|Consultancy attests to stagnant governance in Europe|
The advance of corporate governance has been slow in Europe. Many challenges remain pending in many countries. Combining positions, low attendance at board of directors meetings, and not enough committees are still recurrent problems in the Old Continent. These pessimistic conclusions come from a report released in September by the human resources consultancy Heidrick & Struggles. According to the researchers, after a significant improvement between 2005 and 2007, the progress of governance grew stagnant.
The report Corporate Governance 2009: Boards in Turbulent Times analyzed public information from 321 companies in 13 countries, regarding 41 items on transparency, independence, diversity and board availability. In Germany, for example, the boards met 5.8 times per year, on average. In the continent overall, the average was 9.6 annual meetings. The study also detected a high presence of former CEOs at the head of the board (53%). In the United Kingdom, the highest ranked, that percentage is a mere 6%.
In Denmark, the second-to-last in the ranking, the average number of committees per board is 1.1, the lowest among the countries studied. About 42% of that country's companies have an audit committee, of which only one third have a CFO as one of its members. The average number of committees continent-wide is three per company.
Combining the positions of CEO and chairman is still a challenge in Spain, France, Portugal and Switzerland. In these countries, the percentage of companies where the two positions are occupied by the same person is 60%, 42%, 30% and 25%, respectively. In the United Kingdom, Holland and Sweden, the top three in the survey's ranking, combining these positions was not observed in any of the companies investigated.