Off-season shareholder engagement is always important, but this year it may be even more so with attention focused on social issues, company responses to the pandemic and related matters. As proxy seasons seem to be rolling from one right into the next, Teneo recently issued a memo titled “20 Imperatives for Fall 2020 Shareholder Engagement” to help companies prepare for upcoming off-season shareholder engagement and the 2021 proxy season.
The memo lists 20 topics and questions, primarily focused on diversity and executive compensation, and suggests companies prepare for Fall engagement by asking themselves those questions. Here are a few:
– Strategy: How are we reassessing and resetting our strategy, business, brand, and reputation to align with the new normal? Over the medium and long term, the new normal may call for a different strategy, brand changes that mitigate inclusiveness concerns, or a reprioritization of business lines. Stakeholders will view the strategy through a new lens and expect companies to do the same.
– Diversity Goals: Should we set and disclose concrete diversity goals? The evolution of sustainability reporting has led to the practice of companies setting and disclosing concrete goals, typically relating to the environment. It is less common for companies to set and disclose any goals relating to social issues. However, the current environment could prompt investor calls for goal setting on this issue as well.
– Consistent Grant Values: How will our year-over-year grant values be perceived by investors? Maintaining year-over-year grant values during periods of extreme stock price volatility poses a unique set of challenges. While lowering annual grant values may raise retention and motivation concerns, proxy advisors and many shareholders expect lower grant date values when the stock price is low, as granting more shares has a dilutive effect. The recent stock market rally has only increased the scrutiny of significant gains from equity awards at the height of the pandemic.
-Lynn Jokela, CompensationStandards.com July 9, 2020
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