Corporate governance is an important part of a company’s success and of responsible corporate management and supervision. Wacker Chemie AG attaches great importance to the rules of proper corporate governance. In this report, the Executive Board provides details – also on behalf of the Supervisory Board – on corporate governance in accordance with Item 3.10 of the German Corporate Governance Code (the Code) as well as Section 289a (1) and Section 315 (5) of the German Commercial Code (HGB).
Declaration of Conformity and Corporate Governance Reporting
In 2016, the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board dealt intensively with the company’s corporate governance and the recommendations of the Code in its currently valid version published on May 5, 2015. The Executive and Supervisory Boards resolved in December 2016 to issue the following Declaration of Conformity. The Declaration of Conformity has since been made permanently available to the general public on the company’s website.
Declaration of Conformity 2016 Issued by the Executive Board and Supervisory Board of Wacker Chemie AG
1. General Declaration Pursuant to Section 161 of the German Stock Corporation Act
The Executive Board and the Supervisory Board of Wacker Chemie AG issued their most recent declaration of conformity pursuant to Section 161 of the German Stock Corporation Act in December 2015. Since that time, Wacker Chemie AG has complied with the recommendations of the German Corporate Governance Code (the Code) as amended on May 5, 2015, with the exceptions listed in the following, and will continue to comply with the recommendations of the Code in said version, with the following exceptions.
a) D&O Insurance Deductible for Supervisory Board Members
German law and a company’s articles of association set clear limits in regard to the supervisory board’s ability to exert influence on the business activities of a stock corporation. Pursuant to Section 76 (1) of the German Stock Corporation Act, the executive board has direct responsibility for managing the corporation. The supervisory board is instrumental in defining the main features of corporate strategy. However, beyond this contribution, the supervisory board’s abilities are limited in terms of influencing the implementation of corporate strategy or operations. The same applies to measures taken to avert damage or loss to the company. Furthermore, since our Supervisory Board members receive only a relatively small amount for reimbursement of expenses compared to our Executive Board compensation, we do not deem the agreement of a deductible reasonable for members of our Supervisory Board.
b) Formation of a Nomination Committee within the Supervisory Board
The supervisory board is required to establish a nomination committee that is exclusively composed of shareholder representatives and whose task it is to make recommendations to the supervisory board with regard to candidates suitable for proposal to the annual shareholders’ meeting. We do not comply with this recommendation because, in view of our shareholder structure, we do not believe that the formation of such a committee is appropriate. Due to the majority situation, nominations to the Supervisory Board must be agreed with the majority shareholder in any case, so that an additional nomination committee would not serve to increase efficiency.
c) Announcement to Shareholders of Proposed Candidates for the Chair of the Supervisory Board
According to this recommendation, shareholders shall be informed of any candidates for the supervisory board chair even though, as a rule, the supervisory board has not yet been appointed. Under German law, the supervisory board chair must be elected by, and from among, the supervisory board members. There is no legal requirement to announce the candidates for the chair from among a yet-to-be-appointed group of supervisory board members. Furthermore, this would result in a de facto predetermination, which is also not provided for under German law. For these reasons, we do not comply with this recommendation.
d) Defining Concrete Objectives Regarding the Number of Independent Members of the Supervisory Board
The Supervisory Board of Wacker Chemie AG, as it is composed at present, meets the requirements of the Code regarding an adequate number of independent members. The Supervisory Board will continue to ensure in future elections that it recommends to the shareholders a number of independent candidates it considers to be appropriate. Additionally defining a concrete objective in this regard would not only limit the choice of suitable candidates for the Supervisory Board, but also restrict the shareholders’ right to elect those Supervisory Board members whom they consider to be the most suitable. For these reasons, we do not comply with this recommendation.
e) Term Limit for Length of Service on the Supervisory Board
According to this recommendation, the supervisory board should determine a general term limit for the length of service on the board. A generally applicable term limit of this sort is not required in our opinion, as we consider an individual analysis of the respective supervisory board members to be more effective. This particularly applies since the Code provides for self-inspection of the supervisory board and its members anyway as part of the regular examination of efficiency. Furthermore, a general term limit would restrict the majority shareholder’s freedom to choose representatives on the Supervisory Board at its own discretion in fulfillment of its corporate responsibility.
f) Time Limit Placed on Applications for the Judicial Appointment of a Supervisory Board Member
According to this recommendation, applications for the judicial appointment of a supervisory board member shall be limited in time up to the next annual shareholders’ meeting. We do not comply with this recommendation. Proposals for candidates to be appointed by the court are agreed with the majority shareholder beforehand anyway. In view of the majority situation, the election of this same candidate at the next Annual Shareholders’ Meeting would merely constitute a confirmation of his / her appointment, which we consider to be superfluous.
