Board of directors
A board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a board of governors, board of managers, board of regents, board of trustees, and board of visitors. It is often simply referred to as "the board".
A board's activities are determined by the powers, duties, and responsibilities delegated to it or conferred on it by an authority outside itself. These matters are typically detailed in the organization's bylaws. The bylaws commonly also specify the number of members of the board, how they are to be chosen, and when they are to meet. However, these bylaws rarely address a board's powers when faced with a corporate turnaround or restructuring, where board members need to act as agents of change in addition to their traditional fiduciary responsibilities.
In an organization with voting members, the board acts on behalf of, and is subordinate to, the organization's full group, which usually chooses the members of the board. In a stock corporation, the board is elected by the shareholders and is the highest authority in the management of the corporation. In a non-stock corporation with no general voting membership, the board is the supreme governing body of the institution; its members are sometimes chosen by the board itself.
Typical duties of boards of directors include:
- governing the organization by establishing broad policies and objectives;
- selecting, appointing, supporting and reviewing the performance of the chief executive;
- ensuring the availability of adequate financial resources;
- approving annual budgets;
accounting to the companies with publicly trading stock, these responsibilities are typically much more rigorous and complex than for those of other types.
- Inside director 1.1
- Outside director 1.2
- Terminology 1.3
- Process 2
- Non-corporate boards 3
- Governance 4.1
- Two-tier system 4.2
- History 4.3
- Election and removal 4.4
- Exercise of powers 4.5
- "Proper purpose" 4.6.1
- "Unfettered discretion" 4.6.2
"Conflict of duty and interest" 4.6.3
- Transactions with the company 184.108.40.206
- Use of corporate property, opportunity, or information 220.127.116.11
- Competing with the company 18.104.22.168
- Common law duties of care and skill 4.6.4
- Remedies for breach of duty 4.6.5
- The future 4.6.6
United States 4.7
- Sarbanes–Oxley Act 4.7.1
- Size 4.7.2
- Committees 4.7.3
- Compensation 4.7.4
- Criticism 4.8
- See also 5
- Notes 6
- References 7
- External links 8
The directors of an organization are the persons who are members of its board. Several specific terms categorize directors by the presence or absence of their other relationships to the organization.
An inside director is a director who is also an employee, officer, major stakeholders, and often have special knowledge of its inner workings, its financial or market position, and so on.
Typical inside directors are:
- A chief executive officer (CEO) who may also be chairman of the board
- Other executives of the organization, such as its chief financial officer (CFO) or executive vice president
- Large shareholders (who may or may not also be employees or officers)
- Representatives of other stakeholders such as labor unions, major lenders, or members of the community in which the organization is located
An inside director who is employed as a manager or executive of the organization is sometimes referred to as an executive director (not to be confused with the title
In most jurisdictions, the law provides for a variety of remedies in the event of a breach by the directors of their duties:
Remedies for breach of duty
More recently, it has been suggested that both the tests of skill and diligence should be assessed objectively and subjectively; in the United Kingdom, the statutory provisions relating to directors' duties in the new Companies Act 2006 have been codified on this basis.
This was a dual subjective and objective test, and one deliberately pitched at a higher level.
- "such care as an ordinary man might be expected to take on his own behalf."
However, a more modern approach has since developed, and in Dorchester Finance Co Ltd v Stebbing  BCLC 498 the court held that the rule in Equitable Fire related only to skill, and not to diligence. With respect to diligence, what was required was:
However, this decision was based firmly in the older notions (see above) that prevailed at the time as to the mode of corporate decision making, and effective control residing in the shareholders; if they elected and put up with an incompetent decision maker, they should not have recourse to complain.
- "a director need not exhibit in the performance of his duties a greater degree of skill than may reasonably be expected from a person of his knowledge and experience." (emphasis added)
Traditionally, the level of care and skill which has to be demonstrated by a director has been framed largely with reference to the non-executive director. In Re City Equitable Fire Insurance Co  Ch 407, it was expressed in purely subjective terms, where the court held that:
Common law duties of care and skill
Directors cannot compete directly with the company without a conflict of interest arising. Similarly, they should not act as directors of competing companies, as their duties to each company would then conflict with each other.
