Corporate Governance & Board Practices

PRAXAIR Corporate Governance and Board Practices

Praxair Governance Principles

Praxair operates under Corporate Governance Guidelines. Consistent with those guidelines, the Board has adopted the following policies and practices, among others:

Director Independence 

The Board has adopted independence standards for service on Praxair’s Board of Directors. The Board has applied these standards to all of the non-management directors (all directors are non-management except for Mr. Angel, the Company’s Chairman & CEO), and has determined that each qualifies as independent. The Board is not otherwise aware of any relationship with the Company or its management that could potentially impair the independent judgment of these directors. See also related information below under the caption “Certain Relationships and Transactions".

Board Leadership

As set forth under the Corporate Governance Guidelines, the Board believes that the best leadership model for the Company at this time is that of a combined Chairman & CEO, balanced by practices and policies designed to assure effective independence in the Board’s oversight, advice and counsel.  The Governance & Nominating Committee (consisting entirely of independent directors) periodically examines the Board leadership structure as well as other governance practices and conducts an annual assessment of Board and Committee effectiveness. The Governance & Nominating Committee has determined that the present leadership structure is effective and appropriate. The Board believes that the substantive duties of the Chairman, including calling and organizing meetings and preparing agendas, are best performed by someone having day-to-day familiarity with the business issues confronting the Company and an understanding of the specific areas in which management seeks advice and counsel from the Board.

Lead Director.  In order to enhance the Board's independence and oversight of management, the independent directors elect a Lead Director from among the independent directors to serve for at least one year.  The Board's practice has been to select the Chairman of the Governance & Nominating Committee to serve as the Lead Director, and although elected to serve at least one year, the Lead Director is generally expected to serve multiple terms.  Mr. Wood, who is Chairman of the Governance & Nominating Committee, is the current Lead Director.  The designated responsibilities of the Lead Director are set forth in the Board's Corporate Governance Guidelines and include:

  • serving as chairman of the meetings of the independent directors and all meetings of the Board at which the Chairman is not present;
  • having the authority to call meetings of the independent directors;
  • serving as a liaison between the Chairman and CEO and the independent directors;
  • being available to consult with the Chairman and CEO about the concerns of the Board;
  • approving the Board meeting agendas and related information sent to the Board;
  • approving the Board meeting schedules to assure that there is sufficient time for discussion of all agenda items;
  • being available for consultation and direct communication with major shareholders if requested; and
  • coordinating an annual performance review of the CEO with input from the Compensation Committee and the other independent directors.

Succession Planning & Personnel Development

The Compensation Committee conducts an annual Succession Planning and Personnel Development session to which all Board members are invited and at which senior executives are evaluated with respect to their potential for promotion into senior leadership positions, including that of the CEO. From time to time, this session also includes a consideration of compensation issues related to succession and retention.  In addition, a wide variety of senior executives are introduced to the Board by way of Board and Committee presentations and directors have unrestricted access to a broad cross-section of managers and high potential employees.

Board Role in Risk Oversight

At least annually, the full Board reviews the Company’s risk identification, assessment and management processes and the guidelines and policies by which key risks are managed. As part of that review, the Board discusses (1) the key enterprise risks that management has identified, (2) management accountability for managing or mitigating each risk, (3) the steps being taken to manage each risk, and (4) which Board Committees will oversee each risk area on an ongoing basis. 

The risk factors disclosed in Item 1A of the Company's Form 10-K and Annual Report illustrate the range of the risks faced by a global industrial company and help explain the need for strong Board Committee oversight of the management of risks in specific subject areas. Each Committee’s calendar of recurring meeting agenda topics addresses risk areas pertinent to the Committee’s subject-matter responsibilities. These areas include: financing and currency exchange risks (Finance & Pension Committee), compensation risks, and executive development and retention (Compensation  Committee), regular review of the Board’s governance practices (Governance & Nominating Committee), internal controls, investigations, and integrity standards compliance (Audit Committee), and a regular review of the Company's sustainability program and certain enterprise risks such as natural disasters and plant control systems and security (Technology, Safety & Sustainability Committee). Other risk areas are regularly reviewed by the full Board. These include: safety and environmental risk (covered at each Board meeting), economic, market and competitive risk (part of business operating reports at each Board meeting, and the annual operating and strategic reviews), cyber security, and global compliance risks (supplementing reporting within the Audit Committee). In addition, risk identification and assessment is integrated into Board decision-making with respect to capital projects and acquisitions, entry into new markets, financings, and cash flow analysis, among other matters. In Committee meetings and full Board deliberations, each director brings his or her particular operating, financial, management development, and other experiences and expertise to bear in assessing management’s response to specific risks and in providing advice and counsel with respect to risk mitigation and management.

Board Effectiveness Assessment

The Board assesses its effectiveness annually under a process determined by the Governance & Nominating Committee. Typically, this assessment includes each non-management director completing written questionnaires that are used to evaluate the Board's effectiveness in the areas of Performance of Core Responsibilities, Decision-Making Support, the Quality of Deliberations, Director Performance, and Committee Functions, as well as consideration of additional Board practices and policies recommended as best practices by recognized governance authorities. Similarly, each Committee annually assesses its effectiveness in meeting its oversight responsibilities under its charter from the Board.  The Governance & Nominating Committee reviews the results of the written assessments, provides the results to all Board members, and the Lead Director conducts a discussion of the results in an executive session of the non-management directors.  Subsequently, the Governance & Nominating Committee may recommend certain actions to be taken to enhance the operations and effectiveness of the Board and its committees.

