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).”
I recently gave a presentation in which I tried to answer this question. Here are the top-line conclusions:
- Investors are finding their voting voices
- Now they need to find to find their asking voices
- There is a way to tear down the “allegiant shareholder ” wall
- Factors that correlate with superior performance include: >= independent directors, low “allegiant” holdings, >15% female directors, and age of firm <45 years
- Activism is becoming more effective
These conclusions are based on a huge amount of time-series data we have collected. We are now building a comprehensive time-series database that includes not only financial data, but all text and numerical data from financial reports and CG Reports, as well as tabulated AGM voting results for each resolution. The data will be organized so that one can zero in on exactly the data one needs. Here is a simple example showing board practices parameters, historical AGM participation and CEO approval rates, and the trend of ownership of “allegiant shareholdings”:
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.
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.
BDTI and METRICAL collaborate on researching the linkage between CG practices sand value creation. We have recently released our updated analysis as of April 2018 for the roughly 1,800 publicly traded companies with market capitalization exceeding about JPY10 billion.
In this analysis, by examining board practices (CG guidelines, practices, and composition of the Board of Directors) and specific actions (real actions by a company) separately, we try to identify statistically significant correlations with financial performance measures (ROE, ROA, Tobin ‘s q) for each of these respectively – i.e, for, board practices and action respectively.
We have observed a certain degree of improvement in board practices since the introduction of the Corporate Governance Code. However, assuming that one of the key goals of the corporation is value creation, in order to improve the effectiveness of engagement and stewardship it is very important to regularly analyze the way in which such improvement (and specifically, which improvements) appears to lead to value creation.
We can summarize the results of our recent analysis as follows:
by Nicholas Benes (as an individual)
April 30, 2018
1. Regarding the Overall Revision Process
2. Regarding Principle 2-6 (Activating the Function of Corporate Pension Funds as Asset Owners)
3. Regarding Principle 1-4 (“Policy Shareholdings”)
4. Regarding Principles 4-1③,4-3② and 4-3③ (Appointment and Termination of the CEO)
5. Regarding Principle 4-10① (The Use of Optional Structures)
6. Regarding Principle 4-14 (Training of Directors and Kansayaku)
7. Regarding Revision of the Machine-Readable Format of Corporate Governance Reports
(Note: This is a translation of a public comment which was originally written in Japanese and submitted in that form to the JPX/TSE. The original version of the public comment is available here.)
1. Regarding the Overall Revision Process
I would like to express my thanks and appreciation for the hard work of the members of the Followup Committee with respect to this review of the Corporate Governance Code (the “CG Code”) . However,I would note that four years have elapsed since the initial drafting of the Code. As you know, in Germany there is a commission which monitors the effectiveness of the governance code on an ongoing basis, and proposes changes on a yearly basis if and as necessary.