More on “California Reports on Mandatory Women Directors”
Last week, Broc blogged about discrepancies in the first “board diversity” report that the California Secretary of State published under new Section 301.3(c) of the California Corporations Code. A Secretary staffer later spoke with Cooley’s Cydney Posner to explain why the report looks the way it does – here’s an excerpt from her blog:
First, in the methodology, the Secretary acknowledges that there are gaps in available data because of the various filing deadlines: Forms 10-K are due, generally depending on the size of the company’s public float, 60, 75 or 90 days after the end of the company’s fiscal year, and the deadline for filing the California Statement is 150 days after the end of the company’s fiscal year. Accordingly, in some cases, the representative indicated, companies that may have their principal executive offices in California may not have filed their 10-Ks or California Statements during the designated review period and, as a result, their data was not included. (But there still appeared to be some unexplained omissions from the lists.)
Second, according to the representative, because of the language in the statute defining “female” as “an individual who self-identifies her gender as a woman, without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth,” the Secretary is not reviewing 10-Ks or proxy statements to determine whether a company is compliant with the new board composition requirement. Rather, the Secretary is determining compliance based only on the California Statement, which, since March, has included a specific inquiry regarding the number of “female” directors.
Third, the California Statement is required to be filed by both foreign and domestic corporations and, if a company replied to the question regarding the number of female directors, even if it indicated that its principal executive offices were not located in California, the Secretary included that company on the compliant list; i.e., foreign corporations were not screened out. For the March update, the Secretary plans to provide a separate list of companies that report compliance but do not have principal executive offices located in California.
We should expect that some timing issues will continue to affect the March 1, 2020 update report. Notably, given the process the Secretary is following, current information from the California Statement regarding compliance for 2019 may not be available for the 2020 update report for companies with calendar-year FYEs, among others. For example, companies with calendar-year FYEs will have filed their California Statements in the first half of 2019, but if they do not add a female director and become compliant until, say, the third quarter of 2019, they will not have reported that compliance on their California Statements in time for the March 1, 2020 update (unless they were to file early). As of now, the Secretary does not intend to develop a new separate filing for purposes of soliciting the relevant information on board gender diversity on a more timely basis, but it can’t be ruled out. However, the Secretary does contemplate some revisions to the California Statement, currently expected to be in place by the beginning of 2020. Keep in mind also, that, no fines should be imposed until the Secretary adopts appropriate regulations, and my understanding is that the process of developing regulations has not yet begun.”
California won’t be the only state requiring reports on board diversity – the Illinois General Assembly recently passed its own “Diversity Disclosure Bill,” which will require companies headquartered in that state to include diversity info in annual reports filed with the Secretary of State. However, as this Vedder Price memo explains, the version of the statute that ultimately passed in the “Land of Lincoln” doesn’t mandate the inclusion of women or minorities on boards or fine companies that fail to achieve a statutory target, which had been part of the original bill. At the federal level, the House Financial Services Committee has also passed a couple bills on the topic…
-Liz Dunshee, TheCorporateCounsel.net July 18, 2019
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