Our shareholders exercise their voting rights through Annual and Extraordinary General Meetings. Resolutions of the General Meeting are adopted by an absolute majority of votes cast, unless a different majority of votes or quorum is required by Dutch law or the Articles of Association. Each common share confers the right to cast one vote.
Furthermore, the Managing Board, or where appropriate, the Supervisory Board, shall provide all shareholders and other parties in the financial markets with equal and simultaneous information about matters that may influence QIAGEN's share price.
QIAGEN is required to convene an Annual General Meeting in The Netherlands no later than six months following the end of each year. The agenda for the Annual General Meeting must contain certain matters as specified in QIAGEN's Articles of Association and under Dutch law, including, among other things, the adoption of QIAGEN's annual financial statements.
Additional Extraordinary General Meetings may be requested and/or convened at any time by the Managing Board, the Supervisory Board or by one or more shareholders jointly representing at least 40% of QIAGEN's issued share capital. Furthermore, one or more shareholders, who jointly represent at least 10% of QIAGEN's issued share capital may, on their application, be authorized by the district court judge having applications for interim relief, to convene a General Meeting. Shareholders are entitled to propose items for the agenda of the General Meeting provided that they hold at least 3% of the issued share capital. Proposals for agenda items for the General Meeting must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the meeting date. The notice convening a General Meeting, accompanied by the agenda, shall be sent no later than 42 days prior to the meeting. QIAGEN informs the General Meeting by means of explanatory notes to the agenda, providing all facts and circumstances relevant to the proposed resolutions.
Pursuant to the Dutch Code, all transactions between the company and legal or natural persons who hold at least ten percent of the shares in the company shall be agreed on terms that are customary in the sector concerned. Decisions to enter into transactions in which there are conflicts of interest with such persons that are of material significance to the company and/or to such persons require the approval of the Supervisory Board. QIAGEN has not entered into any such transactions in 2017.
We adopted the QIAGEN N.V. Amended and Restated 2005 Stock Plan (the 2005 Plan) which was approved by our shareholders on June 14, 2005. The 2005 Plan expired by its terms in April 2015 and no further awards will be granted under the 2005 Plan. On June 25, 2014, our shareholders approved the QIAGEN N.V. 2014 Stock Plan (the 2014 Plan), which replaced the 2005 Plan in April 2015. An aggregate of 16.7 million Common Shares were reserved for issuance pursuant to the 2014 Plan, subject to certain antidilution adjustments. We issue Treasury Shares to satisfy option exercises and award releases and had approximately 22 million Common Shares reserved and available for issuance under the 2005 and 2014 Plans at December 31, 2017.
Pursuant to the 2014 Plan, stock rights, which include options to purchase our Common Shares, stock grants and stock-based awards, may be granted to employees and consultants of QIAGEN and its subsidiaries and to Supervisory Directors. Options granted pursuant to the 2014 Plan may either be incentive stock options within the meaning of Section 422 of the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the Code), or non-qualified stock options. Options granted to members of the Supervisory Board and the Managing Board must have an exercise price that is higher than the market price at the time of grant. Generally, each of the options has a term of ten years, subject to earlier termination in the event of death, disability or other termination of employment. The vesting and exercisability of certain stock rights will be accelerated in the event of a Change of Control, as defined in the agreements under the 2014 Plan.
The Plan is administered by the Compensation Committee of the Supervisory Board, which selects participants from among eligible employees, consultants and directors and determines the number of shares subject to the stock-based award, the length of time the award will remain outstanding, the manner and time of the award's vesting, the price per share subject to the award and other terms and conditions of the award consistent with the Plan. The Compensation Committee's decisions are subject to the approval of the Supervisory Board.
The Compensation Committee has the power, subject to Supervisory Board approval, to interpret the plans and to adopt such rules and regulations (including the adoption of “sub plans” applicable to participants in specified jurisdictions) as it may deem necessary or appropriate. The Compensation Committee or the Supervisory Board may at any time amend the plans in any respect, subject to Supervisory Board approval, and except that (i) no amendment that would adversely affect the rights of any participant under any option previously granted may be made without such participant's consent and (ii) no amendment shall be effective prior to shareholder approval to the extent such approval is required to ensure favorable tax treatment for incentive stock options or to ensure compliance with Rule 16b-3 under the United States Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the Exchange Act) at such times as any participants are subject to Section 16 of the Exchange Act.
As of January 31, 2018, there were 1.1 million options outstanding with exercise prices ranging between $14.91 and $23.16 and expiring between April 29, 2018 and October 31, 2023. The exercise price of the options is the fair market value of the Common Shares as of the date of grant or a premium above fair market value. Additionally, there were 8.1 million stock unit awards outstanding as of January 31, 2018. These awards will be released between February 15, 2018 and February 28, 2027. As of January 31, 2018, options to purchase 0.8 million Common Shares and 3.4 million stock unit awards were held by the officers and directors of QIAGEN, as a group.
