Each of Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis recently published their insights on the impact that COVID-19 will have on corporate governance and provided guidance on what effect the pandemic may have on the application of some of their voting policies for the upcoming 2020 proxy season. Many of the global policy statements in these publications have relevance and implications for Canadian issuers, which we have summarized below.
The global COVID-19 pandemic and its rapid evolution has placed enormous pressure on organizations as they seek to adapt to the situation and communicate their response. It is crucial that boards and management collaborate to find the best way forward for the organization.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a sledgehammer to stock markets, with the S&P/TSX 60 and S&P 500 each plunging approximately 20% during the first quarter of 2020. While boards and management must contend with a long list of pressing and unprecedented issues affecting business operations, they should also consider that the current drop in stock prices may fuel a wave of activism and opportunistic M&A activity once the immediate crisis subsides, and prepare accordingly.