Corporate Governance Reporting
Shareholders and Annual Shareholders’ Meeting
Transparent Information for Shareholders and the Public
WACKER’s aim is to inform all of the company’s target groups – shareholders, shareholder representatives, analysts and the media – as well as the interested general public promptly and without preference. We regularly publicize important company dates in a financial calendar published in our Annual Report, in the interim reports and on our website. Capital market participants are in close contact with our Investor Relations team. We inform investors and analysts about the current and future development of business in telephone conferences held whenever a quarterly report is published. We regularly attend roadshows and investors’ conferences. Once a year, we organize an event for analysts. Important presentations are available on the internet, as well as all press releases and ad-hoc disclosures in both German and English, the online version of the Annual Report, all interim reports and the Sustainability Report. Further information is provided by our online customer magazine, media library and Podcast Center. www.wacker.com
Annual Shareholders’ Meeting
The Annual Shareholders’ Meeting provides an efficient and inclusive forum for informing shareholders about the company’s situation. Even before the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting begins, shareholders receive important information about the previous fiscal year in the Annual Report. The agenda items are described and the conditions of attendance explained in the invitation to the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting. The notice of the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting – together with all legally prescribed reports and documents, including the Annual Report (of which the consolidated financial statements and the combined management report form part) – as well as the annual financial statements of Wacker Chemie AG are also available on the company’s website. After the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, we publish the attendance figures and the results of the votes on the internet. All these communication measures contribute to the regular exchange of information with our shareholders. WACKER helps its shareholders exercise their voting rights by giving them the option of casting their vote either in person or by proxy. Proxies are available to exercise shareholders’ voting rights as instructed and can also be contacted during the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting.
Working Methods of the Executive and Supervisory Boards
Wacker Chemie AG has a dual management system as prescribed by the German Stock Corporation Act. It consists of the Executive Board, which manages the company, and the Supervisory Board, which supervises and advises the Executive Board in its management of the company. These two bodies are kept strictly separate from one another with regard to both their membership and their spheres of competence. The Executive and Supervisory Boards collaborate closely, however, to ensure WACKER’s sustainable long-term success.
The Executive Board currently consists of four members. The Executive Board bears direct responsibility for managing the company and represents Wacker Chemie AG in all dealings with third parties. The Executive Board’s actions and decisions are driven by the company’s interest and the aim to sustainably increase the Group’s value. With this goal in mind, the Executive Board determines the WACKER Group’s strategic alignment. It then steers and monitors this by allocating funds, resources and capacities, and by supporting and overseeing the operating units. The Executive Board also ensures compliance with legal requirements and an appropriate risk management system and control.
While the members of the Executive Board bear joint responsibility for managing the company, each individual member is directly responsible for managing his / her respective unit. All Executive Board decisions require a simple majority. In the case of a tie of votes, the president & CEO has the deciding vote. However, he / she does not have the right to veto Executive Board resolutions.
Close Collaboration between the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board
The Executive Board and the Supervisory Board work together closely to promote the interests of the company. Their common goal is the sustainable growth of the company and the enhancement of its value. The Executive Board reports to the Supervisory Board and the Audit Committee regularly, promptly and comprehensively on all relevant issues of strategy, planning, business development, risk exposure, risk management and compliance. Also in the period between meetings, the Supervisory Board chairman maintains contact with the Executive Board, in particular with the president & CEO, consulting with that body on the above-mentioned issues. The Executive Board explains any deviations from approved business plans and objectives to the Supervisory Board and gives reasons for these deviations.
