On the link below, you can download S&P's report comparing "global financial literacy" in various countries. (See definition below.) S&P asked four simple questions about things like "how interest works" and ranked countries based on the percent of correct responses. At 41%, Japan has a relatively low score among developed nations, which ranks it just above Italy in most respects.
ICGN submitted a response to the call for comments to improve the corporate governance of listed companies in Japan. This includes comment on independent directors, accounting fraud and audit committees, procedures for class actions, translation of disclosure documents and caution around special class ‘Model AA’ shares.
The largest proxy advisory firm in the world, ISS, has issued its policy for proxy voting in Japan and other Asian countries for 2016.
"Overview -- In recent years, a small but growing number of companies have held annual shareholder meetings exclusively online or provided for online participation. Some of the early-adopting companies that decided to switch to an annual shareholder meeting held exclusively in cyberspace (without a physical meeting of shareholders happening simultaneously) received objections from investors and negative publicity, and this topic continues to be debated in corporate governance circles.
Stephen Bohrer, an M&A lawyer at Nishimura & Asahi, recently gave this presentation at a seminar in Palo Alto on the top five issues to consider when conducting M&A due diligence in Japan (in comparison to US transactions).
ITEM NAME: Corporate Engagement: Enhanced Focus List Strategy
PROGRAM: Global Governance and Global Equity
ITEM TYPE: Total Fund – Information
"Japan now again seems to be breaking out of the doldrums it has been in since the early 1990s. Even though the daily news makes one wonder, I retain my optimism and faith, based on some six decades of studying Japan and watching it grow and evolve. I have addressed this theme in previous essays, and despite the subsequent ups and downs, I believe it applies today.
"To ensure its voting policies take into consideration the perspectives of the corporate governance community and the views of its institutional clients, ISS gathers broad input each year from institutional investors, issuers, and other market constituents through a variety of channels and mediums. Following the release last month of its 2016 policy survey results, ISS is now making available for public comment certain proposed voting policies for 2016.
" ...BUT THIS VOTING SEASON has turned into a big disappointment. Despite ISS’ shareholder-rights campaign, the presidents of Japan’s top 200 companies received median voting support of 96.6%—a 0.5 percentage point rise from 2014. Even the president of Toshiba (6502.Japan), which lost a third of its market value from an accounting scandal and write-downs, got a 94% approval rating. Some 76% and 91% of investors voted against dividend hikes and share buybacks, respectively.
From the just-issued Viewpoint: "The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) applauds the Government of Japan (GOJ) for the implementation of the Stewardship Code for institutional investors and the Corporate Governance Code (the “Governance Code”) during the past year.