Competing with the company
The decision has been followed in several subsequent cases, and is now regarded as settled law.
And accordingly, the directors were required to disgorge the profits that they made, and the shareholders received their windfall.
- "(i) that what the directors did was so related to the affairs of the company that it can properly be said to have been done in the course of their management and in the utilisation of their opportunities and special knowledge as directors; and (ii) that what they did resulted in profit to themselves."
In Regal (Hastings) Ltd v Gulliver  All ER 378 the House of Lords, in upholding what was regarded as a wholly unmeritorious claim by the shareholders, held that:
Directors must not, without the informed consent of the company, use for their own profit the company's assets, opportunities, or information. This prohibition is much less flexible than the prohibition against the transactions with the company, and attempts to circumvent it using provisions in the articles have met with limited success.
Use of corporate property, opportunity, or information
In many countries, there is also a statutory duty to declare interests in relation to any transactions, and the director can be fined for failing to make disclosure.
However, in many jurisdictions the members of the company are permitted to ratify transactions which would otherwise fall foul of this principle. It is also largely accepted in most jurisdictions that this principle can be overridden in the company's constitution.
- "A corporate body can only act by agents, and it is, of course, the duty of those agents so to act as best to promote the interests of the corporation whose affairs they are conducting. Such agents have duties to discharge of a fiduciary nature towards their principal. And it is a rule of universal application that no one, having such duties to discharge, shall be allowed to enter into engagements in which he has, or can have, a personal interest conflicting or which possibly may conflict, with the interests of those whom he is bound to protect... So strictly is this principle adhered to that no question is allowed to be raised as to the fairness or unfairness of the contract entered into..." (emphasis added)
By definition, where a director enters into a transaction with a company, there is a conflict between the director's interest (to do well for himself out of the transaction) and his duty to the company (to ensure that the company gets as much as it can out of the transaction). This rule is so strictly enforced that, even where the Lord Cranworth stated in his judgment that:
Transactions with the company
As fiduciaries, the directors may not put themselves in a position where their interests and duties conflict with the duties that they owe to the company. The law takes the view that good faith must not only be done, but must be manifestly seen to be done, and zealously patrols the conduct of directors in this regard; and will not allow directors to escape liability by asserting that his decision was in fact well founded. Traditionally, the law has divided conflicts of duty and interest into three sub-categories.
"Conflict of duty and interest"
This does not mean, however, that the board cannot agree to the company entering into a contract which binds the company to a certain course, even if certain actions in that course will require further board approval. The company remains bound, but the directors retain the discretion to vote against taking the future actions (although that may involve a breach by the company of the contract that the board previously approved).
Directors cannot, without the consent of the company, fetter their discretion in relation to the exercise of their powers, and cannot bind themselves to vote in a particular way at future board meetings. This is so even if there is no improper motive or purpose, and no personal advantage to the director.
Not all jurisdictions recognised the "proper purpose" duty as separate from the "good faith" duty however.
The seminal authority in relation to what amounts to a proper purpose is the Privy Council decision of Howard Smith Ltd v Ampol Ltd  AC 821. The case concerned the power of the directors to issue new shares. It was alleged that the directors had issued a large number of new shares purely to deprive a particular shareholder of his voting majority. An argument that the power to issue shares could only be properly exercised to raise new capital was rejected as too narrow, and it was held that it would be a proper exercise of the director's powers to issue shares to a larger company to ensure the financial stability of the company, or as part of an agreement to exploit mineral rights owned by the company. If so, the mere fact that an incidental result (even if it was a desired consequence) was that a shareholder lost his majority, or a takeover bid was defeated, this would not itself make the share issue improper. But if the sole purpose was to destroy a voting majority, or block a takeover bid, that would be an improper purpose.