The Rules of Procedure for Wacker Chemie AG’s Executive Board stipulate that certain measures require the consent of the Supervisory Board before their implementation. These include approving the annual budget (including financial and investment planning), acquiring and disposing of shares in companies, establishing new production or business units or suspending existing ones, and concluding sizable long-term loan agreements.
The Supervisory Board appoints, oversees and advises the Executive Board and is directly involved in any decisions of crucial importance to WACKER. Fundamental decisions on the company’s development require Supervisory Board approval.
Supervisory Board Composition
The Supervisory Board comprises 16 members. In compliance with the German Co-Determination Act (MitbestG), it has an equal number of shareholder and employee representatives. Shareholder representatives are elected by the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting and employee representatives by the employees, as stipulated by the German Co-Determination Act. As a rule, the term of office is about five years.
WACKER has always placed importance on having highly qualified individuals sit on its Supervisory Board. In compliance with the recommendation made in Item 5.4.1 of the German Corporate Governance Code as amended on May 26, 2010, WACKER’s Supervisory Board resolved in December 2010 to set itself concrete objectives in respect of its composition. These include the qualifications, international experience and gender of Supervisory Board members, and the prevention of conflicts of interest. Accordingly, the profile of requirements and targets is as follows:
- International scope: an appropriate number of Supervisory Board members – however, at least one – should have international experience.
- Prevention and handling of conflicts of interest: the Supervisory Board’s Rules of Procedure already contain extensive provisions on members’ conflicts of interest. In addition, the Supervisory Board actively strives to prevent such conflicts of interest and also takes this goal into consideration when making recommendations to the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting.
- Diversity and gender representation: the objective set in December 2010 to increase the number of female members to at least two – one shareholder and one employee representative – was achieved in 2013. Please see the subsequent item Supporting the Participation of Women in Executive Positions as per Section 76 (4) and Section 111 (5) of the German Stock Corporation Act for our measures to meet the requirements of the Act on Equal Participation of Women and Men in Executive Positions in the Private and the Public Sector, which came into effect on May 1, 2015. According to this act, the Supervisory Board is to be composed of at least 30 percent female members and at least 30 percent male members.
The Supervisory Board’s Rules of Procedure already define an age limit. The Supervisory Board does not comply with the recommendation made in Item 5.4.1 of the German Corporate Governance Code as amended on May 5, 2015, to set a general term limit for the length of service of its members. The reasons for this decision are given in the Declaration of Conformity of December 2016.
As members of the Supervisory Board cannot simultaneously sit on the Executive Board, this structure ensures a high degree of independence in monitoring the Executive Board. Since the Supervisory Board believes that it comprises an adequate number of independent members, it does not comply with the additional recommendation made in Item 5.4.2 of the German Corporate Governance Code as amended on May 5, 2015, to name a specific target number of independent members. The reasons for this decision are given in the Declaration of Conformity of December 2016.
The Supervisory Board will take into account the objectives it has set when making its nomination proposals to the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting. The composition of the Supervisory Board complies with the objectives set in December 2010. The age limit provision is also complied with.
Committees Increase the Supervisory Board’s Efficiency
The Supervisory Board has constituted three professionally qualified committees to help it perform its duties optimally. The work of those committees is reported on regularly at Supervisory Board meetings.
The Executive Committee prepares the Supervisory Board’s personnel decisions, especially the appointment and dismissal of Executive Board members and the nomination of the president & CEO. In addition, it negotiates contracts with Executive Board members and develops a compensation system that the full Supervisory Board then uses as a basis for determining the compensation for Executive Board members. In fiscal 2016, the Executive Committee consisted of the Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Dr. Peter-Alexander Wacker, and Supervisory Board members Anton Eisenacker and Franz-Josef Kortüm. Effective January 1, 2017, the new Deputy Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Manfred Köppl, succeeded Anton Eisenacker on the Executive Committee in accordance with the Rules of Procedure. Mr. Eisenacker had in turn left the Supervisory Board as of December 31, 2016 as its Deputy Chairman.