Governance Practices Review

In addition to leading the annual Board and Committee effectiveness assessment referred to above, the Governance & Nominating Committee annually reviews with an outside expert the Company’s governance practices, and updates those practices as it deems appropriate. The Committee considers, among other things, the results of the Board and Committee effectiveness assessments, developments in Delaware Corporation Law, federal laws and regulations promulgated by the SEC, and the views and recommendations of recognized governance authorities.

Mandatory Director Retirement

The Board’s policy is that a director who has attained the age of 72 may not stand for re-election at the next annual shareholders’ meeting. The Board also has a policy against service on the Board by an officer of the Company after his or her retirement, resignation or removal as an officer.

Limits to Service on Other Boards

The Board’s policy is that a non-management director may not serve on more than five additional public company boards and a member of the Audit Committee may not serve on more than two additional public company audit committees. Also, the Chairman & CEO may not serve on more than two additional public company boards.

Director Election by Majority Vote and Resignation Policy

Praxair’s Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws require directors to be elected annually and that a director nominee must receive a majority of the votes cast at an annual meeting in order to be elected (meaning a greater number of “for” votes than “against” votes) in an uncontested election of directors. The Board’s Corporate Governance Guidelines require that any director nominee who is then serving as a director must tender his or her resignation if he or she fails to receive this majority vote. The Governance & Nominating Committee of the Board would then consider the resignation offer and recommend to the Board whether to accept or reject the resignation, or whether other action should be taken. The Board would take action on the Committee’s recommendation within 90 days following certification of the vote, and promptly thereafter publicly disclose its decision and the reasons therefor.

Communications with the Board

The Board has established procedures to enable a shareholder or other interested party to direct a communication to the Board of Directors. Such communications may be confidential or anonymous and may be communicated by mail, e-mail, or by telephone.  Information on how to submit communications, and how they will be handled, is included on this website in the Our Company/Corporate Responsibility section and through the Investor Relations Department.

Director Attendance at Board and Committee Meetings and the Annual Shareholders Meeting

Absent extenuating circumstances, each member of the Board is expected to attend all meetings of the Board, all meetings of each Committee of which he or she is a member, and the Annual Meeting of Shareholders. All of the then serving directors attended the 2014 annual meeting.  Director meeting attendance is one of the factors that the Governance & Nominating Committee considers in determining whether to re-nominate an incumbent director for election at the Annual Meeting.

Business Integrity & Ethics

Praxair’s Board of Directors has adopted policies and standards regarding Compliance with Laws and Business Integrity & Ethics that are posted in this website in the Our Company/Corporate Responsibility section and are available in print to any shareholder who requests it. This Code of Ethics applies to Praxair’s directors and to all employees, including Praxair’s CEO, CFO and Controller.

Shareholder Rights Agreements

The Company does not have a Stockholder Protection Rights Agreement (sometimes referred to as a "Poison Pill").  In addition, the Board's policy is that the Board will adopt or materially amend a future Stockholder Protection Rights Agreement only if, in the exercise of its fiduciary responsibilities under Delaware law, and acting by a majority of its independent directors, it determines that such action is in the best interests of Praxair's shareholders.  If the Board adopts or materially amends a Stockholder Protection Rights Agreement, it will submit such action to a non-binding shareholder vote as a separate ballot item at the first annual meeting of shareholders occurring at least six months after such action.

Special Shareholder Meetings

Shareholders may call a special shareholders' meeting in accordance with the conditions set forth in Praxair's Certificate of Incorporation and By-laws.

Director Stock Ownership Guidelines

The Board’s policy is that non-management directors must acquire and hold shares of the Company’s stock equal in value to at least four times the base cash retainer for non-management directors. Directors have five years from their initial election to meet this guideline. All non-management directors have met this guideline or are within the 5-year transition period afforded to them to do so; and most substantially exceed the guideline.

Executive Stock Ownership and Shareholding Policy

The Board believes that it is important for executive officers to acquire a substantial ownership position in Praxair. In this way, their interests will be more closely aligned with those of shareholders. Significant stock ownership ensures that  executives manage Praxair as equity owners. 

Accordingly, a stock ownership and shareholding policy has been established for the Company’s officers that requires them to own a minimum number of shares as set forth below.  Individuals must meet the applicable ownership level no more than five years after first becoming subject to it and must acquire at least 20% of the required stock each year.  Until the stock ownership requirement is met, executive officers (i) may not sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of any of their Praxair common stock, and (ii) must retain and hold all Praxair common stock acquired from all equity incentive awards, net of shares withheld for taxes and option exercise prices, including performance share unit awards, restricted stock unit awards and stock options.

