Thursday, October 10, 2013

When Say on Pay Becomes Binding: Australia's Two Strike Rule

Hello from Perth, Australia.  As some of you know, I am on sabbatical, currently touring Australia.  Last night I had the honor of talking to a local CPA society on Corporate Governance.  The question of Australia's two strike rule came up during the discussion.

The two strike rule is an interesting, if controversial rule in corporate governance.  If a board receives a 25%, no-vote on its compensation policy for two consecutive years, shareholders vote to decide if the the entire board must stand for re-election.  The rule, implemented in Australia in 2011, gives teeth to the previously advisory Say on Pay.

See this interesting article in The Sydney Herald.

One can imagine the pluses and minuses of such a system.  First, if directors are not responsive to shareholders a second year in a row, the shareholders get additional power to alter that situation.  It is reminiscent of the provisions in some preferred stocks, where if a firm misses dividends for say three years, the stock acquires voting rights.)

On the other hand, 25% might be a low threshold, and less than a majority could hold a firm hostage. Or, as directors often fear during a Say on Pay vote,  a low vote may be the result of something quite different from problems with compensation.  

David Trebeck, the Chairman of Penrice Soda, which recently survived a close call on the two strike rule, commented, ‘‘I think directors generally are more than capable of identifying and responding to prevailing shareholder sentiment without needing a legislative sledgehammer to do it for them."


The two strike rule isn't the case in the US but, by the way, Australia had Say on Pay, well before the United States.  It makes sense to keep track of what is happening in other venues and use that knowledge to improve practice.  This is NOT to say, I'm endorsing this idea, but it bears watching the empirical results.  

See our related post on Swiss Say on Pay.

All the best,


No comments:

Post a Comment