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11.3 Global Investor Concerns
The 2006 ISS Global Institutional Investor Study identified three governance issues that consistently rank among the top three concerns of international investors:
Better boards—the independence of the full board and key committees, the process of nominating and electing directors to ensure independence and the right mix of skills and qualifications, the accountability of boards, and their responsiveness to shareholders—defined the number one issue in all markets except Japan. Investors in four markets ranked board structure, composition, or independence as their number one priority, and investors in all markets except the United States included it in their top three issues.
Executive pay—linking pay to performance, disclosing performance metrics, and demonstrating the links justifying executive compensation—was judged critical in all markets but Japan. Some of the strongest concerns came from investors in the United States and Canada.
Financial reporting was a key issue in every market but Australia– New Zealand. More than 70% of investors surveyed cited improved disclosure as the most needed improvement. The lack of trust in current financial reporting extended across markets with distinctive approaches to financial disclosure. U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) came under criticism for its rule-based, sometimes inconsistent or less than informative approach to accounting. The concern over financial reporting was hardly confined to the United States, however. Investors in other markets also voiced concerns, including those that take more of a principles-based approach. In developed markets, the principal challenge was seen to “make sense of the numbers, to see the forest for the trees.” In contrast, in developing markets like China, investors worried about obtaining reliable numbers in the first place.
A major conclusion of the survey was that institutional investors increasingly view corporate governance as a business imperative reflecting the recognition that their own business performance is largely driven by the bottom-line performance of the companies in their portfolios. They also signaled that corporate governance is likely to become an even more important factor in investment decisions in the future because of advances in the investment process, including global commercial databases on corporate governance ratings and the proxy voting records of institutional investors.