The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies and an advocate of the best practices in corporate governance, released a 2012 version of its Principles of Corporate Governance. In summary, the introduction to the 2012 Principles states:
“[t]he Business Roundtable supports the following guiding principles:First, the paramount duty of the board of directors of a public corporation is to select a chief executive officer and to oversee the CEO and senior management in the competent and ethical operation of the corporation on a day-to-day basis.
Second, it is the responsibility of management, under the oversight of the board, to operate the corporation in an effective and ethical manner to produce long-term value for shareholders. The board of directors, the CEO and senior management should set a “tone at the top” that establishes a culture of legal compliance and integrity. Directors and management should never put personal interests ahead of or in conflict with the interests of the corporation.
Third, it is the responsibility of management, under the oversight of the board, to develop and implement the corporation’s strategic plans, and to identify, evaluate and manage the risks inherent in the corporation’s strategy. The board of directors should understand the corporation’s strategic plans, the associated risks, and the steps that management is taking to monitor and manage those risks. The board and senior management should agree on the appropriate risk profile for the corporation, and they should be comfortable that the strategic plans are consistent with that risk profile.
Fourth, it is the responsibility of management, under the oversight of the audit committee and the board, to produce financial statements that fairly present the financial condition and results of operations of the corporation and to make the timely disclosures investors need to assess the financial and business soundness and risks of the corporation.
Fifth, it is the responsibility of the board, through its audit committee, to engage an independent accounting firm to audit the financial statements prepared by management and issue an opinion that those statements are fairly stated in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, as well as to oversee the corporation’s relationship with the outside auditor.
Sixth, it is the responsibility of the board, through its corporate governance committee, to play a leadership role in shaping the corporate governance of the corporation and the composition and leadership of the board. The corporate governance committee should regularly assess the backgrounds, skills and experience of the board and its members and engage in succession planning for the board.
Seventh, it is the responsibility of the board, through its compensation committee, to adopt and oversee the implementation of compensation policies, establish goals for performance-based compensation, and determine the compensation of the CEO and senior management. Compensation policies and goals should be aligned with the corporation’s long-term strategy, and they should create incentives to innovate and produce long-term value for shareholders without excessive risk. These policies and the resulting compensation should be communicated clearly to shareholders.
Eighth, it is the responsibility of the corporation to engage with long-term shareholders in a meaningful way on issues and concerns that are of widespread interest to long-term shareholders, with appropriate involvement from the board of directors and management.
Ninth, it is the responsibility of the corporation to deal with its employees, customers, suppliers and other constituencies in a fair and equitable manner and to exemplify the highest standards of corporate citizenship.These responsibilities and others are critical to the functioning of the modern public corporation and the integrity of the public markets. No law or regulation can be a substitute for the voluntary adherence to these principles by corporate directors and management in a manner that fits the needs of their individual corporations.”
The full version of the 2012 Principles is available here.