ISS has released its 2013 policy updates. Highlights of the new policies include:
Pledging of Company Stock. ISS’ proposed draft policy on the practice of pledging company stock as a problematic pay practice under ISS’ say-on-pay evaluation was met with issuer criticism that the draft policy imposes a “one size fits all” approach. Furthermore, based on discussions with several institutional investors on the practice of pledging as a problematic practice, it was indicated that a potential negative vote recommendation should be directed toward the election of directors rather than to a company’s say-on-pay proposal. ISS agrees that the practice of significant pledging (as determined to be problematic) may be considered a failure in risk oversight and thus falls under the board’s oversight role.
Acknowledging the comments received during ISS’ 2012 comment period, ISS will be taking a case-by-case approach in determining whether pledging rises to a level of serious concern for shareholders. Also in response to comments, ISS is including significant pledging of company stock as a failure of risk oversight and thus considered a governance failure whereby directors should be held accountable (rather than communicating concern through a say-on-pay recommendation).
Peer Groups. ISS’ current peer group methodology focuses on the subject company’s GICS industry classification, which may not reflect multiple business lines in which many companies operate. As a result, some ISS peer groups omitted competitors of the target company and/or included firms that did not reflect a connection to the target considered appropriate for performance and pay comparisons.
The new methodology incorporates information from companies’ self-selected pay benchmarking peer groups in order to identify and prioritize GICS industry groups beyond the subject company’s own GICS classification. The methodology draws peers from the subject company’s GICS group as well as from GICS groups represented in the company’s peer group, while maintaining the approximate proportions of these industries in the final peer group where possible. The methodology additionally focuses initially at an 8-digit GICS resolution to identify peers that are more closely related in terms of industry. Finally, when selecting peers, the methodology prioritizes peers that maintain the company near the median of the peer group, are in the subject company’s peer group, and that have chosen the subject company as a peer. The peer group methodology maintains its focus on identifying companies that are reasonably similar to the subject company in terms of industry profile, size, and market capitalization.
Realizable Pay. Realizable pay is being added to the research report for large capitalization companies. Realizable pay will consist of the sum of relevant cash and equity-based grants and awards made during a specified performance period being measured, based on equity award values for actual earned awards, or target values for ongoing awards, calculated using the stock price at the end of the performance measurement period. Stock options or stock appreciation rights (SARs) will be re valued using the remaining term and updated assumptions, as of the performance period, using the Black-Scholes Option Pricing model. The realizable pay consideration may mitigate or exacerbate the CEO’s pay for performance concerns.
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