Activist hedge fund CIAM blasts French reinsurer SCOR over “significant” deficiencies

Catherine Berjal and Anne-Sophie d’Andlau

Activist hedge fund manager CIAM has written to shareholders of French reinsurer SCOR to warn of significant corporate governance deficiencies at the firm, and has called on the company to postpone its upcoming AGM.

CIAM, which holds more than 1 per cent of SCOR, hit out at areas of “significant concern” which remain “largely unaddressed by an unresponsive board.”

Co-founded by Catherine Berjal and Anne-Sophie d’Andlau (picturd) in 2010, the well-known activist manager – which has bases in Paris and London – takes global equity positions in companies based on a range of corporate events, focusing on special situations and merger arbitrage, to generate returns and unlock shareholder value.

Catherine Berjal, CIAM’s CEO, said only “cosmetic changes” have been made to SCOR’s executive pay policy – despite nearly half of the shareholders opposing it last year.

Highlighting a “poorly drafted pay policy that continues to lavishly reward the chairman/CEO” – without any adequate link to performance – Berjal noted that last year’s AGM sent a “very clear signal” that the executive remuneration policy was “not fit for purpose.”

The letter also criticised the lack of an independent chairman at SCOR, and called on the company to spell out a clear succession plan for when Denis Kessler, the current CEO and chairman of 18 years, steps down next year.

Berjal also voiced warnings over the firm’s ESG policy.

“For a company operating in the financial services sector, the level of sophistication on the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria incorporated within the bonus plan is worrying,” she wrote. “There is no clear forward-looking quantitative ESG priorities set for 2020, including on the topics ranging from climate change to gender equality.”

She suggested that a postponement of SCOR’s forthcoming AGM – currently scheduled for 17 April – would be more shareholder-friendly, and would allow SCOR to focus on managing the impact of the unfolding Covid-19 crisis.