FW Cook Authors

Profile image of Bindu M. Culas
Bindu M. Culas
Managing Director
New York, NY
Profile image of Samantha Nussbaum
Samantha Nussbaum
Los Angeles, CA
Profile image of Dina Bernstein
Dina Bernstein
Los Angeles, CA

Bindu Culas, Samantha Nussbaum and Dina Bernstein are former practicing lawyers who moved over to the consulting side of executive compensation several years ago. They have launched this blog to keep clients, colleagues, fellow practitioners, and others interested in this area up-to-date on market trends, regulatory developments, and the like. Thank you for reading. Any and all feedback is welcome. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

September 29, 2023

SEC Issues Additional Pay-Versus-Performance Guidance

On September 27th, the SEC issued 10 new Compliance & Disclosure Interpretations (CDIs) relating to the pay-versus-performance (PVP) disclosure rules. The new PVP CDIs supplement the 15 CDIs previously issued by the SEC on February 10, 2023.

By Bindu M. Culas, Michael Abromowitz

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August 21, 2023

Observations from FW Cook’s 2023 Report on ESG Measure Use in Incentive Plans

FW Cook conducted its fourth annual study on the use of ESG measures in annual and long-term incentive plans among the largest U.S. public companies. This year’s study indicates that the incorporation of ESG measures within incentive compensation plans among large cap companies has reached a plateau.

By Sara Salzbank, Elaine Yim

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July 13, 2023

Thought Leadership from FW Cook's CEO: Bespoke vs. Homogeneous Compensation Systems

Listed companies share a growing sense of frustration about the pressure to align with an artificial list of “best practices” defined by governance professionals who may not adequately understand the unique challenges facing a business.

By Daniel J. Ryterband, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

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June 9, 2023

Clawback Update—NYSE & Nasdaq Delay Effective Date to October 2, 2023

In a welcome development, the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market have amended their previously proposed listing standards to provide that the clawback listing standards mandated under the Dodd-Frank Act will become effective on October 2, 2023. Accordingly, NYSE and Nasdaq listed companies will have until December 1, 2023 (i.e., 60 days after the effective date) to adopt a compliant clawback policy.

By Bindu M. Culas, Managing Director

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May 3, 2023

Dodd-Frank Clawback Developments—Recent SEC Pronouncements Increase Likelihood that Companies Will Need to Adopt a Compliant Clawback Policy by August 8, 2023

Recent conversations between SEC staff and executive compensation practitioners suggest that the SEC is leaning toward treating June 11, 2023, as the date for final action (actually, June 9 since June 11 is a Sunday).  While practitioners have strongly lobbied for the SEC to delay action until the absolute deadline of November 28, 2023, the SEC so far appears unpersuaded.

By David Gordon, Dina Bernstein

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March 7, 2023

Dodd-Frank Clawback Developments - NYSE & NASDAQ Issue Proposed Listing Standards and SEC Issues Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations

On October 26, 2022, the SEC adopted a final rule (the “Clawback Rule”) with respect to the new clawback requirements mandated by section 954 of the Dodd-Frank Act.  A couple of recent developments with respect to the Clawback Rule merit brief mention.  

By David Gordon, Bindu M. Culas

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February 13, 2023

SEC Issues Guidance on Final Pay Versus Performance Rules

On February 10, 2023, the SEC issued much-awaited additional guidance  on how to implement the pay versus performance disclosure rules that were adopted on August 25, 2022.  While additional governmental guidance is generally welcome, the timing of this guidance at the beginning of “proxy season” presents a challenge as companies have had to forge ahead in the past few months and already made decisions with respect to the form and content of their PVP disclosures.  These decisions will now need to be revisited in many cases. 

By David Gordon, Dina Bernstein, Bindu M. Culas, Samantha Nussbaum

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January 3, 2023

ISS Releases 2023 Proxy Voting Guidelines and Compensation FAQs

Proxy advisor Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) published its 2023 Proxy Voting Guidelines, which include its benchmark policy changes with respect to U.S. executive compensation. The 2023 policy updates will become effective for meetings on or after February 1, 2023.

By Joe Sorrentino, Managing Director

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December 19, 2022

SEC Adopts Amendments Regarding Rule 10b5-1 Insider Trading Plans and Related Disclosures

On December 14, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted amendments regarding Rule 10b5-1 insider trading plans and related disclosures.

By Dina Bernstein, Samantha Nussbaum, Bindu M. Culas

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November 29, 2022

Glass Lewis Issues Updates to 2023 Policy Guidelines

In mid-November, Glass Lewis (“GL”) released its policy updates for shareholder meetings held after January 1, 2023.  Updates and clarifications to the United States and ESG Initiatives policy guidelines that impact GL’s evaluation of proposals related to Say-on-Pay, re-election of Compensation Committee members, and other compensation-related items are summarized in this blog.