Directors must exercise their powers for a proper purpose. While in many instances an improper purpose is readily evident, such as a director looking to feather his or her own nest or divert an investment opportunity to a relative, such breaches usually involve a breach of the director's duty to act in good faith. Greater difficulties arise where the director, while acting in good faith, is serving a purpose that is not regarded by the law as proper.
The duties apply to each director separately, while the powers apply to the board jointly. Also, the duties are owed to the company itself, and not to any other entity. This does not mean that directors can never stand in a fiduciary relationship to the individual shareholders; they may well have such a duty in certain circumstances.
Because directors exercise control and management over the organization, but organizations are (in theory) run for the benefit of the shareholders, the law imposes strict duties on directors in relation to the exercise of their duties. The duties imposed on directors are fiduciary duties, similar to those that the law imposes on those in similar positions of trust: agents and trustees.
In most common law countries, the powers of the board are vested in the board as a whole, and not in the individual directors. However, in instances an individual director may still bind the company by his acts by virtue of his ostensible authority (see also: the rule in Turquand's Case).
The exercise by the board of directors of its powers usually occurs in board meetings. Most legal systems require sufficient notice to be given to all directors of these meetings, and that a quorum must be present before any business may be conducted. Usually, a meeting which is held without notice having been given is still valid if all of the directors attend, but it has been held that a failure to give notice may negate resolutions passed at a meeting, because the persuasive oratory of a minority of directors might have persuaded the majority to change their minds and vote otherwise.
Exercise of powers
Board accountability to shareholders is a recurring issue. In 2010, the New York Times noted that several directors who had overseen companies which had failed in the financial crisis of 2007–2010 had found new positions as directors. The SEC sometimes imposes a ban (a "D&O bar") on serving on a board as part of its fraud cases, and one of these was upheld in 2013.
In a recent academic study that was published in the Journal of Applied Finance, Drexel University's LeBow College of Business professors Jie Cai, Jacqueline Garner, and Ralph Walkling examined how corporate shareholders voted in nearly 2,500 director elections in the United States. They found that directors received fewer votes from shareholders when their companies performed poorly, had excess CEO compensation, or had poor shareholder protection. They also found that directors received fewer votes when they did not regularly attend board meetings or received negative recommendations from RiskMetrics (a proxy advisory firm). This evidence suggests that some shareholders express their displeasure with a company by voting against its directors. The article also shows that companies often improve their corporate governance by removing poison pills or classified boards and by reducing excessive CEO pay after their directors receive low shareholder support.
In practice, it can be quite difficult to remove a director by a resolution in general meeting. In many legal systems, the director has a right to receive special notice of any resolution to remove him or her; the company must often supply a copy of the proposal to the director, who is usually entitled to be heard by the meeting. The director may require the company to circulate any representations that he wishes to make. Furthermore, the director's contract of service will usually entitle him to compensation if he is removed, and may often include a generous "golden parachute" which also acts as a deterrent to removal.
Some jurisdictions also permit the board of directors to appoint directors, either to fill a vacancy which arises on resignation or death, or as an addition to the existing directors.
Directors may also leave office by resignation or death. In some legal systems, directors may also be removed by a resolution of the remaining directors (in some countries they may only do so "with cause"; in others the power is unrestricted).
In most legal systems, the appointment and removal of directors is voted upon by the shareholders in general meeting or through a proxy statement. For publicly traded companies in the U.S., the directors which are available to vote on are largely selected by either the board as a whole or a nominating committee. Although in 2002 the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ required that nominating committees consist of independent directors as a condition of listing, nomination committees have historically received input from management in their selections even when the CEO does not have a position on the board. Shareholder nominations can only occur at the general meeting itself or through the prohibitively expensive process of mailing out ballots separately; in May 2009 the SEC proposed a new rule allowing shareholders meeting certain criteria to add nominees to the proxy statement. In practice for publicly traded companies, the managers (inside directors) who are purportedly accountable to the board of directors have historically played a major role in selecting and nominating the directors who are voted on by the shareholders, in which case more "gray outsider directors" (independent directors with conflicts of interest) are nominated and elected.
Election and removal
It has been remarked that this development in the law was somewhat surprising at the time, as the relevant provisions in Table A (as it was then) seemed to contradict this approach rather than to endorse it.
A company is an entity distinct alike from its shareholders and its directors. Some of its powers may, according to its articles, be exercised by directors, certain other powers may be reserved for the shareholders in general meeting. If powers of management are vested in the directors, they and they alone can exercise these powers. The only way in which the general body of shareholders can control the exercise of powers by the articles in the directors is by altering the articles, or, if opportunity arises under the articles, by refusing to re-elect the directors of whose actions they disapprove. They cannot themselves usurp the powers which by the articles are vested in the directors any more than the directors can usurp the powers vested by the articles in the general body of shareholders.
The new approach did not secure immediate approval, but it was endorsed by the House of Lords in Quin & Axtens v Salmon  AC 442 and has since received general acceptance. Under English law, successive versions of Table A have reinforced the norm that, unless the directors are acting contrary to the law or the provisions of the Articles, the powers of conducting the management and affairs of the company are vested in them.
However, by 1906, the English Court of Appeal had made it clear in the decision of Automatic Self-Cleansing Filter Syndicate Co Ltd v Cuninghame  2 Ch 34 that the division of powers between the board and the shareholders in general meaning depended on the construction of the articles of association and that, where the powers of management were vested in the board, the general meeting could not interfere with their lawful exercise. The articles were held to constitute a contract by which the members had agreed that "the directors and the directors alone shall manage."
The development of a separate board of directors to manage the company has occurred incrementally and indefinitely over legal history. Until the end of the 19th century, it seems to have been generally assumed that the general meeting (of all shareholders) was the supreme organ of the company, and the board of directors was merely an agent of the company subject to the control of the shareholders in general meeting.
In some European and Asian countries, there are two separate boards, an executive board for day-to-day business and a supervisory board (elected by the shareholders and employees) for supervising the executive board. In these countries, the CEO (chief executive or managing director) presides over the executive board and the chairman presides over the supervisory board, and these two roles will always be held by different people. This ensures a distinction between management by the executive board and governance by the supervisory board and allows for clear lines of authority. The aim is to prevent a conflict of interest and too much power being concentrated in the hands of one person. There is a strong parallel here with the structure of government, which tends to separate the political cabinet from the management civil service. In the United States, the board of directors (elected by the shareholders) is often equivalent to the supervisory board, while the executive board may often be known as the executive committee (operating committee or executive council), composed of the CEO and their direct reports (other C-level officers, division/subsidiary heads).
In most cases, serving on a board is not a career unto itself, but board members often receive remunerations amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year since they often sit on the boards of several companies. Inside directors are usually not paid for sitting on a board, but the duty is instead considered part of their larger job description. Outside directors are usually paid for their services. These remunerations vary between corporations, but usually consist of a yearly or monthly salary, additional compensation for each meeting attended, stock options, and various other benefits. Tiffany & Co., for example, pays directors an annual retainer of $46,500, an additional annual retainer of $2,500 if the director is also a chairperson of a committee, a per-meeting-attended fee of $2,000 for meetings attended in person, a $500 fee for each meeting attended via telephone, in addition to stock options and retirement benefits.
A contrasting view is that in large public companies it is upper management and not boards that wield practical power, because boards delegate nearly all of their power to the top executive employees, adopting their recommendations almost without fail. As a practical matter, executives even choose the directors, with shareholders normally following management recommendations and voting for them.
Another feature of boards of directors in large public companies is that the board tends to have more shareholder activism among both institutional investors and individuals with small shareholdings.
Theoretically, the control of a company is divided between two bodies: the board of directors, and the shareholders in general meeting. In practice, the amount of power exercised by the board varies with the type of company. In small private companies, the directors and the shareholders are normally the same people, and thus there is no real division of power. In large public companies, the board tends to exercise more of a supervisory role, and individual responsibility and management tends to be delegated downward to individual professional executives (such as a finance director or a marketing director) who deal with particular areas of the company's affairs.
