RI Governance & Engagement, Sept. 22: Malaysia seeks to boost corporate disclosure

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

The Bursa Malaysia exchange has amended its listing requirements and introduced a Corporate Disclosure Guide to help companies boost disclosure standards. “High standards of disclosure is a value proposition that can enhance a listed issuer’s invest ability,” the exchange said in a statement. The changes take effect from January 3 2012.

A lawsuit brought by the Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System and the City of New Orleans Employees’ Retirement System against BP executives over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last year has been dismissed. US District Judge Keith Ellison in Houston said it was more appropriate for investors file suit in the UK as BP is based in London, according to a Reuters report. It added a suit brought by the New York and Ohio state pension funds alleging securities fraud is still before Ellison.

Proxy voting advisory firm ISS, Institutional Shareholder Services, will be looking to speed up product development, according to an interview with new President Gary Retelny. “By accelerating our product development cycle, I am confident that we’ll not only meet [investor and company] needs but will become an engine for innovation and continued thought leadership in our field,” he told law firm Davis Polk.

The UK’s Church Investors Group (CIG) which has combined assets of around £12bn (€13.7bn) is engage with UK-listed hotel groups on human trafficking and modern-day slavery issues ahead of the 2012 Olympics in London. It builds on work the US Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has done.

Ten of the world’s most powerful oil, gas and mining companies own 6,038 subsidiaries and over a third of them are based in secrecy jurisdictions, according to a new report – Piping profits: the secret world of oil, gas and mining giants – from campaign group Publish What You Pay. Chevron was the most opaque extractives firm, with 62% of its 77 subsidiaries located in so-called ‘secrecy jurisdictions’.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the US regulator, has cleared the way for shareholders to file proposals at companies’ annual meetings calling on them to adopt proxy access provisions to let investors nominate board candidates. The information comes in a notice in the Federal Register here*A US court has ruled against oil-major Chevron* in the long-running Ecuador oil case. The Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York overturned a block on Ecuadoreans collecting damages totalling $18.2bn (€13.5bn) from Chevron over Amazon oil pollution, according to the BBC. It said the move was not the end of the legal saga however.

The 2011 US Top Executive Compensation Report has been published by business group The Conference Board. It examines salary, total cash compensation, total compensation, and the mix of compensation elements for the CEO and the five highest-paid executives for specific revenue and industry groups. It’s available for $395.

The recent US proxy voting season, with higher shareholder voting for social and environmental issues, shows that investor expectations of companies are rapidly evolving. That’s the conclusion of a review by Heidi Welsh of the Sustainable Investments Institute and Tim Smith of Walden Asset Management in Proxy Season 2011: A Tipping Point for Social and Environmental Issues? “The new breed of shareowners thinks more transparency and accountability will better serve their interests now and in the future, and they voted with these goals in mind during 2011,” they write.

A survey of annual reports from South Africa’s top 100 companies and top 10 state-owned entities has been published by consulting firm Ernst &Young: “Excellence in Corporate Reporting 2011”. The top-ranked Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed companies were: Nedbank Group; Gold Fields; Anglo American Plc; Massmart Holdings; Standard Bank Group; Exxaro Resources; Truworths International; African Rainbow Minerals; Sasol and Kumba Iron Ore. Link
The European Centre for Corporate Engagement (ECCE) has launched its new website. ECCE, based at Maastricht University specialises in areas including corporate governance, green real estate, responsible investment and sustainable banking.