RI Governance & Engagement, Dec. 1: Class action lawyers looking at Olympus

RI’s regular round-up of governance and engagement news

Scandal-hit Olympus is facing increasing legal pressure in the US. Washington-based law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll says it is investigating whether the Japanese imaging giant violated federal securities laws. Separately, a class action lawsuit has been filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by law firm Bernstein Liebhard.
Japan: An advisory panel under the Ministry of Justice, which has been working for over a year on revising corporate law and corporate governance, will propose mandatory appointments of outside directors on boards of large firms, according to a Reuters report citing the Asahi newspaper. It’s hoped it will help avoid the type of scandal engulfing imaging giant Olympus.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has granted Hewlett-Packard Company and Deere & Co. leave to exclude shareholder proposals on audit company rotation. The resolutions had been put forward by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Pension Funds.

A $1.1bn claim for damages by 41 mainly fund company investors against Porsche and Volkswagen has arrived at Braunschweig District Court, according to German governance firm VIP. It said law firm CLLB has been preparing the case, which relates to Porsche’s aborted takeover of the larger company, for two and a half years.

Consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu has launched the second edition of its report Women in the boardroom: A global perspective. The report, from the Deloitte Global Center for Corporate Governance, examines the legislative efforts being pursued across 17 countries to encourage more women onto listed company boards.

The Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG), which represents Canadian institutional shareholders, has asked the Ontario Securities Commission to mandate full voting disclosure as part of a package of reforms, according to the Globe and Mail. Link*US governance firm GMI has issued its second report* on potential say-on-pay failures for 2012, identifying 42 companies in the S&P 500 that are at risk of a failed advisory vote in next year’s proxy season. The report also finds 157 firms in the Russell 3000 which failed to get at least 70% shareholder support for their pay plans last year. Link to report

The New York State Teachers’ Retirement System has failed in its attempt to revive its putative securities class action case against former managers of bankrupt subprime lender Fremont General Corp., according to a report in Law360. It said a three-judge panel said the fund’s allegations of securities violations were “not pled with the specificity required”.

Institutional Shareholder Services, ISS, is holding two webinars this month to provide an update on its voting policies. The European webinar is on December 6 at 2.30pm GMT while the US version is the next day at 11:00 AM EST. ISS will begin applying the updated policies to all publicly-traded companies as of February 1 2012. Register here

The Public Investment Corporation, South Africa’s public sector asset manager which has R950bn (€85bn) in assets under management, is working on a framework to measure and demand accountability in investee companies, according to a report in Business Day.

Northwest & Ethical Investments, the Canadian socially responsible investor, may engage further to get a separate chairman and CEO at Blackberry maker Research In Motion, according to a Bloomberg report. It quoted Robert Walker, Northwest’s vice president of ethical funds, as saying it would file a shareholder resolution on the issue if a promised role in a review doesn’t materialize.

Malaysia: Corporate Governance Week 2011 has been organised by the Securities Commission regulator and the Bursa Malaysia exchange. The theme this year is: “Sustainability: Taking Corporate Governance a Step Further”. Link