By David Yang, James Lutz, Andrew Platt

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October 31, 2022

The SEC Issued Final Dodd-Frank Clawback Rules

On October 26, 2022, the SEC published final clawback rules to implement Section 954 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank). The rules, which were originally proposed in 2015, were adopted substantially as proposed and require companies to adopt policies for the recoupment of erroneously awarded incentive-based compensation in the event of a triggering restatement, regardless of whether the executive was at fault or engaged in any misconduct. 

By Dina Bernstein, Samantha Nussbaum

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October 27, 2022

Equity Awards Using a Relative Total Shareholder Return Metric May Be Worth Significantly More or Less Than You Think, Which Will Impact Next Year’s Pay Versus Performance Table

This blog follows up on our recent alert summarizing the new SEC rule generally requiring that a pay versus performance (PVP) table be added to proxy statements for fiscal years ending after December 15, 2022.  It presents a table constructed by Infinite Equity (with input from us) that may be of some interest to companies that issue long-term equity awards where the performance metric is relative total shareholder return (rTSR). 

By David Gordon, Kenneth H. Sparling, Andrew R. Lash

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August 26, 2022

SEC Finalizes “Pay versus Performance” Disclosure Rules

On August 25th, the SEC adopted final rules implementing the pay versus performance disclosure requirement as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. This is one of the most significant SEC developments in the executive compensation arena in the last decade.  Compliance in the first year will no doubt be a challenge for companies; especially around completely new requirements such as identifying the most important financial measures used to link pay and performance and calculating “actually paid” compensation.  We will be following up with a more detailed analysis of the rules in the near term.

By Samantha Nussbaum, Dina Bernstein

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August 25, 2022

2022 CEO Pay Ratio Among S&P 500 Companies

For the most recently reported fiscal year (2021), median CEO pay ratio for S&P 500 companies was 193:1, up from 181:1 for fiscal 2020, and 178:1 for fiscal 2019.

By Tyler Janney, James Lutz

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August 1, 2022

Recent SEC Proposal Would Make it More Challenging for Companies to Exclude Shareholder Proposals from Proxy Materials

On July 13, 2022, the SEC proposed amendments to the proxy rules that would narrow the basis on which companies may exclude shareholder proposals from their proxy statements.

By Samantha Nussbaum, Dina Bernstein

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July 25, 2022

Clawback Rules and Pay for Performance Disclosure Among Items on SEC’s 2022 Regulatory Flex Agenda

On June 22, 2022, the SEC released its upcoming rulemaking calendar, referred to as the 2022 Regulatory Flex Agenda. We note that final rules on two Dodd-Frank compensation-related items – listing standards for recovery of erroneously awarded compensation (i.e., the clawback rules) and pay for performance disclosure – are scheduled for October 2022.

By Samantha Nussbaum, Dina Bernstein

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April 27, 2022

Revisions to Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) Codes to be Implemented in March 2023

S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI, Inc. recently announced changes to the Global Industry Classification Standard (“GICS”) structure that will go into effect on March 17, 2023. 

By Jin Fu, Principal

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December 10, 2021

ISS and Glass Lewis Issue Updates to 2022 Policy Guidelines

ISS and Glass Lewis recently issued policy updates for the 2022 proxy season. Compensation policy updates mostly represent expansions on and/or clarifications of current practices including the restoration of many pre-COVID compensation-related voting policies and a change in ISS burn rate calculations effective for 2023.

By Joe Sorrentino, Managing Director

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December 7, 2021

New SEC Accounting Guidance on Valuation of Spring-Loaded Equity Compensation Awards

On November 29th, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 120 (“SAB 120”) regarding the valuation of “spring-loaded” awards to executives. SAB 120 updates previous SEC staff guidance under Topic 14: Share-Based Payments that are accounted for under Accounting Standards Codification Topic 718 - Stock Compensation.

By Stafford Schmidt, Rebecca Jordan

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November 15, 2021

ISS’ Peer Group Submission Window Now Open

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has announced that they are accepting updated self-selected peer group submissions from U.S. and Canadian companies with annual meetings between February 1, 2022 to September 15, 2022, and European companies with meetings between February 1, 2022 and January 31, 2023.

By Fiona Blumin, Rebecca Jordan, David Yang

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October 14, 2021

Impact of Market Dynamics on Peer Group Design

Compensation peer group composition has been a hot topic with our clients of late due to the impact of a variety of strategic factors, including: industry consolidation, uneven impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on companies, and blurring of lines between industries due to technology and digitalization.

By Matt Lum, Fiona Blumin, Rebecca Jordan

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October 1, 2021

Observations from FW Cook's CEO: ESG in Incentive Plans

Our clients are actively discussing how best to signal to investors and other stakeholders the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) objectives, and a variety of factors -- the global pandemic, climate change, social justice concerns -- are contributing to a rapid increase in the use of such metrics in executive incentive plans.