In a publicly held company, directors are elected to represent and are legally obligated as fiduciaries to represent owners of the company—the shareholders/stockholders. In this capacity they establish policies and make decisions on issues such as whether there is dividend and how much it is, stock options distributed to employees, and the hiring/firing and compensation of upper management.
A board-only organization is one whose board is self-appointed, rather than being accountable to a base of members through elections; or in which the powers of the membership are extremely limited.
Much of what has been written about boards of directors relates to boards of directors of business entities actively traded on public markets. More recently, however, material is becoming available for boards of private and closely held businesses including family businesses.
The role and responsibilities of a board of directors vary depending on the nature and type of business entity and the laws applying to the entity (see types of business entity). For example, the nature of the business entity may be one that is traded on a public market (public company), not traded on a public market (a private, limited or closely held company), owned by family members (a family business), or exempt from income taxes (a non-profit, not for profit, or tax-exempt entity). There are numerous types of business entities available throughout the world such as a corporation, limited liability company, cooperative, business trust, partnership, private limited company, and public limited company.
The process for running a board, sometimes called the board process, includes the selection of board members, the setting of clear board objectives, the dissemination of documents or board package to the board members, the collaborative creation of an agenda for the meeting, the creation and follow-up of assigned action items, and the assessment of the board process through standardized assessments of board members, owners, and CEOs. The science of this process has been slow to develop due to the secretive nature of the way most companies run their boards, however some standardization is beginning to develop. Some who are pushing for this standardization in the USA are the National Association of Corporate Directors, McKinsey Consulting and The Board Group.
Individual directors often serve on more than one board. This practice results in an interlocking directorate, where a relatively small number of individuals have significant influence over a large number of important entities. This situation can have important corporate, social, economic, and legal consequences, and has been the subject of significant research.
- Director - a person appointed to serve on the board of an organization, such as an institution or business.
- Inside director - a director who, in addition to serving on the board, has a meaningful connection to the organization
- Outside director - a director who, other than serving on the board, has no meaningful connections to the organization
- Executive director - an inside director who is also an executive with the organization. The term is also used, in a completely different sense, to refer to a CEO
- Non-executive director - a director who is not an executive with the organization
- Shadow director - an individual who is not a named director but who nevertheless directs or controls the organization
Outside directors bring outside experience and perspective to the board. They keep a watchful eye on the inside directors and on the way the organization is run. Outside directors are often useful in handling disputes between inside directors, or between shareholders and the board. They are thought to be advantageous because they can be objective and present little risk of conflict of interest. On the other hand, they might lack familiarity with the specific issues connected to the organization's governance.
An outside director is a member of the board who is not otherwise employed by or engaged with the organization, and does not represent any of its stakeholders. A typical example is a director who is president of a firm in a different industry.
- Directors 1
- injunction or declaration
- damages or compensation
- restoration of the company's property
- rescission of the relevant contract
- account of profits
- summary dismissal
- the likely consequences of any decision in the long term
- the interests of the company's employees
- the need to foster the company's business relationships with suppliers, customers and others
- the impact of the company's operations on the community and the environment
- the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standards of business conduct, and
- the need to act fairly as between members of a company
- Alternate director
- Board of governors
- Board of regents
- Celebrity board director
- Chief executive officer
- Corporate governance
- Corporate title
- Interlocking directorate
- Managing director
- Non-executive director
- Parliamentary procedure in the corporate world
- President (corporate title)
- Supervisory board (in German: "Aufsichtsrat")
- Vorstand, German for "management board"
- Gender representation on corporate boards of directors
- This section was developed from numerous definitions in USLegal.com, BusinessDictionary.com, Dictionary.com, The Free Dictionary by Farlex, ibid., ibid., ibid., Macmillan Dictionary, and Economics-dictionary.com.