The Audit Committee does the groundwork for the Supervisory Board’s decision on the adoption of the annual financial statements and the approval of the consolidated financial statements. To this end, the committee is obliged to pre-audit the annual financial statements, the consolidated financial statements, the combined management report and the proposal on appropriation of profits. In addition, it discusses and examines the half-yearly financial reports and the quarterly figures. The Audit Committee gives the Supervisory Board a well-founded recommendation as to which auditors it should propose to the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting. In accordance with the resolution of the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, it awards the auditing contract to the auditors and determines the focus of auditing. It then monitors the audit, in particular the auditors’ independence and the services they deliver. Above and beyond that, the Audit Committee reviews the accounting process and the effectiveness of the internal control, risk management and auditing systems, as well as compliance-related issues. The members of this committee in fiscal 2016 were Franz-Josef Kortüm (as chairman), Dr. Peter-Alexander Wacker and Anton Eisenacker. Following Anton Eisenacker’s departure at year-end, Manfred Köppl was elected to the Audit Committee as a new member effective January 1, 2017.
The Group also has a statutory Mediation Committee, the tasks of which are stipulated by German law. In 2016, this committee consisted of Dr. Peter-Alexander Wacker (as chairman), Anton Eisenacker, Franz-Josef Kortüm and Manfred Köppl. Since January 1, 2017, the committee has comprised Dr. Peter-Alexander Wacker, Manfred Köppl, Franz-Josef Kortüm and Eduard-Harald Klein.
Key Corporate Management Practices
Compliance as a Key Managerial Duty of the Executive Board
At WACKER, managerial and monitoring duties include ensuring that the company complies with legal requirements and that employees observe internal company regulations. WACKER’s compliance management system is regularly reviewed and adapted.
These tasks are the responsibility of the compliance management department. The company has appointed and trained compliance officers in Germany, the USA, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Norway, Singapore, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan, who hold regular training courses to inform employees of key legal provisions and internal regulations. They also serve as contacts whenever employees have questions or need advice, information and training relating to compliance.
Principles of Corporate Ethics
Beside our vision and goals, our ethical principles form the third pillar of WACKER’s corporate policy guidelines. These principles – embedded in five separate codes – govern how the company goals should be achieved. A set of rules consisting of regulations and instructions supplement the codes.
- Code of Conduct: this contains our principles for dealing with business partners and third parties. It also governs the handling of information, confidentiality and data security, the prevention of money laundering, and the separation of personal and business interests.
- Code of Innovation: this specifies our principles concerning research and development, partnerships, patents and innovation management.
- Code of Teamwork & Leadership: this outlines our understanding of teamwork and leadership. Key aspects here include trust and esteem, motivation and success, recognition and development, teamwork and equal opportunity, work-life balance and the positive example set by managerial employees.
- Code of Safety: this defines our safety culture and sets safety guidelines for workplaces, facilities, and products and their transport.
- Code of Sustainability: this lists principles for sustainability to be adhered to by R&D, procurement and logistics, production and products, and describes our commitment to society.
The codes are available at: www.wacker.com/cms/en/wacker_group/wacker_facts/policy/policy.jsp.
Responsible Care® and the Global Compact – Integral Parts of Corporate Management
Two voluntary global initiatives form the basis for sustainable corporate management at WACKER: the chemical industry’s Responsible Care® initiative and the UN’s Global Compact. WACKER has been an active member of the Responsible Care® initiative since 1991. Program participants undertake to continually improve health, safety and environmental performance on a voluntary basis – even in the absence of statutory requirements. WACKER is equally committed to the UN’s Global Compact initiative. We observe the Global Compact’s ten principles, which address social and environmental standards, anticorruption and the protection of human rights. We also expect our suppliers to respect the principles of the Global Compact, and we evaluate them on this point in our risk assessments.
In 2011, WACKER created an internal Corporate Sustainability department, which implements the company’s voluntary commitments under Responsible Care® and the Global Compact, and coordinates its sustainability activities worldwide.
Companies can be commercially successful only if they have society’s trust. Consequently, WACKER is serious about its social responsibilities toward communities near its sites and wherever people are in need around the world. We regularly promote and support a wide variety of charitable projects, organizations and initiatives. Our commitment covers activities relating to science, education, sports and various charities.