By Daniel J. Ryterband, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

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September 14, 2021

Compensation Tools to Address Retention Challenges of the COVID Recovery World

The nature of work has shifted rapidly over the past 18 months – and with it, battle lines in the war for talent. Pandemic actions that were initially implemented for safety, primarily work-from-anywhere policies, have fundamentally changed how employees view their relationships with employers.

By Marco Pizzitola, Erin Bass-Goldberg

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August 13, 2021

SEC Approves Nasdaq’s Board Diversity Rule

On August 6, 2021, the SEC approved Nasdaq’s Board Diversity Rule. The rule is the culmination of efforts initiated by Nasdaq in December 2020 to require Nasdaq-listed companies to publicly disclose information about the diversity makeup of boards of directors.

By Louis C. Taormina, Rebecca Jordan

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June 3, 2021

SEC staff to further consider proxy-voting rules

The SEC's division of corporation finance will not recommend enforcement actions related to last year’s proxy-voting advice and solicitation rules while the commission weighs the direction of additional regulatory action in this area.

By Samantha Nussbaum, Principal

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May 25, 2021

Halfway through 2021 Say-on-Pay Voting, S&P 500 Failures Approach All-Time High

Through May 13th, about half of S&P 500 companies (251 companies) have held their 2021 annual advisory shareholder vote on executive compensation (“Say-on-Pay”). Twelve companies have already failed, approaching the record number of failures (13 in 2012). S&P 500 companies in 2021 are on pace to double the 2020 Say-on-Pay failure rate (11 companies) and triple the failure rates from 2019 and 2018 (7 each).

By Daisy Laska, Thomas Kohn

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February 22, 2021

ISS ESG Releases Updates to Governance “QualityScore” Model

ISS recently released updates to its governance scoring model, ISS ESG Governance QualityScore (“QualityScore”), which monitors governance-related risk across four pillars: Audit & Risk Oversight, Board Structure, Compensation and Shareholder Rights.

By Daisy Laska, Rachel Gibbons

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February 2, 2021

Glass Lewis Publishes Policy Guidance on the Impacts of COVID-19

On January 26, Glass Lewis issued illustrative guidance on how the firm will apply its voting policies to executive compensation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The operating landscape for certain companies has shifted significantly due to the pandemic making supplemental policy guidance necessary.

By Caprice Herjavec, Hannah Reich, David Yang

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December 29, 2020

ISS Publishes 2021 FAQs on Compensation Policies and Equity Plans

ISS recently published its U.S. Equity Plan Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Compensation Policy FAQs for the 2021 proxy season. Outside of a change to the high concern threshold impacting one of ISS’ quantitative pay-for-performance screens, the FAQs do not contain material changes from the prior release of policy updates that were issued in November.

By Joe Sorrentino, Dana W. Etra

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November 30, 2020

ISS and Glass Lewis Issue Updates to 2021 Policy Guidelines

ISS and Glass Lewis recently issued policy updates for the 2021 proxy season.  The updates mostly represent expansions and/or clarifications of current policies.

By Hannah Reich, David Yang, Lanaye Dworak

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November 5, 2020

ISS Discontinues S&P 500 Proxy Report Draft Review Process

On November 2, 2020, Institutional Shareholder Services notified companies that, for shareholder meetings held on or after January 1, 2021, ISS will no longer provide U.S.-based, S&P 500 companies the opportunity to review a draft version of their proxy research reports.

By Cimi Silverberg, Caprice Herjavec

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October 20, 2020

ISS Publishes FAQs on the Impact of COVID-19

On October 15, ISS released preliminary FAQs to provide general guidance on how they intend to qualitatively evaluate pay actions in response to COVID-19.  Consistent with historical practice, an elevated concern from the quantitative screen will result in a more in-depth qualitative review of the company's pay programs and practices.  However, the qualitative evaluation will take into consideration the pandemic’s impact on company operations.

By David Yang, Joe Sorrentino

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October 5, 2020

Lessons Learned from Early Filers: Insights into Incentive Compensation Decisions in the COVID-19 Environment

FW Cook is actively tracking the year-end compensation decisions made by S&P 1500 companies with fiscal years ending in April, May and June as they publish their 2020 proxy statements to provide insight as to how calendar year companies may approach year-end decisions.  Preliminary findings indicate that use of positive discretion to increase payouts in the short- and long-term incentive plans just completed is limited. However, at the companies that have exercised such discretion, the increase in payouts is sizable.

By Ted Simmons, Tyler Janney

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September 29, 2020

ISS Publishes Policy Survey Results

On September 24, Institutional Shareholder Services published the results of its annual policy survey open to institutional investors and non-investors. Findings from the survey inform potential policy changes for the upcoming year. This summer’s survey collected compensation-related feedback on applying flexibility in compensation programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and incorporating metrics into incentive plans to address climate change risk.

