November 17, 2014
The Shareholder-Director Exchange (SDX) Working Group and Founders – Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP; Teneo; and Tapestry Networks – hosted the inaugural SDX Symposium at the Harvard Club in New York City on Friday, November 14, 2014. The event convened a group of leaders across various disciplines to engage in a candid discussion on the importance of shareholder-director engagement in corporate governance. Attendees included a distinguished group of CEOs, directors, and representatives from institutional investors and academic institutions.
James C. Woolery, SDX Co-Founder and Chairman-elect of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, kicked off the event. Mr. Woolery commented, "In the last 30 years, there have been tectonic shifts in the way markets operate. The Shareholder-Director Exchange (SDX) has created an infrastructure to enable shareholders to connect directly with directors, thereby creating value for the shareholder, director and most importantly, the Company overall."
The majority of the SDX Working Group, comprised of leading independent directors and representatives from some of the largest and most influential long-term institutional investors, attended the Symposium to lead the discussion along with special guests like Ivan Seidenberg, former Chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications, and William McCracken, former CEO of CA Technologies, Inc. These individuals participated in interactive panels focused on overcoming key challenges to engagement and sharing personal case studies. The panels were chaired by Anthony Goodman, SDX Co-Founder and presiding Partner at Tapestry Networks, along with his colleague Rich Fields, a Principal at Tapestry Networks.
In addition to the panel discussions, the Symposium featured a conversation hosted by CNBC's Chief International Correspondent Michelle Caruso-Cabrera with The Home Depot's Chairman Frank Blake about his perspectives on engagement based on his experiences.
"The belief underpinning SDX's core mission is that more proactive engagement and a system that sets expectations for all parties are net positives for everyone, especially for the management team," said Declan Kelly, SDX Co-Founder and Chairman and CEO of Teneo Holdings. "We hope this message continues to disseminate throughout the investment community and in turn, drives the adoption of formal engagement policies, such as the SDX Protocol, to become a standard practice across all corporations."
The SDX Working Group and Founders also announced today that companies can now endorse the SDX Protocol, or more generally – a formal policy for engagement – through the new "Endorse Now" section on the SDX website at www.sdxprotocol.com. This reflects another important step in SDX's mission to encourage and facilitate engagement.
"2014 has been called the year of engagement. We first launched SDX in February of 2014, and we have made significant progress since then in raising awareness about the importance of shareholder-director engagement," Mr. Goodman concluded. "The panels at the SDX Symposium underscored that engagement is not simply about bilateral meetings between investors and directors, but instead about a fundamental shift in the way we think about, and approach, corporate governance. I am looking forward to what's ahead for SDX."
The Shareholder-Director Exchange (SDX) is a working group comprised of leading independent directors and representatives from some of the largest and most influential long-term institutional investors; the initiative was sponsored by Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, Teneo and Tapestry Networks, with additional support from Broadridge Financial Solutions. SDX participants came together to discuss shareholder-director engagement and to use their collective experience to develop the SDX Protocol, a set of guidelines to provide a framework for shareholder-director engagements, which was created through a comprehensive series of interviews and meetings with more than 30 directors, institutional investors, and corporate governance thought leaders. The 10-point SDX Protocol offers guidance to public company boards and shareholders on when such engagement is appropriate, and how to make these engagements valuable and effective. A copy of the SDX Protocol is available for download at www.sdxprotocol.com.