hit over $7 billion in a few years. This has led to a growing list of emerging companies in the cannabis space seeking financing through the public markets as they see the opportunity in building up their operations to cater to a significant spike in marijuana use now that it is legalized in Canada and more and more U.S. states are legalizing it in some form or fashion. While listing on exchanges in the United States can still be problematic due to the current U.S. federal ban, Canadian stock exchanges have provided a reputable market for cannabis shares with companies listing on the TSX Venture Exchange and Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE). Certain Canadian listed companies have also been able to dual-list their shares on the NYSE such as Canopy Growth, Aurora Cannabis and Aphria with others such as CannTrust currently in the process of listing in New York. This is providing greater exposure of these stocks to institutional investors and index funds.
The clock struck midnight on December 31st, ringing in the start of a new year. While most companies work to finalize their audited financial statements in the next month or two, they also need to be aware of other important tasks required in the months ahead. This includes the calculation, review and approval of Annual Incentive payouts for 2018 as well as the review and approval of any adjustments to Base Salary, Target Annual Incentive and Long-Term Incentive opportunities for 2019. Once these approvals are made, companies must figure out how they are going to communicate the executive compensation decisions made for 2018 and potentially what shareholders can expect for compensation in 2019, to shareholders. This information is provided through a company’s Form DEF 14A in the United States or its Canadian equivalent, the Management Information Circular, also referred to as the proxy circular. Specifically, the Compensation Discussion & Analysis (“CD&A”) section is where the majority of information can be found.
Peter Gillin is a Corporate Director who currently serves on the Boards of several public companies, including: Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd., Sherritt International Corporation, Dundee Precious Metals Inc., TD Mutual Funds Corporate Class Ltd. and Wheaton Precious Metals Inc. He was a Director of HudBay Minerals, Inc., and was Vice Chair of N.M. Rothschild & Sons Canada Limited, an investment bank. Peter was President and CEO of Zemex Corporation and Chairman and CEO of Tahera Diamond Corporation.
Fifty years. That's how long it has been since Japanese manufacturers introduced the world to “just-in-time” production methods. Toyota is credited as the initial birthplace of this methodology, which is aimed primarily at reducing flow times within production systems as well as response times from suppliers and customers. A huge aspect of this process is understanding production schedules and timelines and making sure that inputs, resources and parts are supplied and readily available.
One of the many responsibilities for Boards of Directors is to hire and oversee the compensation and performance of the top executive within their organization. As well, Boards are responsible for establishing the organization's long-term strategic direction. Embracing the “just-in-time” approach and applying it to human capital management will allow Boards to anticipate what executive skills and characteristics are needed, at each stage of their strategic plans.
This year’s FIFA World Cup highlights the importance of using defense to create a top-notch offense. The same can be said for Boards of Directors. The board’s best offense is a good defense, and good defense starts with a great fundamental base. That base, in the world of compensation, is the Compensation Philosophy, and that philosophy needs to mirror the business strategy of the company.