By Michael J. Kenney, Principal

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May 4, 2020

Incentives in the Pandemic

While much of the focus today is on restarting segments of the economy and developing action plans to reopen businesses, history outside of corporate America teaches us important lessons on how incentives can play a role in driving effective outcomes. It shows us that incentives, not just rules, may be the solution businesses need.

By Michael R. Marino, Arthur H. Kohn, Michael Albano, Caroline F. Hayday, Howard Pianko, Ben Conley

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April 22, 2020

Continuing the Conversation with Dan Ryterband: COVID-19 Compensation Implications – The Big Picture

Media coverage fosters a perception that pay concessions among senior management and independent board members are widespread. We are tracking public disclosures and, through April 17, less than 10% of the Russell 3000 and 15% of the S&P 500 companies have taken action to reduce pay.

By Daniel J. Ryterband, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

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April 14, 2020

The Executive Pay Dilemma

Executive pay in the midst of the pandemic presents an obvious dilemma. On the one hand, it would be a stretch to blame fairly management teams for most of the adverse financial performance that will stretch across a broad range of industries. On the other, they cannot escape the consequences either.

By Michael R. Marino, Arthur H. Kohn, Caroline F. Hayday

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April 10, 2020

ISS Publishes Policy Guidance on the Impacts of COVID-19

ISS recently released initial policy guidance on how the firm will apply ISS benchmark or voting policies for upcoming annual general meetings (AGMs) and whether there will be any changes due to the pandemic.

By Stephan D. Bosshard, Joe Sorrentino

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April 6, 2020

Glass Lewis Enacts Previously Announced Feature to Proxy Research Reports: Unedited Company Feedback

Glass Lewis recently announced that it has fully launched the Report Feedback System (RFS), a pilot program introduced last year in the US and Australia. RFS gives companies the opportunity to respond to Glass Lewis’ proxy research and voting recommendations with unedited feedback to be included in the proxy advisor’s research reports, which are distributed to its institutional investor clients.

By Stephan D. Bosshard, Joe Sorrentino

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April 1, 2020

Glass Lewis Releases Guidance on Governance Approach and Expectations During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Glass Lewis recently released a policy note outlining the firm’s approach and expectations on several governance areas that are likely to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

By Joe Sorrentino, David Yang

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March 30, 2020

Continuing the Conversation with George Paulin: A Second Wave of COVID-19 Executive Compensation Implications

Most companies either have already acted and expect to apply appropriate judgement at year end or are waiting for additional business and stock-market clarity that they hope will come by mid-year. A growing list of companies in hard-hit sectors including airlines, energy, hospitality, and retailing also are freezing or reducing executive pay for liquidity and alignment with rank-and-file employees.  Meanwhile, further implications are emerging. A list of ten follows, along with initial thoughts on the potential impact:

By George B. Paulin

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March 18, 2020

Managing Through Turbulence - A Conversation with FW Cook's CEO and Chairman

Considering the current market volatility, Dan Ryterband, CEO, and George Paulin, Chairman of FW Cook, share their perspective on various issues companies are now facing.

By Daniel J. Ryterband, George B. Paulin

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February 24, 2020

Outstanding Dilution from Equity Compensation at Recent Technology IPOs

Equity dilution shows the portion of a company that is shared with its employees and is a key measure for venture-backed technology companies that rely on skilled human capital to innovate and grow. FW Cook’s database of recent U.S. IPOs provides a window into the typical amount of equity compensation shared with pre-IPO employees, depending on size or location.

By Jin Fu, Alec Lentz

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January 17, 2020

California Labor Code Section 432.3 Apparently Disallows Directly Asking an Executive About His or Her Equity Holdings as Part of the Recruiting Process

A common issue in recruiting executives is how to handle the value of unvested equity awards forfeited by the applicant if he or she joins the new employer. One would think that the logical way for the new employer to approach the issue is simply to ask the applicant for a schedule of outstanding equity awards, so that the new employer can come up with replacement grants to keep the applicant partially or fully whole.

By David Gordon, Managing Director

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January 13, 2020

Glass Lewis Open Peer Group Submission Window

Glass Lewis recently announced changes to its pay-for-performance peer group methodology for 2020. Historically, Glass Lewis relied on Equilar’s “peers of peers” approach that focused on the strength of connections between a filer and potential peers. Going forward, Glass Lewis will incorporate a more robust approach that incorporates eight different factors when assessing the appropriateness of a single peer.

By Matt Lum, Principal

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December 19, 2019

ISS Publishes 2020 Equity Plan FAQs & Compensation Policy FAQs

ISS recently published its U.S. Equity Plan Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Compensation Policy FAQs.  There are no significant changes from the prior release of preliminary FAQs and policy updates that were issued in November.

