SEC commissioner Gallagher calls for reforms at SCSGP conference

The Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals annual conference kicked off yesterday with SEC commissioner Daniel Gallagher admitting the agency needs to implement governance reforms faster.

The Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals annual conference kicked off yesterday with more than 400 participants in attendance engaging in a healthy exchange of information on governance issues. SEC commissioner Daniel Gallagher, who spoke in the last plenary session of the day, said the agency needs to implement governance reforms faster, and indicated that proxy advisory firms ‘should receive oversight commensurate with their role in governance.

Gallagher said the SEC should consider regulating the proxy advisory firms now by requiring them to follow a universal code of conduct, requiring increased transparency on how they operate and by increasing overall accountability for their recommendations. He also said the agency is making efforts to deliver guidance on many Dodd Frank rules, but it is often hampered by conflicting priorities of congressional mandates. Gallagher said that with two new commissioners soon to join the agency, it should then be able to move ahead with reforms at a faster pace. 

The conference themed ‘governance wired’ got off to an energetic start as keynote speaker Bob Zukis, chairman and social CEO of Saaskwatch Systems shared a high-end multimedia presentation with the attendees. Zukis shared his vision of how social technology would have major implications for corporate governance in the future, predicting social media will continue to expand its influence on our everyday lives. 

Michelle Edkins, managing director of BlackRock followed Zukis, sharing her views on CEO succession, management development and the board with the full conference audience. She pointed out that boards spend most of their time dealing with compensation issues, but should focus much more energy on succession planning for the CEO and other key positions.

‘Most boards will at least see that the CEO is thinking about who the next CFO, general counsel and division heads are,’ Edkins said. She also emphasized that it is the board’s responsibility to ‘make sure that the people who are the company's biggest assets are being harnessed properly and being put to the best use of the company.’

Most concurrent sessions were well attended and the exhibit hall was bustling with activity all during the day. Key governance figures participating in the first day of the conference included Katherine Rabin CEO of Glass Lewis, Stephen Brown, senior director of corporate governance and associate general counsel, TIAA-CREF, Jonathan Gibson, partner and head of global entity governance and compliance, PwC and Lewis Ferguson, chair of the International Forum of Independent Audit regulators, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

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