Corporate Governance differences
In conformity with regulation from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, ING Group as a foreign private issuer whose securities are listed on the New York Stock Exchange (‘NYSE’) must disclose in its Annual Report on Form 20-F any significant differences between its corporate governance practices and those applicable to US domestic companies under the NYSE listing standards. ING Groep N.V. (‘ING Group’) believes the following to be the significant differences between its corporate governance practices and NYSE corporate governance rules applicable to US companies:
- ING Group has a two-tier board structure, in contrast to the one-tier board structure used by most US companies. In the Netherlands, a public limited liability company (naamloze vennootschap) with a two-tier board structure has an Executive Board as its management body and a Supervisory Board which advises and supervises the Executive Board. In general, members of the Executive Board are employees of the company while members of the Supervisory Board are often former state or business leaders and sometimes former members of the Executive Board. Members of the Executive Board and other officers and employees cannot simultaneously be a member of the Supervisory Board. The Supervisory Board must approve specified decisions of the Executive Board. Under the Corporate Governance Code, all members of the Supervisory Board with the exception of not more than one person, should be independent. All members of ING Group’s Supervisory Board, with the exception of Luc Vandewalle, are independent within the meaning of the Corporate Governance Code. The definition of independence under the Corporate Governance Code, however, differs in its details from the definitions of independence under the NYSE listing standards. In some cases the Dutch requirements are stricter and in other cases the NYSE listing standards are the stricter of the two. The Audit Committee, Risk Committee, Remuneration Committee, Nomination Committee and Corporate Governance Committee of ING Group are comprised of members of the Supervisory Board.
- In contrast to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the Corporate Governance Code contains a ‘comply-or-explain’ principle, offering the possibility to deviate from the Corporate Governance Code as long as any such deviations are explained. To the extent that such deviations are approved by the general meeting, the company is deemed to be in full compliance with the Corporate Governance Code.
- Dutch law requires that the company’s external auditors be appointed at the general meeting and not by the audit committee.
- The articles of association of ING Group provide that there are no quorum requirements to hold a general meeting, although certain shareholder actions and certain resolutions may require a quorum.
- The shareholder approval requirements for equity compensation plans under Dutch law and the Corporate Governance Code differ from those applicable to US companies which are subject to the NYSE’s listing rules that require the shareholder vote on all equity compensation plans applicable to any employee, director or other service provider of a company. The results of such votes are advisory in nature rather than binding. Under Dutch company law and the Corporate Governance Code, shareholder approval is only required for equity compensation plans (or changes thereto) for members of the Executive Board and Supervisory Board, and not for equity compensation plans for other groups of employees.