By Samantha Nussbaum, Joe Sorrentino

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November 20, 2019

UPDATE: ISS Modifies Pay-for-Performance Test Thresholds

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recently published preliminary compensation policy FAQs that contain significant modifications to two of their three quantitative pay-for-performance tests and a few additional details that were not covered in our blog on 2020 policy updates.

By Joe Sorrentino, Samantha Nussbaum

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November 19, 2019

ISS and Glass Lewis Release Minor Updates to 2020 Policies

The two major proxy advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis, recently released policy updates for the 2020 proxy season.  Overall, the updates are minor and mostly represent codifications and clarifications of current, or previously announced, policies.

By Joe Sorrentino, Samantha Nussbaum

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August 27, 2019

SEC Provides Guidance to Investment Advisers on Use of Proxy Advisors

On August 21, 2019, in a 3-2 vote along party lines, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued guidance to investment advisers regarding their voting responsibilities, in particular when engaging proxy advisory firms such as Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis.

By Cimi Silverberg, Jeffrey M. Kanter, Dina Bernstein

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July 31, 2019

California Conforms to Section 162(m) of the Federal Tax Code

On July 1, 2019, a new law passed in California (Assembly Bill 91) that selectively conformed the California tax code to some of the federal code changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (Tax Act).  Notably, the Tax Act eliminated the qualified performance-based compensation exception to the $1 million annual limitation on the deductibility of compensation paid to a covered employee under Section 162(m), except for compensation paid pursuant to grandfathered contracts. 

By Dina Bernstein, Samantha Nussbaum

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April 4, 2019

Glass Lewis Initiates Report Feedback Statement Service

Glass Lewis recently announced a new pilot program for the 2019 proxy season intended to facilitate communication among companies, proponents of shareholder proposals and investors. The Report Feedback Statement (“RFS”) is a subscription service that provides public companies and shareholder proponents the opportunity to submit feedback about Glass Lewis’ analysis of their proposals in advance of the voting deadline, and have those comments delivered directly to investors who subscribe to Glass Lewis’ research or voting services.

By Joe Sorrentino, Managing Director

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February 15, 2019

Using Sustainability Metrics in Incentive Plans

The overarching goal of incentive compensation plan design is, of course, to incentivize management to focus on value creation for shareholders. Recent developments concerning corporate “sustainability” suggest that compensation committees of public company boards of directors, as well as human resources executives, should consider the use of metrics developed to measure sustainability in incentive plans.

By Joe Sorrentino, Managing Director

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December 21, 2018

SEC Adopts Final Rules for Disclosure of Hedging Policies

On December 18, 2018, the SEC approved final rules requiring the disclosure of hedging policies in annual proxy statements. The rules, which become effective for fiscal years beginning on or after July 1, 2019, are an implementation of a Dodd-Frank mandate. The rules do not require that companies have a hedging policy or practice in place; rather, the rules relate only to disclosure.

By Dina Bernstein, Bindu M. Culas

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December 21, 2018

ISS Publishes 2019 Equity Plan FAQs & Updates to Compensation Policy FAQs

Following the recent publication of its U.S. Compensation Policy Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), ISS just released FAQs containing new and materially updated questions for evaluating equity plans for the 2019 proxy season.

By Joe Sorrentino, Samantha Nussbaum

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December 18, 2018

ISS Releases 2019 Compensation Policy FAQs

ISS recently published its U.S. Compensation Policy Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), which contain significant changes from the prior release of preliminary FAQs issued in November.  Most notably, ISS updated its list of problematic practices that will likely result in an adverse say-on-pay (SOP) recommendation.  It now includes new or materially amended agreements that provide for “problematic” good reason definitions (and related severance). 

By Samantha Nussbaum, Principal

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October 22, 2018

ISS Seeks Comment on Draft 2019 Policy Updates

On October 18, 2018, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) commenced a two-week consultation period on potential updates to its benchmark voting policy for 2019. There are a total of nine U.S. and international draft policy updates for consideration, of which two relate to U.S. governance matters: Financial Performance Assessment methodology and Board gender diversity.

By Joe Sorrentino, Michael R. Marino

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September 17, 2018

Major GICS Structure Changes Could Impact Peer Group Construction

Effective September 28, 2018, S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI, Inc. will implement major changes to their Global Industry Classification Standard (“GICS”) structure that will primarily impact media and technology companies.  While such changes may have implications for the development of comparative peer groups used by companies in competitive analyses of pay levels and practices, they are likely to have a more significant impact on the peer groups developed by proxy advisors such as Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”), which are a key factor in their vote recommendations on executive compensation issues.

