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惠普董事会大变脸,公司治理初现曙光

Eleanor Bloxham 2011年11月22日

惠普公司决定任命一位首席独立董事和一位著名的维权投资者加入该公司董事会。对于这家长期以来深陷公司治理泥沼的科技巨头来说,这两个任命是个好兆头。

    惠普公司(HP)经历了漫长的暴风雨之后,终于依稀看到了彩虹的光亮。不是我们高兴得太早,而是因为惠普上周四发布的两项重要公告带给我们的希望。

    其一是拉吉夫•古普塔被指定为首席独立董事。这项任命履行了2个月前梅格•惠特曼被任命为CEO、雷•莱恩成为董事会执行主席时所作的承诺。自2009年以来,古普塔一直是惠普公司的董事会成员。

    董事会为什么选择了古普塔?原因之一是,他并非1月份入选董事会的4位新董事之一(这一程序是由雷•莱恩主导的)。他也不是机构股东服务公司(ISS)在今年股东大会召开之际(proxy season)建议惠普公司罢免的3位董事之一。如此看来,就这个职务而言,相比于董事会的某些其他成员,古普塔似乎是一个更安全的人选。然而,谁将留在惠普董事会的确是莱恩在今年年初的时候就已经决定的,这也意味着是他再次选择古普塔继续担任公司董事。

    古普塔在首席独立董事任上将发挥多大的作用,其职责范围究竟有多大,将是个有趣的话题。惠普公司在任命公告中并没有对此进行详尽的描述。此前,古普塔一直担任惠普薪酬委员会委员,而股东们今年投票否决了惠普公司的薪酬安排。

    此外,惠普公司昨天还发布公告称,该公司已与关系投资者公司(Relational Investors)的拉尔夫•惠特沃思达成协议:这位维权投资者也将加入惠普董事会。此举将使该公司的董事会总人数增加至14人,但这种扩容或许只是暂时的。惠普公司的10Q季度报告之中还藏着另外一条启事:“2011年9月8日,多米尼克•塞内基耶告知董事会,由于她还有其他的职业追求,在惠普公司明年的股东大会上,她将不再谋求连任。”塞内基耶刚刚在1月份被提名为公司董事人选,并于3月份第一次被股东大会选举为公司董事。

    惠特沃思在维权股东圈内享有盛誉,惠普公司与他达成的协议,是该公司为打消股东顾虑而实施的一项颇具勇气的举措。

    Not that we should get ahead of ourselves, but two significant announcements from HP on Thursday show the faint glimmer of a rainbow at the end of a very long corporate storm.

    One was the designation of Rajiv Gupta as lead independent director. The appointment fulfilled a promise made two months ago when Meg Whitman was appointed CEO and Ray Lane became executive chair of the board. Gupta has been on HP's (HPQ) board since 2009.

    Why did the board pick Gupta? For one, he was not among the four new board members chosen in January, a process that was led by Ray Lane. Nor was he one of the three HP board members that ISS recommended against this proxy season. In that way, Gupta may have been a safer choice for this role than some of the other members of the board. Lane did, however, determine who would stay on the HP board earlier this year and thus did re-select Gupta for the board.

    It will be interesting to see how active a role Gupta assumes as lead independent director and the scope of his job description. HP did not offer much of a description in their announcement of his appointment. Gupta has been serving on HP's compensation committee and shareholders voted against HP's compensation practices this year.

    HP also announced yesterday that it had entered into a letter of agreement for activist investor Ralph Whitworth of Relational Investors to join the company's board. The move will increase the board's total membership to 14, but the increase may be temporary. Buried in the company's 10-Q filing was a notice that, "On September 8, 2011, Dominique Senequier notified the Board … that due to her other professional commitments … she will not stand for re-election at HP's next annual meeting of stockholders." Senequier had just been appointed to the board in January and elected by shareholders for the first time in March.

    The agreement HP has struck with Whitworth, who is well-known and respected by active shareholders, represents a bold defense by the company against shareholder concerns.

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