Nasdq, December 1, 2020
Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) today filed a proposal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to adopt new listing rules related to board diversity and disclosure. If approved by the SEC, the new listing rules would require all companies listed on Nasdaq’s U.S. exchange to publicly disclose consistent, transparent diversity statistics regarding their board of directors. Additionally, the rules would require most Nasdaq-listed companies to have, or explain why they do not have, at least two diverse directors, including one who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as either an underrepresented minority1 or LGBTQ+. Foreign companies and smaller reporting companies would have additional flexibility in satisfying this requirement with two female directors.
Under the proposal, all Nasdaq-listed companies will be required to publicly disclose board-level diversity statistics through Nasdaq’s proposed disclosure framework within one year of the SEC’s approval of the listing rule. The timeframe to meet the minimum board composition expectations set forth in the proposal will be based on a company’s listing tier. Specifically, all companies will be expected to have one diverse director within two years of the SEC’s approval of the listing rule. Companies listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market and Nasdaq Global Market will be expected to have two diverse directors within four years of the SEC’s approval of the listing rule. Companies listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market will be expected to have two diverse directors within five years of the SEC’s approval. For companies that are not in a position to meet the board composition objectives within the required timeframes, they will not be subject to delisting if they provide a public explanation of their reasons for not meeting the objectives.
“Nasdaq’s purpose is to champion inclusive growth and prosperity to power stronger economies,” said Adena Friedman, President and CEO, Nasdaq. “Our goal with this proposal is to provide a transparent framework for Nasdaq-listed companies to present their board composition and diversity philosophy effectively to all stakeholders; we believe this listing rule is one step in a broader journey to achieve inclusive representation across corporate America.”
“By pushing its listed companies to address racial and gender equity in corporate boards, Nasdaq is heeding the call of the moment. Incremental change and window-dressing isn’t going to cut it anymore as consumers, stakeholders and the government increasingly hold corporate America’s feet to the fire. Nasdaq’s efforts to prod and push its listed companies is a welcomed and necessary first step. With increased representation of people of color, women and LGBTQ people on corporate boards, corporations will have to take actionable steps to ensure underrepresented communities have a seat at the table.” – Anthony Romero, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union