By Cimi Silverberg, Managing Director & Head of Chicago Office

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August 16, 2018

Massachusetts Noncompetition Agreement Act Update

On Friday, August 10, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a $1.1B economic development bill, which included The Massachusetts Noncompetition Agreement Act. The Act, effective October 1, 2018, limits the use and form of non-compete agreements for employees in Massachusetts (regardless of where the employer is headquartered), and applies to non-competes executed on or after October 1, 2018.

By Dana W. Etra, Managing Director & Head of Boston Office

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August 2, 2018

ISS Releases Annual Policy Survey for 2019 Policy Updates

On July 30, ISS released its annual policy survey to solicit market feedback for its 2019 policy updates. Per ISS Corporate Solutions, “The on-line policy survey is designed to gather feedback from a wide range of stakeholders to give ISS guidance on where to set policy in areas that are emerging or unclear.” The two questions covered on the topic of compensation relate to ISS' quantitative pay-for-performance test and non-employee director compensation.

By David Yang, Edward D. Graskamp

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July 9, 2018

SEC Relaxes Threshold for Qualifying as a Smaller Reporting Company

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday June 28, 2018 voted to ease the thresholds for qualifying for “smaller reporting company” (SRC) status. Under the new rules, SRCs are defined as companies with less than $250 million in publicly traded shares (up from $75 million), or less than $100 million in revenues for the previous fiscal year (up from $50 million) and less than $700 million in publicly traded shares. The SEC estimates that nearly 1,000 companies will meet these relaxed thresholds.

By Thomas M. Haines, Managing Director

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April 26, 2018

Banking CEO Pay Ratios

The CEO pay ratio disclosure, enacted in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, is the executive compensation item getting the most attention this proxy season. Despite strong opposition on many fronts, the pay ratio lived to see the light of day and is included for the first time in 2018 proxy statements for companies with fiscal years starting on or after January 1, 2017 (Emerging Growth Companies and certain other issuers are exempted from the ratio disclosure). Although the focus of much commentary and analysis, the implications of this new piece of public information remain to be seen.

By Edward D. Graskamp

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April 19, 2018

Application of New Corporate Tax Rate to Fiscal Year Companies, Part II

As we previously discussed, under the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the new 21% corporate tax rate applies on a blended basis to fiscal year companies (i.e., companies whose taxable years do not end on December 31st). The IRS has now issued guidance for how fiscal year companies can calculate the amount of federal income tax they owe.

By Samantha Nussbaum, Bindu M. Culas

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April 6, 2018

Considering the Investor Perspective in Shareholder Engagement Efforts

Understanding investor expectations is key to carrying out a successful outreach campaign.  In our previous blog post titled "Shareholder Outreach and the Evolving Role of Investor Stewardship" we discussed how investors’ evolving view on stewardship is changing their expectations for ongoing engagement with portfolio companies as they begin to take a more holistic view of their investments.  In this second installment of our three-part blog series, we discuss the evolving focus on executive compensation, as well as areas beyond compensation that may arise during shareholder outreach.

By Matt Lum, Steven L. Cross

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March 26, 2018

Approval of Musk Pay Deal Has Major Potential Implications

Many believe that Elon Musk already has revolutionized automotive technology, rocketry, and solar energy. He now may have done the same to U.S. executive compensation with shareholder approval of his new incentive compensation arrangement at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting on March 21st. The new incentive compensation arrangement is essentially 12 tranches of performance stock options, each vesting when Tesla’s market-capitalization value grows in $50 billion increments starting from $100 billion for the first option tranche and ending at $650 billion over 10 years.

By Michael Reznick, Managing Director

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February 23, 2018

Shareholder Outreach and the Evolving Role of Investor Stewardship

Investors’ evolving view of their role as fiduciaries is changing their view on engagement with their portfolio companies, governance best practices, and expectations for how companies conduct their shareholder outreach efforts. This blog post is the first of a three-part series discussing these issues, and focuses on institutional investors’ and proxy advisory firms’ view of investor/company engagement. Part two of the series will focus on investors’ hot topics related to governance issues and compensation best practices, while part three will focus on considerations for companies engaging in shareholder outreach efforts.

By Matt Lum, Steven L. Cross

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January 23, 2018

Section 162(m) and State Conformity to the Federal Tax Code

While the performance-based compensation exception to the $1 million compensation limit under Internal Revenue Code Section 162(m) for “covered employees” is a thing of the past (absent grandfathered contracts) for federal income tax purposes, practitioners are realizing that Section 162(m) may continue to be a consideration for state taxes.

By David Gordon, Samantha Nussbaum

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January 16, 2018

ISS and the Recent Changes to IRC Section 162(m)

On January 12th, ISS Analytics published an interview with ISS’ Head of U.S. Compensation Research intended to provide insight into how ISS will assess changes in compensation practices as a result of the recent legislative modifications to IRC Section 162(m). ISS states it will be closely monitoring the issue, although they did not specify any particular policy changes (yet).

