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Ugo Bassi focuses on transparency at ICGN

For many people their most memorable in situ news moment is when man landed on the moon or when John Lennon, Princess Diana or Michael Jackson died. But most Italians will remember where they were when Pope Benedict XVI resigned. A country with record unemployment, no head of state and no head of the church was an interesting location to host a corporate governance conference where issues of leadership and strategy are key.

But politics and religion aside, 280 delegates made up of asset owners, managers, corporates and proxy voting firms from around the globe convened in Milan to attend the International Corporate Governance Network event, to discuss the relationship between investors and corporations, and how to promote best practice in corporate behaviour.

The conference, hosted by Borsa Italiana, centred around the topics front of mind for investors with regard to corporate governance: remuneration, proxy voting and gender diversity on boards.

There was much discussion of the role of regulation and legislation in regard to corporate governance and Ugo Bassi, director general of internal market and services at the European Commission, says in its work on corporate governance the commission will focus on transparency but will not have prescriptive rules.

“A lot can be done through the information a company provides to an investor and vice versa,” he says.

Not surprisingly, long termism was also a key theme and how to counter the short termism in “incentive structures and thinking that is undermining capitalism”.

Bassi says that shareholder engagement is not an objective of the European Commission as such, rather it aims to create the conditions for improvement of shareholder engagement.

“We will fight short termism,” he says. “You can’t oblige a shareholder to engage but when they are willing, we want them to do it easily.”