Friday, 31 May 2013

A few things Labour could do

Thought I'd sketch out a mixture of what Labour has committed to in the corporate governance area, what could be broadened out, and a couple of additions...

Stick with existing policy as set out in the 2010 manifesto

Tougher rules on takeovers - a higher threshold to approve deals, a qualifying period to vote on them, exploration of public interest test.

Mandatory voting disclosure - won't repeat myself here, but most important thing is to agree the disclosure framework. Who should it cover, how and when should they disclose?

Broaden out existing commitments

Labour is committed to employee representation on rem comms - why not open this out in the shape of a broader review into corporate governance? This could include both employee voice, looking at how representation on boards - not just rem comms - could work, and shareholder engagement (the Swedish nom comm model).

Extra bits

Undertake a proper review into pay, including research into the effectiveness of executive pay (does it improve performance?). There is plenty of evidence that the large proportion of variable pay executives receive is unlikely to 'work', and, in my opinion, performance-linkage instead principally serves to make high pay less open to challenge (that may be its real purpose now). Lots people in the system don't buy that it works, so why continue with it?

Make it easier to file shareholder resolutions. Drop the filing threshold to say 1% and let filers combine to meet it - eg two investors with 0.5% each.

Encourage beneficiary empowerment. It is striking how even now beneficiaries have almost no formal representation within the financial system's architecture, or when reform is undertaken. Look back at the range of people involved in the Wilson Committee, could we establish a standing body with similar stakeholder representation to look at governance/ownership issues?

Exhibit more scepticism in the face of lobbying - trade bodies will tell you that practically any reform will have disastrous unintended consequences, yet these claims often prove to be false. In addition, if we're serious about 'responsible capitalism' we can't let investor trade bodies have too much power in determining policy.

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