- Board Process
- See generally, Bowen, William G., The board book: an insider's guide for directors and trustees (2008 W.W. Norton & Co.); Murray, Alan S., Revolt in the boardroom: the new rules of power in corporate America (2007 Collins); Charan, Ram, Boards that deliver: advancing corporate governance from compliance to competitive advantage (2005 Jossey-Bass); Carver, John, Corporate boards that create value: governing company performance from the boardroom (2002 Jossey-Bass); Harvard business review on corporate governance (2000 Harvard Business School Press).
- See specifically Tutelman and Hause, The Balance Point: New Ways Business Owners Can Use Boards (2008 Famille Press).
- Titles Associated with Executive Compensation| Compensation Resources Inc.
- Fees, CEO Evaluation, and Ownership Structure By Joshua Kennon, About.com
- Gower, Principles of Company Law (6th ed.), citing Isle of Wight Railway v Tahourdin (1883) 25 Ch D 320.
- Per Cozens-Hardy LJ at 44
- See Gower, Principles of Company Law (6th ed.) at 185.
- For example, in the United Kingdom, see section 303 of the Companies Act 1985
- Shivdasani A, Yermack D. (1999). CEO involvement in the selection of new board members: An empirical analysis. Journal of Finance.
- Chhaochharia V, Grinstein Y. (2007). Corporate governance and firm value: The impact of the 2002 governance rules. The Journal of Finance.
- SEC. (May 2009). SEC Votes to Propose Rule Amendments to Facilitate Rights of Shareholders to Nominate Directors.
- In the United Kingdom it is 28 days' notice, see sections 303(2) and 379 of the Companies Act 1985
- In the United Kingdom, see section 304(1) of the Companies Act 1985. A private company cannot use a written resolution under section 381A – a meeting must be held.
- In the United Kingdom, see sections 303(2) and (3) of the Companies Act 1985
- Cai, J., J. L. Garner, and R. A. Walkling, 2009. Electing Directors. Journal of Finance 64 (5), 2387–2419.
- Craig S, Lattman P. (2010). Companies May Fail, but Directors Are in Demand. New York Times.
- SEC Wins D&O Bar Against Alleged Hedge Fund Scammer. Law360.
- See for example Barber's Case (1877) 5 Ch D 963 and Re Portuguese Consolidated Copper Mines (1889) 42 Ch D 160
- Breckland Group Holdings Ltd v London and Suffolk Properties  BCLC 100
- Percival v Wright  Ch 421
- For example, if the board is authorised by the shareholders to negotiate with a takeover bidder. It has been held in New Zealand that "depending upon all the surround circumstances and the nature of the responsibility which in a real and practical sense the director has assumed towards the shareholder," Coleman v Myers  2 NZLR 225
- Following Hogg v. Cramphorn Ltd.  Ch 254
- Teck Corporation v Millar (1972) 33 DLR (3d) 288
- This division was rejected in British Columbia in Teck Corporation v Millar (1972) 33 DLR (3d) 288
- Although as Gower points out, as well understood as the rule is, there is a paucity of authority on the point. But see Clark v Workman  1 Ir R 107 and Dawson International plc v Coats Paton plc 1989 SLT 655
- In the United Kingdom, see section 317 of the Companies Act 1985
- In summary, the facts were as follows: Company A owned a cinema, and the directors decided to acquire two other cinemas with a view to selling the entire undertaking as a going concern. They formed a new company ("Company B") to take the leases of the two new cinemas. But the lessor insisted on various stipulations, one of which was that Company B had to have a paid up share capital of not less than £5,000 (a substantial sum at the time). Company A was unable to subscribe for more than £2,000 in shares, so the directors arranged for the remaining 3,000 shares to be taken by themselves and their friends. Later, instead of selling the undertaking, they sold all of the shares in both companies and made a substantial profit. The shareholders of Company A sued asking that directors and their friends to disgorge the profits that they had made in connection with their 3,000 shares in Company B – the very same shares which the shareholders in Company A had been asked to subscribe (through Company A) but refused to do so.
