How to Evaluate the Board of Directors?
The Board of Directors Scorecard
One of the byproducts of the global financial crisis is that more attention is being directed toward the board of directors. There is a significant rise in investors’ dissatisfaction, class-action lawsuits and shareholder activism. Shareholders' complaints include issues such as excessive executive compensation, conflict of interest, lack of governance, and passive participation of the board members.
President Barack Obama's reform of financial regulations brings more focus to prompt corrective actions by federal banking agencies including one or more of the following:
While the target of the new regulations is on the financial sector, the influence of such regulation will also impact publically traded companies.
Wall Street financial analysts, news media and internet blogs are paying more attention to the executive compensation in relation to the performance of the company. There are several famous examples where some boards compensated their CEOs with hundreds of millions of dollars even though the company lost money during their leadership. The boards are accused, in these cases, as either lacking the competence or the will to govern CEO compensation.
During the tenure of Henry McKinnell, the CEO of Pfizer from 2001-2006, the company lost more than $137 billion in market value. Yet, when he stepped down, he took an additional $213 million as a retirement package that included an $82 million pension, stock and other benefits.
According to a Forbes article, "Michael Eisner: Mouse in a Gilded Mansion". During the five years between 1996 and 2001, Disney's net income went from $1.2 million to a loss of $158,000. Yet Eisner received $737 million in compensation.
In these tough economic times, investors are becoming more proactive; they cannot afford to leave the governance of their investments to unqualified directors or to special interest groups. Boards are given more power to govern and control the performance of the CEO and the corporation.
Investors are starting to ask the following questions:
The two questions that board members must ask themselves are:
Few organizations have come up with formal solutions to help investors evaluate both their CEOs and their board of directors. A number of leading experts suggest board self-assessments. This solution involves the use of management evaluation frameworks that only need to be applied once or twice a year. These formal evaluation frameworks not only define and clarify the overall standards of performance for the board, they also serve as educational, collaborative and consensus-building tools.
The International Institute of Management created a board of directors scorecard as an effective self-assessment tool. The scorecard covers the essential elements of the board’s duties and qualifications and is therefore a good starting point for an evaluation. In addition, the BoD scorecard covers the board’s structure, culture, performance standards, quality of meetings, and strategic planning processes. The following partial list provides a sample of the evaluation elements:
Every board must be able to provide clear answers to the preceding questions. If the board is not able to answer all of the preceding questions, then the board members suffer from governance blind spots or a potential weakness. IIM created strategic board retreats and development programs to help the board and their CEOs in answering these questions. In addition to developing board-level governance competencies, the goal of the strategic retreat programs is to improve the board and CEO collaboration, ensure a 360 degree business view and develop proper governance action plans. The strategic retreat sessions are facilitated by executive leadership and governance experts. The role of the experts is to facilitate the planning sessions and provide an external point of view to objectively validate the answers to each question.
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