While overseas investors’ ownership decreased a year ago, activist investors are now likely to focus on Japanese companies. Corporate governance in Japan has improved since the Corporate Governance Code was introduced in June of 2015, but progress is much slower than foreign investors hoped. At this time, we analyze the relationship between % ownership held by overseas investors and key governance criteria. The following table shows the result of our regression analysis of the 13 governance factors that METRICAL uses as criteria and two performance measures, ROE and ROA. Of the 15 factors, 14 factors are significantly correlated with level of ownership by overseas investors.
When you squint closely at the facts, not as much as you might think. Mostly, it is the difference between individual self-dealing and collective self-dealing.
As corporate policy, many Japanese companies re-hire their executive directors as “advisors (“sodanyaku” or “komon“) immediately after they retire from the board. The re-hiring occurs automatically, and the work expected from such “advisors” in their contracts (if any) is usually vague to the point of being non-existent.
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.
On July 12, 2019, I gave a presentation about Work Style Reform in Japan at a seminar organized by the Japan America Society of Washington DC in the beautiful meeting room of the Groom Law Group. The talking points in my presentation were the background of the reform (political background and male dominated office), the major points of amendment to laws, the problems and keys to improving productivity, the young generation’s view of employment activity and work-life balance, protection for non-regular employees, and some implications to businesses in Japan. The questions and opinions raised by the participants were as follows.
Many companies set the fiscal year to end at the end of March and hold their AGM in June. Those companies file Yuho financial reports by the end of June. According to the Yuho reports, we are able to lots of new data at this time. Among the data, in this post we will focus on ”policy stock” holdings, also known as “allegiant shareholdings”.
The average holding of “policy stocks” was JPY34,861 million for 1,775 companies, which has come down 13.7% from JPY40,389 million a year as the average of the 1,794 companies in our universe. Of course, we should carefully analyze these numbers, but the decrease of the stock holding was larger than the change in the stock index Topix for the same period. The Topix fell 7.3% from 1,716.30 on March 31 2018 to 1,591.64 on March 31 2019.
A total of 719 companies listed on the TSE that close books in March, or 31 percent of the total, held shareholder meetings on June 27th, marking the peak day of this year’s season for such gatherings.
On June 14th, 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.
Chair of the Board of Directors
We would like to highlight the function of the chair of the board. Of about 1,800 companies, only 27 companies are chaired by an outside director. This indicates just how resistant inside directors are in entrusting the position of chair of the board to an outside director. The table below shows the 27 companies.
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”:
Out of more than 700 defined-benefit corporate pension plans in Japan, only five non-financial corporate pension plans have signed the SC. Second, a major portion of Japan’s asset owners are the companies themselves, in the form of direct “policy holdings” of the shares issued by other companies. Japan’s dual walls of “conflicted pension governance” and “allegiant shareholders” need to be torn down. Here is how it can be done.