The French financial regulator has told re/insurers in the country to separate the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to improve governance practices.
In particular, the move will put pressure on Denis Kessler, who holds both roles at French reinsurer SCOR, and on Thierry Derez, who holds similar positions at Covéa.
The ACPR noted that splitting the Chairman and CEO roles is “a good governance practice increasingly widespread in large companies” and is expected “to become standard in listed companies and large insurance groups”.
For Kessler, the regulator’s message will be especially unwelcome, given that he only recently succeeded in holding on to both his management roles following a prolonged spat with activist investor CIAM.
CIAM CEO Catherine Berjal previously called on Kessler to relinquish his Chairman role and step down from SCOR’s Board, listing many of the same reasons that the ACPR has since given.
Berjal became embroiled in a number of disputes with SCOR and Kessler following the reinsurer’s rejection of an €8.2 billion takeover bid from Covéa last year.
Her latest attack last month targeted Kessler’s age, noting that the SCOR leader will be 69 years old when his term of office as Company Director comes to an end at the 2021 AGM.
Company statute requires the Chairman and the CEO to step down at the AGM following their 70th birthday, and Berjal thus argues that shareholders are entitled to greater transparency regarding succession plans.