Further detailed information regarding stock options and awards granted under the plan can be found in Note 20 included in the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Unlike the New York Stock Exchange listing standards which require a majority of the Supervisory Board members to be independent, the Dutch Corporate Governance Code distinguishes between certain independence criteria which may be fulfilled by not more than one Supervisory Board Members (as e.g. prior employment with the Company, receiving personal financial an important business relationship with the Company) and other criteria which may not be fulfilled by more than the majority of the Supervisory Board members. In some cases the Dutch independence requirement is more stringent, such as by requiring a longer “look back” period (five years) for former executive directors. In other cases, the New York Stock Exchange rules are more stringent, such as a broader definition of disqualifying affiliations. Currently, all members of our Supervisory Board are “independent” under both the New York Stock Exchange and Dutch definitions.
Reference is made to the discussion in the section "Principle Risks and Uncertainties" above.
Our Managing Directors, with the assistance of other members of management, performed an evaluation of the effectiveness of the design and operation of our disclosure controls and procedures. Based on that evaluation, they concluded that as of December 31, 2017, our disclosure controls and procedures were effective to ensure that information required to be disclosed by us in the reports that we file is recorded, processed, summarized and reported in a timely manner, and is accumulated and communicated to our management, including our Managing Directors, as appropriate to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosure.
There are inherent limitations to the effectiveness of any system of disclosure controls and procedures, no matter how well designed, such as the possibility of human error and the circumvention or overriding of the controls and procedures. Therefore, even those systems determined to be effective may not prevent or detect misstatements and can provide only reasonable assurance of achieving their control objectives. In addition, any determination of effectiveness of controls is not a projection of any effectiveness of those controls to future periods, as those controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions or the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.
Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting. The Company’s system of internal controls over financial reporting is designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of the consolidated financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.
Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements and even when determined to be effective can provide only reasonable assurance with respect to financial statement preparation and presentation. Projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.
Our management assessed the effectiveness of the Company’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2017. In making this assessment, management used the updated criteria set forth in 2013 by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) in Internal Control-Integrated Framework.
Based on our assessment under the COSO Internal Control-Integrated Framework, management believes that, as of December 31, 2017, our internal control over financial reporting is effective.
There has been no change in our internal control over financial reporting during 2017 that has materially affected, or is reasonably likely to materially affect, our internal control over financial reporting.
In accordance with the requirements of Dutch law, our independent registered public accounting firm for our statutory consolidated financial statements prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards and filed with the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM), is appointed, and may be removed by, the General Meeting. The Supervisory Board nominates a candidate for the appointment as external auditor, for which purpose both the Audit Committee and the Managing Board advise the Supervisory Board. At the Annual General Meeting in 2017, KPMG Accountants N.V. was appointed as external auditor for the Company for 2017 year. The external auditor is invited to attend the meeting of the Supervisory Board at which the statutory financial statements prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards and filed with the AFM shall be approved and is furthermore invited to attend the General Meeting at which the statutory financial statements are adopted and may be questioned by the General Meeting on its statement on the fairness of our annual accounts prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards.
The remuneration of the external auditor, and instructions to the external auditor to provide non-audit services, shall be approved by the Supervisory Board on the recommendation of the Audit Committee and after consultation with the Managing Board. At least once every four years, the Supervisory Board and the Audit Committee shall conduct a thorough assessment of the functioning of the external auditor. The main conclusions of this assessment shall be communicated to the General Meeting for the purposes of assessing the nomination for the appointment of the external auditor. The external auditor is invited to attend the meeting of the Supervisory Board at which the financial statements shall be approved and is furthermore invited to attend the General Meeting at which the financial statements are adopted and may be questioned by the General Meeting on its statement on the fairness of our annual accounts.
We have a formal Whistleblower Policy concerning the reporting of alleged irregularities within QIAGEN of a general, operational or financial nature. Furthermore, we have a published Code of Conduct that outlines business principles for our employees and rules of conduct. The Code of Conduct can be found on our website at www.qiagen.com.
In 2004, the Supervisory Board granted an option to the Dutch Foundation Stichting Preferente Aandelen QIAGEN that allows the Foundation to acquire preference shares from QIAGEN if (i) a person has (directly or indirectly) acquired or has expressed a desire to acquire more than 20% of our issued share capital, or (ii) a person holding at least a 10% interest in the share capital has been designated as a hostile person by our Supervisory Board. The option enables the Foundation to acquire preference shares equal to the number of our outstanding common shares at the time of the relevant exercise of the right, less one share. When exercising the option and exercising its voting rights on these shares, the Foundation must act in the interest of QIAGEN and the interests of our stakeholders. No preference shares are currently outstanding.
