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投资者与公司治理

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luyuna

2017年12月25日

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Does corporate governance matter? Or, to be more precise, do investors really care about it? This is a question that I have been pondering for two reasons. First, huge amounts of passive investment has made questions about corporate decision making irrelevant for many investors. When you are just tracking the index, you are not looking at what a company is really doing on the ground and whether its leaders are making the right calls. You are simply passing the buck to the market.

公司治理重要吗?或者说得更准确些,投资者真的关心公司治理吗?我之所以思考这个问题是出于两个原因。第一,被动投资的庞大规模提出了企业决策与很多投资者无关的问题。当你只是追踪指数时,你不是在看一家公司到底在做什么,或是公司领导层是否做出了正确的决定。你只是把责任推给市场罢了。

But there is another, less explored, way in which investors may be passing the buck. Institutional investors have come to own roughly two-thirds of all the outstanding shares in US corporations. That gives them tremendous power over executives and their decisions. Yet a large chunk of that power is outsourced to proxy advisers like Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis, which give investors advice on how to vote on everything from management to corporate pay packages. While it is understandable that large asset managers like BlackRock or Fidelity and myriad smaller institutions would want to offload this task, the result is that individual corporate decisions sometimes get short shrift.

但是或许还有另一种投资者推卸责任的方式,鲜有人探究?;雇蹲收叱钟忻拦笠狄逊⑿泄善弊芰康脑既种?。这使得机构投资者对企业管理层及其决策拥有巨大权力。不过,其中大量权力都被外包给了机构股东服务机构(ISS)和Glass Lewis等代理顾问——它们就如何在从管理层到企业薪酬计划的各种问题上进行投票为投资者提供建议。尽管贝莱德(BlackRock)或富达(Fidelity)等大型资产管理公司以及无数的小型机构希望摆脱这项任务是可以理解的,但结果就是有时某些企业决策无人理会。

Companies, trade and lobbying groups (the Conference Board and the Business Roundtable, for example), as well as some academics and corporate governance experts, have begun complaining that proxy advisers are incentivising the wrong behaviour — focusing not on the nuances of corporate governance, but rather creating rigid checklists that must be followed lest the proxy adviser vote no on issues like pay or board membership.

企业、行业和游说团体(例如世界大型企业联合会(Conference Board)和商业圆桌会议(Business Roundtable))、以及一些学术和公司治理专家,已经开始抱怨代理顾问在鼓励错误行为——不关注公司治理的微妙之处,而是把重点放在制造必须遵守的死板清单,以免代理顾问在薪酬或董事会成员等问题上投票否决。

The issue is not new: more than a decade ago, ISS opposed the re-election of Warren Buffett to the board of Coke, as some of his holdings — such as Dairy Queen, which serves Coke products — triggered a conflict of interest provision. It is tough to argue that Mr Buffett was not a worthy director; he said the decision was “absolutely silly . . . checklists are no substitute for thinking”. But shifts towards “say on pay” (shareholder votes on executive compensation) have attracted investor scrutiny, as has a long-run bull market in which it is tougher to achieve the returns investors crave.

该问题并不新鲜:十多年前,ISS反对再次选举沃伦•巴菲特(Warren Buffett)担任可口可乐(Coke)董事,因为他持股的其他一些公司——比如提供可乐产品的Dairy Queen——触发了利益冲突条款。很难说巴菲特不是一个有价值的董事;他称该决定“绝对愚蠢……清单不能替代思考”。但是投资者的态度转向了获得“薪酬话语权”(股东对高管薪酬进行投票),这种转变导致投资者加强审视,就像长期牛市——使得投资者更难以实现所期望的回报率——也会让投资者更谨慎一样。

These factors have conspired to create new proxy pressure for companies. Since total shareholder return is the key metric of corporate performance for proxy advisers, companies that are doing anything that fails to raise the share price year on year — regardless of whether it is smart or not — may find themselves opposed by investors.

这些因素共同造成了企业面临的来自代理顾问的新压力。由于股东总回报(TSR)是代理顾问考虑公司业绩的关键指标,如果企业所做的事——无论是否明智——未能实现股价同比上涨,就可能遭到投资者的反对。

Consider the recent saga of Credit Suisse. Over the past couple of years, the company has been trying to orchestrate a turnround, settling a big fine over dicey (pre-financial crisis) mortgage-backed-security deals with the Department of Justice, offloading bad assets and restructuring the business. None of this is good for share price in the short term, but it was necessary. No surprise, then, that the Credit Suisse management team was disappointed when proxy advisers opposed its corporate pay plan, citing 2016 losses, despite the fact that the top brass took a 40 per cent cut in its own compensation as part of the turnround effort. “It was just totally demotivating for staff and management,” says one insider. “We could have left these decisions for someone else to worry about later and there would have been no issue over pay.”

想一想瑞信(Credit Suisse)最近的经历。过去两年,瑞信一直在试图扭转局面——与美国司法部(US Department of Justice)就其(金融?;?的高风险抵押贷款支持证券(MBS)交易达成巨额??詈徒庑?,处置不良资产并进行业务重组。这些做法短期内对提升股价没有帮助,但都是必不可少的措施。后来,不出意料,当代理顾问反对企业薪酬计划时,瑞信管理团队十分失望,代理顾问反对的理由是2016年亏损,尽管最高管理层为了瑞信走出困境,把自己的薪酬下调了40%。“这完全是在挫伤员工和管理层的积极性,”一位内部人士表示,“我们本可以把这些决定留给别人以后去操心,那就不会存在关于薪酬的问题了。”

ISS stands by its recommendation, and adds that it does take into account other performance metrics, like return on invested assets, revenue growth, and so on. But TSR is “what investors want to see,” says Patrick McGurn, special counsel at ISS, and therefore determines a yes-or-no vote on pay. “We’ve talked to our clients about using non-financial performance to judge pay, but they want something quantifiable. You can’t just have some vague judgment about it.”

ISS坚持己见,并补充称其确实也考虑其他业绩指标,比如投资资产的回报率、营收增长等等。但ISS的特别顾问帕特里克•麦古恩(Patrick McGurn)表示,股东总回报是“投资者希望看到的”,因此决定了其对薪酬计划投票支持还是反对。“我们已经跟客户谈过利用非财务绩效来审视薪酬计划了,但他们想要可量化的标准。你不能只是给出含糊的判断。”

Maybe so. But as an increasing body of research shows, share price does not always correlate with good long-term decision making; a Stanford study showed that firms lauded by proxy advisers did not actually have better returns, fewer lawsuits, or higher valuations over time. Jacking up the stock price of a company is as easy as a stock buyback, proven by the record number made over the past two years as companies struggle to get a bit more juice out of what may well be the end of a bull market. Unfortunately, that money does not go into things like research and development or training, or other types of real business investment to create value.

或许确实是这样。但越来越多的研究表明,股价并不总是与良好的长期决策有关;斯坦福大学(Stanford University)的研究表明,得到代理顾问赞赏的公司实际上并不一定回报更高、法律纠纷更少、或估值随时间增长。大幅提升股价通过股票回购这样的简单操作就可以实现,正如过去两年企业面对很可能终结的牛市力图进一步提升股价时创纪录的股票回购操作所证明的那样。不幸的是,这些资金并未投入研发、培训或其他类型的实业投资来创造价值。

In the US, there is now a push to realign incentives. A House proposal last year suggested forcing proxy advisers to register with the SEC and disclose any conflicts of interests — which could be substantial, given that they are paid by asset managers. Other proposals include giving companies more time to respond to proxy reports and make their case about individual management decisions. Yet the criticism of proxy advisers is “really part of a larger philosophical debate about who companies are being run for”, says Douglas Chia, head of corporate governance at the Conference Board. Boards and management? Shareholders? Or some larger group of stakeholders? Whatever the answer, it is worth thinking about the kind of corporate governance our system is incentivising.

美国如今正在推动企业重新调整激励措施。去年众议院一项提案建议,强制代理顾问在美国证交会(SEC)注册并披露所有的利益冲突——鉴于代理顾问是由资产管理公司支付酬劳,冲突可能相当可观。其他建议包括,给企业更多时间来回应代理报告并阐明单个管理决策的理由。但对代理顾问的批评“实际上是关于企业为谁经营的更大哲学争论的一部分,”世界大型企业联合会公司治理负责人道格拉斯•介(Douglas Chia)表示。是为了董事会和管理层?股东?还是更大的利益攸关方?无论答案是什么,我们都必须思考我们的制度鼓励什么样的公司治理。
 


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