Apr 25, 2019

Corporate board changes for top companies come slowly or not at all

Traders in the S&P 500 stock index options pit. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

The boards of companies listed on the S&P 500 and Russell 3000 are staying about the same, despite repeated calls from shareholders for shake-ups, according to a new report from The Conference Board.

The big picture: Last year, 50% of companies in the Russell and 43% of companies in the S&P saw zero change to their corporate boards, a review of SEC filings showed. And in cases where boards did add a replacement or addition, it rarely affected more than one board seat. Just 25% of boards elected a first-time director who had never served on a public company board before, the report found.

Between the lines: Average director tenure is 10 years or longer, the Conference Board found, noting that board seats rarely become available and, when a spot does open it is rarely filled by a newcomer without prior board experience.

Reality check: Calls for change are also coming from inside of the companies themselves. PwC's 2018 corporate directors survey found that almost half of board members thought at least on person on the board should be replaced.

  • The stalemate in board membership also handicaps companies' efforts to improve gender and racial diversity as most current board members are white men.

What they're saying: Interestingly, the issue seems more entrenched at smaller firms.

“We see a tale of two cities ... Larger companies in the Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 have focused on board refreshment and aligning the skills of the board to the company’s forward-looking strategy over the past five years. We see that many smaller companies lag behind in refreshment. Institutional investors will continue to pressure public boards to refresh their board compositions."
— Justus O'Brien, CEO of Advisory Partners, in the report.

Go deeper: S&P 500 closes at new record for the first time in 6 months

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George Zimmerman sues Buttigieg and Warren for $265M

George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in November 2013. Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images

George Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in Polk County, Fla. seeking $265 million in damages from Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, accusing them of defaming him to "garner votes in the black community."

Context: Neither the Massachusetts senator nor the former Southbend mayor tweeted his name in the Feb. 5 posts on what would've been the 25th birthday of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen Zimmerman fatally shot in 2012. But Zimmerman alleges they "acted with actual malice" to defame him.

4 takeaways from the Nevada Democratic debate

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The relative civility of the last eight Democratic debates was thrown by the wayside Wednesday night, the first debate to feature the billionaire "boogeyman," Michael Bloomberg, whose massive advertising buys and polling surge have drawn the ire of the entire field.

The big picture: Pete Buttigieg captured the state of the race early on, noting that after Super Tuesday, the "two most polarizing figures on this stage" — Bloomberg and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders — could be the only ones left competing for the nomination. The rest of candidates fought to stop that momentum.

Klobuchar squares off with Buttigieg on immigration

Buttigieg and Klobuchar in Las Vegas on Feb. 19. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the debate stage Wednesday for voting to confirm Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and voting in 2007 to make English the national language.

What she's saying: "I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete, but let me tell you what it's like to be in the arena. ... I did not one bit agree with these draconian policies to separate kids from their parents, and in my first 100 days, I would immediately change that."