Stock prices closed higher amid risk-on mood from the previous month. TOPIX and JPX400 market indices gained 0.10% and 0.08% respectively for the month. CG Top 20 stocks rose modestly by 0.04% for the same period.
This month METRICAL shows how the disclosure about ex-CEO advisors progresses from a year ago. As shown the table below, in October 2018, 829 companies of METRICAL research universe posted the number of ex-CEO advisors who remain a seat in a company after step-down of top management position. Of the companies, 474 companies own ex-CEO advisors. in October 2019, 894 companies posted the number of ex-CEO advisors who remain a seat in a company after step-down of top management position. Of 894 companies, 503 companies own ex-CEO advisors in October 2019.
For a year 65 more companies disclosed the information of ex-CEO advisors as of October 2019, while the number of companies of the universe decreased 10 for the same period….
My article on Japan’s unfinished reforms is online now. Lest the Abe administration and regulators “declare victory” when they are only half done, I describe seven specific measures that Japan needs to adopt in order to bring its market up to a global standard for a developed nation:
- Detailed rules for an independent committee
- A clear requirement for a majority of independent directors on the board
- Codifying the role and responsibilities of executive officers
- Consolidation of overlapping disclosure reports
- Protection of minority shareholder rights
- Enhancing transparency to reduce entrenchment and enhance inclusiveness
- Strengthening stewardship throughout the investment chain
I stress the reality that in all of these, strong political leadership from the Prime Minister and other senior parliamentarians will be needed. “Thus, is it essential that the Tokyo Stock Exchange (JPX/TSE) and the various regulatory agencies keep up reform momentum. However, one senses a desire from these groups to ‘declare victory’, and they have a tendency to not fully coordinate with each other. If Prime Minister Abe’s cabinet did more to make the key players coordinate their efforts in key areas, meaningful governance change (and protection of investors) would accelerate….
“Intensifying pressure to limit global temperature increases and prevent ecological disaster is mounting and corporations and investors — including those in Japan — have an urgent role to play.
That was a key message at the CDP Forum on Decarbonizing Management — Vision to Action held in Tokyo on Nov. 19.
“ ….The OECD notes that, despite the current slowdown, the expansion of the Japanese economy that began in late 2012 is the longest in Japan’s postwar history and is projected to continue through 2020. The Bank of Japan’s forecast is similar, with a pick-up in growth expected in Japan’s fiscal year 2021. Continued supportive monetary policy with very low interest rates and large-scale government bond purchases, together with increased public investment and spending to offset the effects of the sales-tax increase, are expected to maintain the expansion. The new U.S.-Japan trade deal and the anticipated elimination of the threat of U.S. automobile tariffs are positive developments. If the current optimism about progress in trade talks between the U.S. and China proves to be justified, Japan’s economy would benefit significantly from the positive effects on the Asia region….“
More than a quarter of assets under management (AUM) worldwide are invested in “sustainable” strategies, strategies that consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in pursuit of financial sustainability and/or environmental or social sustainability. Investors – both individual and institutional and at all wealth levels – are increasingly interested in integrating these strategies into their financial plans and investment portfolios, and asset managers and global financial institutions are embracing the approach and expanding related services and product offerings.
Interest in sustainable investing and sustainably invested AUM are growing rapidly in Japan. But despite this enthusiasm and growth, few mainstream investors, financial advisors, and investment consultants in Japan are embracing the practice.
In our July ratings, a more nuanced pictured emerged for Japanese companies. The significantly positive correlation of financial performance with the percentage of INEDs and the number of Female Directors disappeared this month, suggesting that an increasing number of non-superior performers are “copying” other companies in this respect, and/or have only only done so recently so no positive impact (should there be any) is discernible.
On January 31, 2019, the Cabinet Office Order on Disclosure of Corporate Affairs was amended, and the format of for securities reports was changed. With regard to the securities reports for the fiscal year ending March 2019, it is said that the employees in charge of dealing with the new format were put under considerable stress and extra work. The most troubling item was probably the section on executive compensation.
The revision of the Cabinet Office Order was made in response to the Financial Council Disclosure Working Group (DWG) report published on June 28, 2018. Mr. Carlos Ghosn was arrested in November of the same year, and executive compensation, which has been a subject of much debate for some time, once again disturbed the public mind. The new format, modified under these circumstances, calls for broader and detailed information disclosure. However, the top executives of many companies view disclosure of compensation as undesirable, because it has carries the potential for divisiveness or embarrassment. Mr. Ghosn’s false statement of compensation was attributable to this sense of aversion. Not only him, but also many other executives, desire as a basic human emotion to avoid disclosure of the amount of their compensation.
What were these two contradictory vectors, – requirements from Cabinet Office Order, and the company leaders’ intentions – reflected securities reports? Although we should wait for the thorough analysis on many securities reports published at the end of June 2019, in this article I would like to convey the initial impression that I obtained by surveying a few of them.
Does anyone have any theories as to why institutional investors that support director training in Japan are overwhelmingly foreign, and not Japanese?
The Board Director Training Institute of Japan (BDTI) was established as a “public interest” nonprofit in order to enable Japanese institutional investors to support something badly needed by their home market, director and governance training, on a tax-deductible basis…. so that such training could be offered at high quality yet low price, thereby spreading customs of governance/director training throughout Japan. However, after running BDTI for eight years since obtaining certification, we have noticed a disturbing but continuing reality: over time, more than 95% of BDTI’s donations from institutional investors have come from foreign institutions or fund managers, and less than 5% of donations to BDTI have come from Japanese institutions. Moreover, none of the Japanese institutional donors are “major” (top 30) investing institutions in Japan.
The Corporate Counselor – Insights into Japanese Corporate Law –
by Stephen D. Bohrer and Yusuke Urano, Nishimura & Asahi NY LLP
Summary: “Strategic investors owning more than 10% of the shares of a Japanese company often seek board appointment rights as a measure to protect their investment. Board appointment rights offer a strategic investor a number of significant benefits, such as permitting the strategic investor to obtain useful information about the business plans and key technologies of the company. Although the director nominated by a strategic investor could breach contractual commitments and fiduciary duties if such director relays certain confidential information to the strategic investor, it is inevitable in these arrangements that a strategic investor will obtain some key information that it ordinarily would not have obtained had its nominee not served as a director.
The receipt of confidential information is a double-edged sword for a strategic investor as such information can be very useful for investment monitoring and competitive purposes, but at the same time can result in a violation of Japanese securities laws if a strategic investor makes a purchase or sale while in possession of material non-public information (“MNPI”). Consequently, a strategic investor contemplating a securities transaction with a publicly traded portfolio company (a “Public Investee Company”) in which it has a nominee serving on the board should implement communication protocols to channel information flows to and from its director nominee and the Public Investee Company so the strategic investor does not breach Japanese securities laws (curiously, the prohibition under Japanese insider trading rules does not apply to a privately held company).”