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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

PLC Forum Webinar Series 2020: Key takeaways

Debating some of the major challenges for corporate boards and legal teams

The PLC Forum Webinar Series 2020 featured expert panels comprising leading industry figures and Clifford Chance subject matter experts discussing critical board level business issues such as diversity & inclusion, the role of corporates in society, shareholder activism and the challenges businesses are facing due to Covid-19.

Diversity & inclusion

A group of General Counsel and Corporate Legal Officers from major UK headquartered companies have issued an open letter encouraging greater diversity and inclusion in the legal sector. The statement sends a powerful message that improvements need to be made.

During the panel discussion, Ritva Sotamaa, Chief Legal Officer and Group Secretary, Unilever plc, Donny Ching, Legal Director, Royal Dutch Shell plc and Tim Murphy, General Counsel, Mastercard together with our Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Tiernan Brady, explored the impact of the open letter, the challenges ahead and how companies and law firms can best collaborate to make a change.

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"If we come together as a client base, the influence that we will create will be much higher and the impact we will create is greater."

Ritva Sotamaa, Chief Legal Officer and Group Secretary, Unilever plc

General Counsel for Diversity & Inclusion

Read more about the GCD&I initiative.

Go to GCD&I website

ESG

The ESG movement has led to intense scrutiny of corporates, requiring them to re-evaluate their culture, working practices and engagement with all stakeholders from suppliers and customers to the workforce and the environment. 

John Barton, Chairman of easyJet plc and Ted Baker plc, alongside Clifford Chance partners, discussed the increasing pressure businesses are facing to balance profit and shareholder value, with broader stakeholder considerations including ESG issues. They also touched on the challenges of defining a company's purpose during times of upheaval and uncertainty.

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"When things go wrong, which they do in all businesses, taking the opportunity to find out why, to deal with it, and to treat the people who have made the mistake and who have been affected by the mistake openly, is a really important thing."

John Barton, Chairman, easyJet plc and Ted Baker plc

What is the role of corporates in society?

Access the synopsis of the panel discussion below.

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Crisis management

Businesses are experiencing unprecedented challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Resourcefulness, dexterity and tenacity are crucial for those who will come out of the crisis in good shape.

Melissa Fogarty chaired a panel discussion involving Rupert Hopley, General Counsel & Company Secretary, Informa plc, Siobhán Moriarty, General Counsel & Company Secretary, Diageo plc and Andreas Krause, General Counsel, Delivery Hero, together with Clifford Chance's Chief Operating Officer, Caroline Firstbrook, who shared their experiences and the lessons they have learned during these very challenging times.

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"The pandemic has driven the need for speed and agility in decision-making."

Siobhán Moriarty, General Counsel & Company Secretary, Diageo plc

Corporate lessons learned from Covid-19

Access the synopsis of the panel discussion below.

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Shareholder engagement

The final session in our PLC Forum Webinar Series 2020 was a panel discussion on the topic of shareholder engagement in a changing age of shareholder activism. 

David Pudge moderated a panel discussion comprised of Stephen Shapiro, General Counsel and Company Secretary at Barclays plc, Edward Bonham Carter, Vice-Chairman of Jupiter Fund Management plc and Ed Squire, Managing Director at JP Morgan Cazenove.

In a wide-ranging discussion, the panellists looked at the drivers behind the growth in shareholder activism in the past few years and how companies can seek to avoid being the subject of an activist campaign and can respond if the situation does arise.

“We’ve all got fine words in our annual reports and in some cases chiselled upon the walls of our headquarters, but the question is how does it manifest itself in terms of behaviours towards the wider stakeholder groups?”

Edward Bonham Carter, Vice-Chairman, Jupiter Fund Management plc

"This trend, coupled with growing pressure on fund managers to pursue an ESG agenda, means that companies are having to give even more thought as to how they engage with their shareholders and prepare themselves for the threat of an activist attack.”

David Pudge, Partner, Clifford Chance

Across the Board

Our most recent and relevant thought leadership for boards and for business has been organised into four themes and selected to help you monitor changes and developments in law, regulation and best practice that impact business and strategy.

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