In Western countries, many companies have introduced “clawback clauses” that require executives to return performance-linked compensation to the company in certain cases. In Japan, very few companies have such clauses. There are dissident voices saying things like “compensation of Japanese executives is less than in Western companies, so there is no need to do that,” or “if you want to demand the return of paid compensation, you can file a derivative lawsuit.” In this article, I would like to review the arguments that have been made so far about clawback clauses, and consider the arguments that should be made in the future.
On January 31, 2019, the Cabinet Office Order on Disclosure of Corporate Affairs was amended, and the format of for securities reports was changed. With regard to the securities reports for the fiscal year ending March 2019, it is said that the employees in charge of dealing with the new format were put under considerable stress and extra work. The most troubling item was probably the section on executive compensation.
The revision of the Cabinet Office Order was made in response to the Financial Council Disclosure Working Group (DWG) report published on June 28, 2018. Mr. Carlos Ghosn was arrested in November of the same year, and executive compensation, which has been a subject of much debate for some time, once again disturbed the public mind. The new format, modified under these circumstances, calls for broader and detailed information disclosure. However, the top executives of many companies view disclosure of compensation as undesirable, because it has carries the potential for divisiveness or embarrassment. Mr. Ghosn’s false statement of compensation was attributable to this sense of aversion. Not only him, but also many other executives, desire as a basic human emotion to avoid disclosure of the amount of their compensation.
What were these two contradictory vectors, – requirements from Cabinet Office Order, and the company leaders’ intentions – reflected securities reports? Although we should wait for the thorough analysis on many securities reports published at the end of June 2019, in this article I would like to convey the initial impression that I obtained by surveying a few of them.
Does anyone have any theories as to why institutional investors that support director training in Japan are overwhelmingly foreign, and not Japanese?
The Board Director Training Institute of Japan (BDTI) was established as a “public interest” nonprofit in order to enable Japanese institutional investors to support something badly needed by their home market, director and governance training, on a tax-deductible basis…. so that such training could be offered at high quality yet low price, thereby spreading customs of governance/director training throughout Japan. However, after running BDTI for eight years since obtaining certification, we have noticed a disturbing but continuing reality: over time, more than 95% of BDTI’s donations from institutional investors have come from foreign institutions or fund managers, and less than 5% of donations to BDTI have come from Japanese institutions. Moreover, none of the Japanese institutional donors are “major” (top 30) investing institutions in Japan.
On July 12, 2019, I gave a presentation about Work Style Reform in Japan at a seminar organized by the Japan America Society of Washington DC in the beautiful meeting room of the Groom Law Group. The talking points in my presentation were the background of the reform (political background and male dominated office), the major points of amendment to laws, the problems and keys to improving productivity, the young generation’s view of employment activity and work-life balance, protection for non-regular employees, and some implications to businesses in Japan. The questions and opinions raised by the participants were as follows.
The Corporate Counselor – Insights into Japanese Corporate Law –
by Stephen D. Bohrer and Yusuke Urano, Nishimura & Asahi NY LLP
Summary: “Strategic investors owning more than 10% of the shares of a Japanese company often seek board appointment rights as a measure to protect their investment. Board appointment rights offer a strategic investor a number of significant benefits, such as permitting the strategic investor to obtain useful information about the business plans and key technologies of the company. Although the director nominated by a strategic investor could breach contractual commitments and fiduciary duties if such director relays certain confidential information to the strategic investor, it is inevitable in these arrangements that a strategic investor will obtain some key information that it ordinarily would not have obtained had its nominee not served as a director.
The receipt of confidential information is a double-edged sword for a strategic investor as such information can be very useful for investment monitoring and competitive purposes, but at the same time can result in a violation of Japanese securities laws if a strategic investor makes a purchase or sale while in possession of material non-public information (“MNPI”). Consequently, a strategic investor contemplating a securities transaction with a publicly traded portfolio company (a “Public Investee Company”) in which it has a nominee serving on the board should implement communication protocols to channel information flows to and from its director nominee and the Public Investee Company so the strategic investor does not breach Japanese securities laws (curiously, the prohibition under Japanese insider trading rules does not apply to a privately held company).”
Many companies set the fiscal year to end at the end of March and hold their AGM in June. Those companies file Yuho financial reports by the end of June. According to the Yuho reports, we are able to lots of new data at this time. Among the data, in this post we will focus on ”policy stock” holdings, also known as “allegiant shareholdings”.
The average holding of “policy stocks” was JPY34,861 million for 1,775 companies, which has come down 13.7% from JPY40,389 million a year as the average of the 1,794 companies in our universe. Of course, we should carefully analyze these numbers, but the decrease of the stock holding was larger than the change in the stock index Topix for the same period. The Topix fell 7.3% from 1,716.30 on March 31 2018 to 1,591.64 on March 31 2019.