New Remuneration Regime for Independent Directors - Will It help in attracting better talent on the boards of India Inc

Recently, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (‘MCA’) has notified the amendments made to Sections 149(9) and 197(3) of the Companies Act, 2013 (‘2013 Act’) by the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2020 (‘2020 Amendment’) -to enable companies faced with absence or inadequacy of profits to pay certain minimum guaranteed remuneration to Non-Executive Directors (‘NEDs’) and Independent Directors (‘IDs’), as may be prescribed. On the same day, the MCA also issued a Notification to amend Schedule V of the 2013 Act to prescribe the scale of remuneration which can be paid to NEDs and IDs, depending on the effective capital of the company.
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SEBI Changes to Scheme Circular - Is it a case of over-prescription

SEBI has been continuously streamlining the regulatory architecture governing schemes of arrangements under Sections 230-232 of the Companies Act, 2013 (“Companies Act”) and Regulations 11, 37 and 94 of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015 (“LODR”) involving listed companies with the introduction of the SEBI Circular dated March 17, 2017 (“SEBI Scheme Circular”). SEBI vide its Circular dated November 3, 2020 (“Amendment Circular”), has introduced further changes to the SEBI Scheme Circular. The Amendment Circular is brought into effect for all schemes of arrangement submitted to the Stock Exchanges on or after November 17, 2020. Changes introduced under the Amendment Circular are as follows:
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* This piece was first published in the The Economic Times Family Business Forum


Corporate governance has become extremely topical for India Inc. over the last year or so. A few prominent governance and leadership battles contributed to our securities market regulator, SEBI, to convene a senior committee to examine this thorny issue. Interestingly, ‘good’ governance in the Indian context is not a new concept: India had ancient guiding scriptures such as the Arthashastra and the Manusmriti, propounding that the “Raja” (i.e. the King) and his ministers must follow a strict code of discipline which furthers the best interests of their “Praja” (i.e. the subjects). Perhaps history needs to repeat itself.

Today’s competitive and dynamic business environment requires a balanced blend of a sustainable growth model coupled with sound governance. Since the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, Corporate India has accepted this as the “new normal” to survive this period of transition. However, practical reality is far from ideal.

To help fix these governance issues, the Kotak Committee Report on Corporate Governance, released on October 5th, 2017, formed under the chairmanship of Mr. Uday Kotak (“Report”), proposed a slew of far reaching changes, whose impact will be far reaching in the Indian promoter context. This article examines a few changes.


Continue Reading The ‘Raja’ & the ‘Praja’: Changing Dynamics in Corporate India

It seems we live in an independent director-bashing era. News articles, blogs, scholarly write-ups are replete with criticism relating to independent directors, whether it’s to do with their appointment, ‘true’ independence, removal, resignation or generally their very existence! Anything remotely connected to what such directors do is presented as wrong. From a legal stand point, however, the law of director’s liability and fiduciary duties applies equally to independent directors. Such directors do not have any meaningful defence available to them by the mere taxonomy of the position held by them. Why then is the sentiment so negative?

Critics argue that the key issue emanates from the method of appointment of such directors because they feel that the people chosen are typically those that are close to promoters and can influence decision making. But practically, a total stranger on board could be the worst choice even for truly independent decision making.


Continue Reading Need for New Voting Regime to Achieve True Independence

This piece was previously published in the Economic Times

Next on the list of dilemmas relating to corporate governance issues for independent directors (ID) of a listed company is Board Evaluations. These are 360-degree reviews of the performance of a board of directors, conducted by the Nomination and Remuneration Committee (NRC). In a formal board evaluation process, each director reviews the other.

Interestingly, based on such evaluation, the NRC has to determine (amongst other things) whether an ID should continue holding his directorship or not. Earlier on, such evaluations were voluntary and some companies have been making generic voluntary disclosures in the annual report stating that the evaluation was conducted and recommendations were absorbed for improvement of board functioning. Going forward, the content of this disclosure will change.


Continue Reading Board Evaluations a Nightmare for Independent Directors?