The corporate governance structure and compliance with the Dutch Code is the joint responsibility of the Managing Board and the Supervisory Board. They are accountable for this responsibility to the General Meeting. We continue to seek ways to improve our corporate governance by measuring itself against international best practice. The Dutch Code was last amended on December 8, 2016, and applicable as of the financial year 2017 and can be found at www.commissiecorporategovernance.nl.
Non-application of a specific best practice provision is not in itself considered objectionable by the Dutch Code and may well be justified because of particular circumstances relevant to a company. In accordance with Dutch law, we disclose in our Annual Report the application of the Dutch Code's principles and best practice provisions.
To the extent that we do not apply certain principles and best practice provisions, or do not intend to apply these in the current or the subsequent year, we state the reasons.
We take a positive view of the Dutch Code and apply nearly all of the best practice provisions. However, we prefer not to apply some provisions due to the international character of our business as well as the fact - acknowledged by the Commission that drafted the Dutch Code - that existing contractual agreements between QIAGEN and individual members of the Managing Board cannot be set aside at will.
The following provides an overview of exceptions that we have identified:
Members of the Supervisory Board are appointed annually for a one-year period beginning on the day following the General Meeting up to and including the day of the General Meeting held in the following year. Further, Dr. Metin Colpan has joined the Supervisory Board in 2004 and Prof. Dr. Manfred Karobath in 2000. While Prof. Karobath has announced not to stand for re-election in 2018, we value the profound industry experience of Dr. Colpan and his in-depth knowledge of QIAGEN. QIAGEN therefore supports the reappointment of Dr. Colpan beyond the twelve-year term as recommended by the Dutch Code.
While QIAGEN strives for a diverse composition of the Supervisory Board, Managing Board, Executive Committee and in all other management levels of the Company, we do not consider the definition of concrete targets relating to diversity useful, We are committed to create an environment where all individuals have the opportunity to grow and contribute to our progress, regardless of their age, educational background, gender, nationality, physical abilities, race and ethical background, religion, or sexual orientation. We consider it to be a key success factor on the path to achieving our mission and goals. Individuals and teams alike understand the diverse needs of our customers, identify and realize cross-functional opportunities for our business areas, can quickly adapt to a fast changing environment. In 2017, our multicultural workforce was composed of 71 nationalities with an average age of 40.3 With 49.2% women we are well balanced in terms of gender on an aggregate level. We also have significantly increased the diversity of our senior leadership team and will continue to do so in the future. In 2017, almost 31% of our management positions in the four leadership levels below the Executive Committee were held by women. Information on the composition of our Managing and Supervisory Boards can be found above and more information on gender diversity within the Managing and Supervisory Board can be found about under the section "Diversity within the Management Board and Supervisory Board."
Pursuant to the Company’s Remuneration Policy, long-term equity-based grants to members of the Managing Board under the 2014 Plan primarily consist of an award of performance stock units, i.e. long-term incentive awards which are dependent upon the achievement of pre-defined performance goals. Grants of restricted stock units, which are based on time vesting only, are no longer to be granted on a regular basis and shall be reserved for use as special equity incentive rewards in certain situations. Performance stock units and restricted stock units are basically structured so that 40% of a grant vests after three years, 50% after five years and the remaining 10% after ten years. In 2015 and 2016, the members of the Managing Board elected to receive in lieu of their cash bonus the value earned in these years in performance stock units and restricted stock units respectively which vested over two years from the grant date.
Our Managing Board members have entered into employment agreements with QIAGEN N.V. and some QIAGEN affiliates for which they hold managing positions. In case of termination of an agreement without serious cause as defined by the applicable law, the respective affiliate would remain obliged to compensate the Managing Board member for the remaining term of the employment agreement. QIAGEN believes that these contractual arrangements are well justified due to the long tenures of the Managing Board members.
The Supervisory Board follows the practice to discuss retirement plans of individual members early to proactively manage continuity within the Supervisory Board. QIAGEN believes that this practice provides a more flexible and better succession planning than a fixed retirement schedule.
QIAGEN has granted stock options to the members of the Supervisory Board as a remuneration component since its establishment. Since 2007, Supervisory Board members have also been granted restricted stock units. We believe that the reasonable level of equity based compensation which we practice allows a positive alignment of shareholder interests with the other duties of the Supervisory Board and that this practice is necessary to attract and retain Supervisory Board members as the granting of share-based compensation to Supervisory Board members is a common practice in our industry.
Exemptions from the NYSE corporate governance standards are available to foreign private issuers, such as QIAGEN when those standards are contrary to a law, rule or regulation of any public authority exercising jurisdiction over such issuer or contrary to generally accepted business practices in the issuer’s country of domicile. In connection with QIAGEN’s listing on the NYSE, the NYSE accepted QIAGEN's exemptions from certain corporate governance standards that are contrary to the laws, rules, regulations or generally accepted business practices of The Netherlands. These exemptions and the practices followed by QIAGEN are described below: