Monday, 12 April 2010

Labour's manifesto...

There are a few bits of note in it (PDF) -
Corporate governance reform

To build strong businesses we need skilled managers, accountable boards, and committed shareholders – all with a culture of long-term commitment. We will strengthen the 2006 Companies Act where necessary better to reflect these principles. The UK’s Stewardship Code for institutional shareholders should be strengthened and we will require institutionalshareholders to declare how they vote and for banks to put their remuneration policies to shareholders for explicit approval.
The Companies Act bit looks new to me? As is the suggestion that the Stewardship Code should be strengthened - this is a bit difficult to do at present as the thing doesn't even technically exist! But presumably reflects the concern I've heard from a few people that the ISC Code - which is effectively what the FRC is consulting on - doesn't do the job. Not surprisingly the reference to voting disclosure is music to my ears. Just wish we had pushed the button earlier.
Too many takeovers turn out to be neither good for the acquiring company or the firm being bought. The system needs reform. Companies should be more transparent about their long-term plans for the business they want to acquire. There needs to be more disclosure of who owns shares, a requirement for bidders to set out how they will finance their bids and greater transparency on advisers’ fees.

There should be a higher threshold of support – two-thirds of shareholders – for securing a change of ownership and the case for limiting votes to those on the register before the bid should be examined.
This seems to be pretty much a restatement of recent comments by Mandy on takeovers, though the question of limiting voting rights on bids to those on the register pre-bid is new I think. Could be difficult to administer but I had another idea - what about limiting voting rights to those on the register at the last meeting (either AGM or EGM), or, even better, to those who voted at the last meeting. That would make the relevant shareholders easy to identify and reward those who exercise their ownership rights.

Finally there's some stuff on other types of ownership -
Creating a shareholding society

We want Britain’s workers to have a stake in their company by widening share ownership and creating more employee-owned and trust-owned businesses. We want to see a step change in the role of employee-owned companies in the economy, recognising that many entrepreneurs would like to see their companies in the hands of their employees when they retire. We will review any outstanding barriers to the formation of more employee companies like the John Lewis Partnership.
Fine as far as it goes, but wouldn't we rather see positive incentives for employee ownership?

Good stuff generally though - will be interesting to see if the Tories and Lib Dems have anything to say on these issues.

No comments: