Seeing the big picture
From her accomplishments over six years at Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), it’s easy to view Courtney McCormick’s star as having already risen, but she’s just getting started. As corporate secretary at the New Jersey electric utility since 2010, McCormick has transformed the office from one that primarily provides logistical support to the board to one that employs corporate governance best practices and oversight principles.
Board member Albert Gamper credits her with ‘working with the chairman to better focus the board meetings on strategy, policy, oversight and big-picture issues rather than routine reports and reporting.’ He also cites her collaboration with PSEG’s public affairs group to hold the first offsite board strategy session in Washington, DC. That event drew speakers from government, regulatory agencies and trade associations.
In May 2014 McCormick added vice president and deputy general counsel to her duties. Even as she has continued to be PSEG’s lead attorney in evaluating numerous acquisition opportunities and significant financial transactions, under her watch there has been a steady stream of governance enhancements, including improving the process of delegating authority and successful negotiation of the withdrawal of a shareholder proposal by a national shareholder activist group, says Ralph Izzo, PSEG’s president, CEO and chairman. Under McCormick’s supervision, PSEG also began to make its proxy statements more accessible to readers, including enhancing the description of its governance processes and pay-for-performance policies.
As part of her efforts to strengthen gender and ethnic diversity on the board, McCormick oversaw searches that brought in two new directors with diverse backgrounds, including the second woman to join PSEG’s board, who had been president of the transmission business at one of PSEG’s peers.
‘We had to position ourselves appropriately and describe what makes being involved with our company and our industry interesting and exciting,’ McCormick says. The socio-political implications of energy immerse the board in a range of issues such as cutting-edge concerns around carbon emissions. McCormick also recently invited back a former director who had begun his legal career working for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to share his perspective on how to foster diversity and inclusion.
In addition to rewriting the Form 10K’s management discussion and analysis section to provide a more thorough and clear overview of the firm’s finances, McCormick has reviewed, improved and created company practices even where there was no legal imperative to do so. That includes leading the creation of a political participation practice and a social media practice, and enhancing PSEG’s focus on policies that prevent insider trading and Reg FD violations.