By Samantha Nussbaum, Lanaye Dworak

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January 15, 2018

Application of New Corporate Tax Rate to Fiscal Year Taxpayers/New Supplemental Withholding Rates

This blog discusses two issues raised by the tax rate changes in the recently enacted tax bill: (1) how the new corporate tax rate applies to fiscal year (i.e., non-calendar year) corporations and (2) the new individual tax withholding rates on supplemental income. The first topic is particularly important since it turns out the actual rule is different from what many of us expected the rule to be.

By David Gordon, Managing Director

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December 21, 2017

Driving Capital Efficiency within the E&P Industry

The exploration and production (E&P) industry is in the midst of a sea-change in investor expectations. Investors have indicated that they are no longer supportive of unprofitable growth, rather they are shifting their focus to financial/investor returns and disciplined capital allocation. Companies should assess whether their executive incentive plans are evolving to support changes in business strategy and investor expectations.

By Matt Lum, Austin Lee, Steven L. Cross

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December 20, 2017

Year-End Executive Compensation Planning

With tax reform now approved and expected to be signed into law prior to December 31, companies are evaluating year-end strategies for 2017 bonuses in light of the reduction in the corporate tax rate beginning next year and changes to the deductibility of compensation provided to certain executive officers. The tax bill and its implications are complex, and the appropriate course of action varies from company to company based on numerous circumstances related to existing policy, governance considerations and the predictability of payouts expected to occur in 2018 that are potentially deductible with respect to the 2017 tax year.

By Kenneth H. Sparling, David Gordon, Bindu M. Culas

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December 13, 2017

One-Size-Fits-All Executive Compensation Has Exceptions

We recently presented an executive compensation program review to the board compensation committee of a successful, long-standing S&P 500 industrial company. The peer group had 20-or-so comparable companies. A primary conclusion was that after six years of say-on-pay and proxy advisor voting rules, both the pay levels and program structures in the peer group were never more alike.

By Kenneth H. Sparling, Managing Director

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December 11, 2017

Tax Bill Update: Where Are We Now?

As readers know, comprehensive tax reform legislation was introduced on November 2, 2017, and is currently working through Congress. The House version was passed on November 16th and the Senate version was passed on December 2nd. Both versions generally align on most executive compensation-related provisions, but the shape of any final legislation remains uncertain as the House and Senate will attempt to reconcile their differences over the next few weeks.

By Samantha Nussbaum, Bindu M. Culas

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December 7, 2017

2017 Say-on-Pay Recap as of December 1st

2017 marks the seventh year for “Say-on-Pay” voting. Consistent with prior years, an overwhelming percentage of Russell 3000 companies have obtained majority Say-on-Pay support to date and ISS issued an "Against" vote recommendation on approximately 12% of Say-on-Pay proposals.

By Voytek Sokolowski, Consultant

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November 21, 2017

ISS Releases Preliminary Compensation FAQs for the 2018 Proxy Season

Today, ISS published preliminary U.S. compensation FAQs, which provide insight to the updated ISS quantitative pay-for-performance screening methodology and its U.S. Equity Plan Scorecard (EPSC) evaluation related to stock plan proposals, each as applicable to public companies with annual shareholder meetings on or after February 1, 2018.

By Samantha Nussbaum, David Yang

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November 20, 2017

ISS Releases Policy Updates for 2018 Proxy Season

On November 16, ISS released policy updates applicable to public companies with annual shareholder meetings on or after February 1, 2018. The compensation-related policy updates impact say-on-pay proposals in the U.S. and Canada and the re-election of board members in the U.S. In addition, ISS adopted a new U.S. policy regarding shareholder proposals seeking gender pay gap information. Finally, the policy updates do not address the use of “realizable pay” or the CEO pay ratio to evaluate pay-for-performance alignment or excessive compensation practices in 2018.

By Wendy J. Hilburn, David Yang

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November 15, 2017

Tax Bill Alert: Welcome Relief as New Deferred Compensation Rule Also Deleted from Senate Bill

Last night, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hatch released the first amendments to the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  Amendments related to executive compensation largely mirror changes that were made to the House version of the bill last week.  An important change was the deletion of new rules that would have taxed non-qualified deferred compensation (including non-qualified stock options) upon vesting.  This means non-qualified stock options will continue to be taxed upon exercise and Section 409A lives on to govern deferred compensation.

By David Gordon, Kenneth H. Sparling

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November 10, 2017

Tax Bill Alert: Newly Released Senate Version of Tax Bill Retains Troublesome Deferred Compensation

Yesterday evening, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hatch released details of the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The most notable development for executive compensation is that the Senate bill generally contains the same executive compensation related provisions that were included in the first, and now outdated, release of the House bill (H.R. 1).