- Industrial Development Consultants v Cooley  1 WLR 443 (corporate information), Canadian Aero Service v. O'Malley (1973) 40 DLR (3d) 371 (corporate opportunity) and Boardman v Phipps  2 AC 46 (corporate opportunity, which again, the company itself had declined to take up)
- Norman v Theodore Goddard  BCLC 1027
- Director's duties
- http://www.investopedia.com/articles/analyst/03/111903.asp#ixzz27Kekd83e Evaluating The Board Of Directors| investopedia.com| 29 February 2008
- https://www.harborcompliance.com/information/corporate-governance-by-state.php U.S. Corporate Governance by State | harborcompliance.com| 22 April 2014
- https://www.harborcompliance.com/information/nonprofit-governance-by-state.php U.S. Nonprofit Governance by State | harborcompliance.com| 27 January 2014
- Compensation Committee Structure, Function and Best Practices Richard E. Wood
- Money for Nothing: How the Failure of Corporate Boards is Ruining American Business and Costing Us Trillions
- P Blumberg, 'Reflections on Proposals for Corporate Reform Through Change in the Composition of the Board of Directors: "Special Interest" or "Public" Directors' (1973) 53 Boston University Law Review 547
- KJ Hopt, 'The German Two-Tier Board: Experience, Theories, Reforms' in KJ Hopt and others. (eds), Comparative Corporate Governance: The State of the Art and Emerging Research (Clarendon 1998)
- KJ Hopt and PC Leyens, 'Board Models in Europe – Recent Developments of Internal Corporate Governance Structures in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy' (2004) EGCI Working Paper
- Web site of the Board of a large U.S. university, illustrating a typical board's composition, duties, concerns, etc.
- Guidance on director's duties (Lemon & Co)
- National Association of Corporate Directors
- European Directors and Board Members Association
- Corporate Governance Board Leadership Training, Global Corporate Governance Forum
- BoardofDirectors.com.au - Australia's leading Online Directorship Listing
Historically, directors' duties have been owed almost exclusively to the company and its members, and the board was expected to exercise its powers for the financial benefit of the company. However, more recently there have been attempts to "soften" the position, and provide for more scope for directors to act as good corporate citizens. For example, in the United Kingdom, the Companies Act 2006 requires directors of companies "to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole" and sets out the following six factors regarding a director's duty to promote success:
This represents a considerable departure from the traditional notion that directors' duties are owed only to the company. Previously in the United Kingdom, under the Companies Act 1985, protections for non-member stakeholders were considerably more limited (see for example, s.309 which permitted directors to take into account the interests of employees but which could only be enforced by the shareholders and not by the employees themselves). The changes have therefore been the subject of some criticism.
The Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 has introduced new standards of accountability on boards of U.S. companies or companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. Under the Act, directors risk large fines and prison sentences in the case of accounting crimes. Internal control is now the direct responsibility of directors. The vast majority of companies covered by the Act have hired internal auditors to ensure that the company adheres to required standards of internal control. The internal auditors are required by law to report directly to an audit board, consisting of directors more than half of whom are outside directors, one of whom is a "financial expert."
The law requires companies listed on the major stock exchanges (NYSE, NASDAQ) to have a majority of independent directors—directors who are not otherwise employed by the firm or in a business relationship with it.
According to the Corporate Library's study, the average size of publicly traded company's board is 9.2 members, and most boards range from 3 to 31 members. According to Investopedia, some analysts think the ideal size is seven. State law may specify a minimum number of directors, maximum number of directors, and qualifications for directors (e.g. whether board members must be individuals or may be business entities).
While a board may have several committees, two—the compensation committee and audit committee—are critical and must be made up of at least three independent directors and no inside directors. Other common committees in boards are nominating and governance.
Directors of Fortune 500 companies received median pay of $234,000 in 2011. Directorship is a part-time job. A recent National Association of Corporate Directors study found directors averaging just 4.3 hours a week on board work.
According to John Gillespie, a former investment banker and co-author of a book critical of boards, "Far too much of their time has been for check-the-box and cover-your-behind activities rather than real monitoring of executives and providing strategic advice on behalf of shareholders".