Recent developments in corporate governance indicate a welcome emphasis on common sense principles. Over the past year, leaders of prominent companies and institutional investment funds have proposed principles and a framework intended to guide U.S. corporate governance toward practices that promote the sustainable creation of long-term value. The shared goal of these two separate projects—the Investor Stewardship Group’s “Corporate Stewardship and Governance Principles,” released in 2017, and “Commonsense Principles of Corporate Governance,” an open letter released in 2016—is to bolster companies’ ability to generate prosperity for American investors. Prioritizing practicality over prescription should improve the quality and effectiveness of corporate governance, to the benefit of all market participants.

Stewardship and Governance Principles

The Investor Stewardship Group—a collective of U.S.-based institutional investors and global asset managers—launched an initiative in January 2017 to establish a framework for standards of stewardship and corporate governance to promote long-term value creation in American business. The ISG represents $17 trillion in assets under management and is led by the participating firms’ senior corporate governance practitioners. The framework, set to become effective in January 2018, contains six principles for investor stewardship and six principles for corporate governance. While the framework has no legal force, it is modeled on the “comply or explain” governance frameworks that exist in the United Kingdom and elsewhere and is intended to stand as an unofficial national code of fundamental governance principles. The framework is not intended to be prescriptive and is expected to be revised periodically as consensus around stewardship and governance evolves. Since it lacks any enforcement or self-policing mechanism, the principles will only become meaningful through widespread adoption by market participants.

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