Further Information on Corporate Governance at WACKER
Compliance with the Provisions of Article 17 of MAR
We comply with the provisions of Article 17 of MAR (EU Regulation No. 596 /2014 – Market Abuse Regulation). For a number of years, we have maintained an ad-hoc publicity coordination unit in which representatives of various specialist areas examine issues for their ad-hoc relevance. In this way, we guarantee that potential insider information is handled in accordance with the law. Employees who have access to insider information as part of their jobs are included in insider lists.
Share Dealings by the Executive and Supervisory Boards
Persons discharging managerial responsibilities (at Wacker Chemie AG, these are members of the Executive and Supervisory Boards) as well as persons closely associated with them are obligated under Art. 19 of MAR to notify the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) and the company of transactions conducted on their own account relating to the shares or debt instruments of that company or to derivatives or other financial instruments linked thereto within three business days. A reporting obligation exists, however, only where the total volume of the transactions made by the person concerned exceeds €5,000 within a calendar year.
In 2016, no reportable transactions were notified by members of the Executive and Supervisory Boards or by persons closely associated with them who are subject to reporting requirements.
Blue Elephant Holding GmbH, which is majority-owned by Dr. Peter-Alexander Wacker (Supervisory Board Chairman of Wacker Chemie AG), holds over 10 percent of the shares in Wacker Chemie AG.
Dealing Responsibly with Opportunities and Risks
Dealing responsibly with risks is an important part of good corporate governance. WACKER has in place an opportunity and risk management system to regularly identify and monitor material risks and opportunities. Its objective is to recognize risks at an early stage and minimize them through systematic risk management. The Executive Board informs the Supervisory Board regularly about existing risks and their development. The Audit Committee regularly reviews the accounting process and the effectiveness of the internal control, risk management and auditing systems. It is also involved in auditing the financial statements. The opportunity and risk management system is continuously being enhanced and adapted to meet changing conditions.
Accounting and Auditing
As stipulated by the Corporate Governance Code, we have agreed with the auditors, KPMG AG Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft, Munich, that the Chairman of the Supervisory Board shall be informed without delay during the audit about any grounds for disqualification and /or bias. In addition, the auditors shall immediately report all significant discoveries and events which concern the Supervisory Board’s duties. If, in the course of their audit activities, the auditors establish facts that reveal errors in the Declaration of Conformity pursuant to Section 161 of the German Stock Corporation Act, the Supervisory Board shall be notified accordingly and /or a note included in the audit report.
WACKER has concluded a financial liability insurance policy (i. e. D&O insurance) that also covers the activities of the Executive Board and Supervisory Board members. This insurance provides for a statutory deductible for the members of the Executive Board.
Supporting the Participation of Women in Executive Positions as per Section 76 (4) and Section 111 (5) of the German Stock Corporation Act
Effective May 1, 2015, the Act on Equal Participation of Women and Men in Executive Positions in the Private and the Public Sector calls for the Supervisory Board of Wacker Chemie AG to be composed of at least 30 percent female members and at least 30 percent male members. These requirements apply to new appointments for the first time as of January 1, 2016. Since January 1, 2016, neither the shareholders nor the employees have made any new appointments to Wacker Chemie AG’s Supervisory Board, which is why the proportion of female members on the Supervisory Board remained unchanged at 12.5 percent in fiscal 2016 (one shareholder and one employee representative). As of January 1, 2017, Hansgeorg Schuster – who had already been elected an alternate member during the last employee-representative elections to the Supervisory Board in March 2013 – automatically succeeded employee representative Anton Eisenacker, who left the Supervisory Board with effect from December 31, 2016. Since the election of Mr. Schuster was completed prior to December 31, 2015, the new legal provisions did not yet apply. The proportion of female members on the Supervisory Board therefore currently totals 12.5 percent.
The act also requires Wacker Chemie AG to specify target values for the proportion of women on the Executive Board and in the two management levels below the Executive Board. The target values for the Executive Board are set by the Supervisory Board and those for the two management levels below the Executive board are set by the Executive Board.
In September 2015, the Supervisory Board set the target for the proportion of women on the Executive Board for the period up to June 30, 2017 at zero.
Likewise in September 2015, and with a deadline for implementation of June 30, 2017, the Executive Board of Wacker Chemie AG set target values of 10 percent for the management level directly below the Executive Board and 17.5 percent for the second management level below the Executive Board.