If bankers’ bonuses became the symbol of an economic system gone astray during the financial crisis, share buybacks might become the equivalent during the Covid-19 outbreak. A range of commentators have criticised companies that have spent money on buybacks, leaving themselves financially vulnerable, and in some cases dependent on state support. You would think buybacks would have dried up weeks ago, but it doesn’t seem everyone has got the message. Take Frasers Plc, formerly Sports Direct. On 20th March it released an RNS stating that it was monitoring the affect of the Covid-19 outbreak closely. It warned: ’the Board expects that COVID-19 will cause significantRead More →

It’s time to say never again, again. More than a decade after the Stewardship Code was introduced, 25 years after the Greenbury Report, the UK is looking at a FTSE100 governance failure. This is becoming something of a trend. We all fretted about the failure of Carillion in 2018, we all wrung our hands when Thomas Cook fell over in 2019, now we can all despair about NMC Health. A FTSE100 is facing accusations of financial irregularities and is asking lenders for an ’informal standstill’ (which seems to translate as ’don’t ask for your money back right now’), half of its board has gone includingRead More →

What a week or so it has been for NMC Health. Back on 10 February, the company put out an RNS stating that its joint chair and founder Dr. B. R. Shetty was undertaking a review to establish the extent of his shareholding in the company, along with that of family members. It also stated that this review might also involve other shareholders’ interests. T he guts of the RNS reveal that shares in NMC held in a nominee account in the name of B. R. Shetty at Falcon Bank were transferred to a nominee account in the same name at First Abu Dhabi BankRead More →

Fresh into a new decade, and there are already signs that this year will see a further growth in forceful stewardship by institutional investors. For example, if we rewound to the start of the last decade the conventional wisdom was that using shareholder resolutions was an extreme form of engagement. Few large UK investors wanted to get involved in filing them, and votes in favour of ESG-oriented resolutions were generally low. If we can be excused a little toot on our own trumpet, we have always advocated the use of shareholder resolutions in order to make the AGM agenda more reflective of investors’ priorities, notRead More →

Controversial transport tech giant Uber hit another bump in the regulatory road this week when Transport for London (TfL) declined to grant the company a new private hire operator’s licence in response to its latest application. TfL said that while Uber has made a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems in the period since the Chief Magistrate granted it a licence in June 2018 it has identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk. Despite addressing some of these issues, TfL said it does not have confidence thatRead More →

Beleaguered construction and services business Kier Group’s AGM last week threw up a number of interesting issues. Since the failure of both Carillion and Interserve, the company has been both watched closely and shorted heavily. Following on from a flopped rights issue around this time last year, Kier Group has changed personnel and sought to steady the ship. In that context, last week’s meeting was probably unhelpful. Most attention has focused on the remuneration report vote, which the company narrowly lost with almost 54% voting against. But arguably more significant was the announcement, on the day of the AGM, that its chief operating officer, ClaudioRead More →

Here’s something that may surprise a few people. We genuinely find what Tim Martin has to say about corporate governance worth listening to (personal attacks aside). You can’t work in this field for as long as we have without recognising some of the limitations of the ways of looking at companies through a governance framework. And criticisms of our approach obviously have more weight when they come from those who have created successful businesses that continue to do well. We also value having contrarian voices in the market. We would rather that business leaders speak out than give into a consensus that they don’t reallyRead More →