By David Gordon, Kenneth H. Sparling

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November 9, 2017

Tax Bill Alert: Section 409A Deferred Compensation is Preserved Under House Amendment

Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brady released an amendment that impacts several provisions of H.R. 1. Most notably for executive compensation, the amendment strikes Section 3801 of H.R. 1 (which introduced a new “Section 409B”), thereby preserving the current-law tax treatment of nonqualified deferred compensation.

By Bindu M. Culas, Samantha Nussbaum

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November 6, 2017

Executive Compensation Landscape Could Change Dramatically Under Proposed Tax Bill

On November 2, 2017, the House Ways and Means Committee released the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (H.R. 1). The bill designates several executive compensation items for amendment or repeal. If enacted as proposed, H.R. 1 would result in sweeping changes in the design and taxation of executive compensation including: elimination of non-qualified deferred compensation arrangements, elimination of non-qualified stock options as a long-term incentive vehicle, and elimination of deduction for performance-based compensation under I.R.C. §162(m).

By Samantha Nussbaum, David Gordon, Bindu M. Culas

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November 1, 2017

ISS Seeks Comment on Draft 2018 Policy Updates

On October 27, 2017, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) commenced a two-week consultation period on potential updates to its benchmark voting policy for 2018. There are a total of 13 U.S. and international draft policy updates for consideration, of which two relate to U.S. compensation matters: non-employee director (NED) pay and gender pay gap proposals.

By Bindu M. Culas, Wendy J. Hilburn, Samantha Nussbaum, David Yang

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October 4, 2017

SEC Issues Significant Guidance on Pay Ratio Disclosure Rules

On September 21, the SEC released several documents interpreting the pay ratio disclosure rules required under Dodd-Frank.  In addition to implicitly confirming the widespread perception that the SEC plans to take no steps to modify the final regulations or delay implementation of the rule, the guidance provided some liberalization with respect to the procedures companies could use to compute the pay ratio and to make compliance less onerous.  Notably, the SEC reversed its controversial position that, at least in some circumstances, independent contractors and leased workers had to be counted in computing the pay ratio.

By David Gordon, Samantha Nussbaum

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September 29, 2017

FW Cook Publishes 2017 Aggregate Share-Based Compensation Report

FW Cook recently released the 5th edition of its report on aggregate share-based compensation practices, which covers company-wide equity grant levels and practices at 300 U.S. based companies for the period 2014 – 2016.

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August 30, 2017

FW Cook Publishes 45th Edition of Annual Top 250 Report

In its 45th year of publication, FW Cook's annual Top 250 Report details the long-term incentive practices and trends of the 250 largest companies by market cap value in the Standard & Poors ("S&P") 500. The survey is intended to provide information to assist boards of directors and compensation professionals in designing and implementing effective long-term incentive programs that promote long-term success for their companies.

By Voytek Sokolowski, Austin Lee

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August 29, 2017

2017 Mid-Year Equity Plan Voting Results Update

Among Russell 3000 companies, there were a total of 412 proposals seeking shareholder approval of equity plan amendments and 191 proposals requesting shareholder approval of new equity plans. With the exception of three proposals, all received majority shareholder support.

By Bindu M. Culas, Samantha Nussbaum

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August 21, 2017

A Slimmed-Down SEC Agenda is Missing Executive Compensation Rulemaking

On July 20th, the SEC released its rulemaking agenda, and the list is much shorter than it was last year at this time. The list purports to reflect the rulemaking initiatives for the coming year, and several remaining Dodd-Frank executive compensation items are not on the agenda.

By Bindu M. Culas, Samantha Nussbaum

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August 3, 2017

New ISS Policy Survey (Including Pay Ratio and Non-Employee Director Compensation Questions) Available for Input

ISS recently launched two surveys - the Governance Principles Survey and the Policy Application Survey - soliciting market feedback for its 2018 policy updates. ISS is seeking feedback on several issues, including one related to the “Pay Ratio Between Senior Executives and Employees” and another related to “Non-Employee Director Pay.” The surveys will be open until August 31st and October 6th, respectively.

By Samantha Nussbaum, David Yang

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July 7, 2017

Key Reasons for ISS “Against” Say-on-Pay Vote Recommendations

While an ISS recommendation is not per se determinative of the final Say-on-Pay vote result, a “For” recommendation significantly increases the likelihood of securing a positive outcome, and an “Against” vote recommendation typically requires companies to engage in substantial investor outreach.

By Bindu M. Culas, Samantha Nussbaum

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June 13, 2017

2017 Say-on-Pay Recap to Date

2017 marks the seventh year for “Say-on-Pay” voting. Consistent with prior years, an overwhelming percentage of Russell 3000 companies have obtained majority Say-on-Pay support to date and ISS issued an "Against" vote recommendation on approximately 11% of Say-on-Pay proposals.

By Bindu M. Culas, Samantha Nussbaum

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