On February 12th, BDTI held its English Director Boot Camp , attended by a number of highly experienced participants. Participants from various companies heard lectures about corporate governance by Nicholas Benes and Andrew Silberman of AMT, and exchanged experiences and opinions at a spacious, comfortable room kindly donated for our use by Cosmo Public Relations, a leading communications and PR firm in Tokyo.
By Nicholas Benes
The short story: it will not be so hard if institutional shareholders really want to topple it, and use the technique suggested here. But first, the background.
This is still the biggest defect of Japan’s equity market, and recent reforms have only made a small dent in it. At the average listed company, between 35% and 50% of the stock is owned by such holders if one includes not only firms in “cross-shareholding” relationships but also firms that unilaterally hold stock in order to win business; most holdings by
banks and insurance companies; and parent companies, subsidiaries, and affiliates. Consistent with this estimate, when Japanese listed companies were asked, “what percent of your shareholders can you count to support management?” in late 2017, fully more than two-thirds of companies responded with numbers in the 30-60% range.
These “policy holdings” by “stable shareholders” represent a massive misallocation of capital that is being put at risk largely for the purpose of protecting executive teams at other companies. In 1967, Japan’s one of Japan’s most venerated managers and the founder of Panasonic, Konosuke Matsushita, minced no words in noting his concern about the then-recent rise of “stable” cross-shareholdings in these words: “If this situation continues, I think it is in no way desirable, because of the risk that once again a maldistribution of capital in our country will occur. I believe that this is not a sign of progress in capitalism; rather, it should be considered as a sign that we are moving backwards.”
The term governance refers to a system by which an organization is run. Corporate governance is the module for fixing a liability on corporate entity. Corporate Governance is the application of best Management Practices, Compliance of Laws in true letter and spirit and adherence to ethical standards for effective management and distribution of wealth and discharge of social responsibility for sustainable development of all stakeholders.
Frequent visitors to our blog are likely aware of Japan’s major corporate governance reforms, but not everyone is familiar with the story behind how these reforms were crafted. The eminent Steven K. Vogel (Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley), recently wrote a concise and easy-to-follow history of the major reforms to Japanese corporate governance practices since the 1990s, describing how and why they came to pass.
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As the person who initially proposed the Corporate Governance Code to the LDP in 2013 and 2014, I am well aware of its limitations in various areas. For this reason, I am very pleased that Fair M&A Study Group have decided that its discussions should cover not only MBOs, but also ”cases which are likewise significantly affected by the issues of conflict of interest and information asymmetry”, including “cases of acquisition of a controlled company by its controlling shareholder.”
This indeed an important mission, because these topics include virtually all types of M&A transactions and the public statements of executives and boards with regard to them. For many years in the post-war era, the failure of the government and the JPX/TSE to set forth clear bright-line rules that facilitate a fair, robust M&A market in Japan has stunted productivity, dynamism and growth in the Japanese economy.
Our joint research – “Linkage Between Corporate Governance and Value Creation” – between BDTI and METRICAL has been updated as of January 31. The most important inferences are summarized below.
(1) Correlations: Board Practices
Significant correlation between board practices and performance continues.
(a) ROE: Nominations Committee existence, the number of female directors and percentage of INEDs show a significant positive correlation.
(b) Tobins Q: Nominations Committee, retired top management “advisors” (ex-CEO “advisors”), and percentage of INEDs show
(c) ROA (actual): Compensation Committee existence (negative correlation), Incentive Compensation Plan disclosure, and retired top management (ex-CEO) serving as advisors show significant correlation.
曰く、株式会社は、社長や重役のものではなく、 株主のものであると同時に、社会の「公器」でもある。 決算期ごとに株主総会で業績を報告し、業績が良いモノは 株主から称賛とねぎらいの言葉を頂戴する。 充分な成果が上がらなかった時には、 謹んでお叱りを被る。これが、本来の姿であり、 株主は経営者の御主人である事を決して忘れてはならない。 株主は短期的な売買姿勢をとらず、むしろ「主人公」として毅然とした態度を保つ事が大事である。 単に株式を保有して配当を受け取るだけでなく、株主としての権威、見識をもって 経営者を叱咤激励する事も望ましい。（BDTIによる要約。以下は各出典本文から引用。）
NOTE: This public comment supersedes and replaces the one that I, Nicholas Benes, submitted on January 12, 2019)
As the person who initially proposed the Corporate Governance Code to the LDP in 2013 and 2014, and suggested a number of principles in it, I am well aware of its limitations in various areas and the fact that Japan has not yet attained the quality level for an equity market that is expected by global investors. In this sense I am very pleased that the JPX has decided to review its equity market structure and related standards.
Challenges and Realities
This indeed an important mission, for which is it essential to recognize and discuss the impact of a number of challenges that Japan faces in improving governance, efficiency, and trustworthiness of its equity capital markets. These challenges include:
(As submitted to the JPX on January 12, 2019)
There should be only two sections of the JPX: (1) a TSE Premium Section and (2) an Emerging Companies Section.
Listing on the Premium Section should have the following requirements in addition to the existing TSE1 listing criteria:
(a) a five-year average market capitalization exceeding 50 Billion yen; (b) the ratio of total “policy holding stocks” (seisakuhoyukabu, 政策保有株) to [net assets less cash equivalents（純資産ー現金等）] as of the most recent FYE “yuho” financial report (or the one submitted just after any AGM) must not be more than 15%（10% in 2022, and 5% in 2024); (c) use of the electronic voting platform; (d) convocation notices must be sent out by both post and electronic methods at least four weeks before each AGM; (e) production of financial reports, kessan tanshin, corporate governance reports, convocation notices, and jigyou hokokusho in both Japanese and English, in all cases using XBRL formats using the same XBRL tags as those used for the respective Japanese materials…