Boardroom Governance with Evan Epstein
Nichol Garzon-Mitchell: Glass Lewis and the Proxy Advisory Landscape.
In this episode, I talk with Nichol Garzon-Mitchell, a Senior Vice President and the General Counsel at Glass Lewis, one of the two major proxy advisory firms in the world. Glass Lewis covers over 30,000 meetings each year, across approximately 100 global markets. They have over 1,300 clients, including the majority of the world’s largest pension plans, mutual funds and asset managers, who collectively manage more than $40 trillion in assets. In this podcast, we discuss the history and current focus of Glass Lewis, and the evolution of corporate governance, stewardship and engagement since she first joined the firm 16 years ago. We also dive into regulatory matters involving her industry, and her general outlook towards corporate governance matters. If you like this show, please consider subscribing, leaving a review or sharing this podcast on social media. You can find all the show notes on the website boardroom-governance.com and please feel free to subscribe to the Boardroom Governance Newsletter at evanepstein.substack.com
- (1:16) - Start of interview
- (2:04) - Nichol's "origin story"
- (3:48) - Her beginnings with Glass Lewis & Co. in 2004.
- (4:32) - What is the proxy advisory business? What was the origin of Glass Lewis? Founded by Greg Taxin and Kevin Cameron in 2003.
- (7:17) - The evolution of the proxy advisory business. "Now we've become more of a trusted partner to institutional investors to navigate all [the corporate governance] issues."
- (7:51) - The proxy voting management platform "Viewpoint".
- (9:51) - Proxy research at Glass Lewis: 28,000 research reports on public companies in 100 global markets.
- (14:06) - Proxy advisory landscape in the U.S. and internationally. The Best Practice Principles Group (2013).
- (16:21) - The evolution of engagement with issuers ("Glass Lewis has about 1,500 engagements per year with issuers, across 40 countries in 20+ languages"). There are free and paid engagements.
- (22:00) - The regulatory landscape of proxy advisors. Heightened focus in last 5 years, and new regulations were passed in 2020 from the SEC and DoL.
- (29:32) - Current ownership of Glass Lewis: Ontario Teachers Pension Fund (80%) and Alberta Investment Management Corporation (20%).
- (32:14) - How they set their corporate governance principles and policy guidelines. They follow what matters to institutional investors (their clients). They also have a research advisory council from industry (that meets once a year). They look at regulations in different markets.
- (35:08) - Glass Lewis boardroom diversity efforts: starting in this proxy season they will be rating the level of disclosure on boardroom diversity.
- (38:15) - On corporate purpose. Stakeholder capitalism.
- (39:46) - On ESG and sustainability activism. "People [and institutional investors] are more aware."
- (41:17) - On shareholder activism.
- (43:25) - Her recommendations to US public company directors:
- Be engaged.
- Know your shareholder base.
- Have a plan.
- In terms of proxy advisors: stop viewing them as a threat. She encourages directors to engage with Glass Lewis, in its capacity as a trusted advisor to institutional investors. "Use us as a way to connect with investors."
- (45:00) - Prediction on regulatory changes with new incoming Administration in the US, Canada, India, EU, etc.
- (46:30) - Her favorite books:
- Distant Neighbors, by Alan Riding (1984)
- Give and Take, by Adam Grant (2013)
- (48:00) - Her mentors:
- Jorge Robles (Lawyer in Mexico)
- KT Rabin (ex CEO of Glass Lewis).
- (49:21) - Her favorite quote: "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." (Benjamin Franklin)
- (49:51) - Her "unusual habit": Singing.
- (50:49) - The living person she most admires: Lots of women, including Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama. But the person she admires is her father.
Nichol Garzon-Mitchell is a Senior Vice President and the General Counsel at Glass Lewis, one of the leading proxy advisory firms in the world. Glass Lewis has over 1,300 clients, including the majority of the world’s largest pension plans, mutual funds and asset managers, who collectively manage more than $40 trillion in assets.
If you like this show, please consider subscribing, leaving a review or sharing this podcast on social media.
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Music/Soundtrack (found via Free Music Archive): Seeing The Future by Dexter Britain is licensed under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License