Set forth below is the minimum number of shares required by the policy for each officer position and, based upon the $129.56 per share closing stock price on December 31, 2014, what such minimum share requirement was as an approximate multiple of salary of each officer or the range of the multiples for groups of officers:

  Minimum Shares to be owned approximate multiple of salary
 Chief Executive Officer  100,000  10x
 Executive Vice Presidents  30,000  6x to 7x
 Chief Financial Officer  25,000  6.5x
 Senior Vice Presidents  20,000  5x to 6x
 Other Executive Officers  10,000 – 15,000  4x

As of the date of the 2015 Proxy Statement, all covered individuals are in compliance with this policy. Stock ownership of the Named Executive Officers can be found in the table presented above under the caption “Share Ownership” in the 2015 Proxy Statement.

Hedging, Pledging and Similar Transactions Prohibited

Directors and officers may not engage in hedging transactions related to Praxair’s stock that would have the effect of reducing or eliminating the economic risk of holding Praxair stock.  They also may not pledge or otherwise encumber Company stock.

Review, Approval or Ratification of Transactions with Related Persons

The Company’s Compliance with Laws and Business Integrity and Ethics Policy ("Ethics Policy") prohibits employees, officers and Board members from having a personal, financial or family interest that could in any way prevent the individual from acting in the best interests of the Company (a “conflict of interest”) and provides that any conflict of interest waiver relating to Board members or executive officers may be made only after review and approval by the Board upon the recommendation of its Governance & Nominating Committee. In addition, the Board’s Corporate Governance Guidelines require that any “related party transaction” by an executive officer or director be pre-approved by a committee of independent and disinterested directors. For this purpose, a “related party transaction” means any transaction or relationship that is reportable under the SEC’s Regulation S-K, Item 404, or that, in the case of a non-management director, would violate the Board’s independence standards.

Reporting and Review Procedures. To implement the foregoing policies, the Governance & Nominating Committee has adopted a written procedure for the Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests which specifies a process for the referral of potential conflicts of interests to the Board and standards for the Board’s evaluation of those matters. This policy applies to any transaction or relationship involving an executive officer, a member of the Board of Directors, a nominee for election as a director of the Company, or a family member of any of the foregoing which (1) could violate the Company’s Ethics Policy provisions regarding conflicts of interest, (2) would be reportable under the SEC’s disclosure rules, or (3) in the case of a non-management director, would violate the Board’s independence standards.

Under this procedure, potential conflicts of interest are reported to the Corporate Secretary for preliminary analysis to determine whether referral to the Governance & Nominating Committee is appropriate. Potential conflicts of interest can be self identified by the director or executive officer or may arise from internal audits, the integrity hotline or other referrals, or through periodic due diligence conducted by the Corporate Secretary’s office. The Governance & Nominating Committee then examines the facts and circumstances of each matter referred to it and makes a final determination as to (1) whether the transaction or relationship would (or does) constitute a violation of the conflicts of interest provisions of the Company’s Ethics Policy, and (2) whether the transaction or relationship should be approved or ratified and the conditions, if any, of such approval or ratification. In determining whether a transaction or relationship constitutes a violation of the conflicts of interest provisions of the Company’s Ethics Policy, the Governance & Nominating Committee considers, among other factors, the materiality of the transaction or relationship to the individual’s personal interest, whether the individual’s personal interest is materially adverse to or competitive with the interests of the Company, and whether the transaction or relationship materially interferes with the proper performance of the individual’s duties or loyalty to the Company. In determining whether to approve or ratify a transaction or relationship, the Governance & Nominating Committee considers, among other factors, whether the matter would constitute a violation of the conflicts of interest provisions of the Company’s Ethics Policy, whether the matter would violate the NYSE listing standards, the expected practical impact of the transaction or relationship on the individual’s independence of judgment or ability to act in the best interests of the Company, the availability, practicality and effectiveness of mitigating controls or safeguards such as recusal, restricted access to information, reassignment etc., and the best interests of the Company and its shareholders generally.

Application of Policies & Procedures. During 2014, no actual or potential conflicts of interest were identified with respect to the executive officers and directors of the Company. 

Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests (25KB) 

Certain Relationships and Transactions

When determining whether any director or nominee is independent, the Board considers all facts and circumstances and any relationships that a director or nominee may have with the Company, directly or indirectly, other than in the capacity of serving as a director. To assist the Board in making independence determinations, it also applies the independence standards which are posted on this website in the Our Company/Our People/Our Board of Directors section.  In determining that each of the non-management directors is independent, in February, 2015, the Board considered the following circumstances and relationships of those directors and nominees who then had any direct or indirect relationship with the Company: In the ordinary course of its business, Praxair sells medical oxygen and other industrial gases products to Community Health Systems, Inc. of which Mr. Smith is an executive officer, and sells industrial gases to, and purchases pumps and other products from, ITT Corporation, of which Ms. Ramos is an executive officer. The 2014 consolidated revenues for each of Praxair, Community Health and ITT Corporation were $12.3 billion, $18.6 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively.  For the last three fiscal years, the dollar value of Praxair's sales to Community Health ranged from $1.3 million to $2.2 million, and sales to and purchases from ITT Corporation ranged from $350,000 to $4.5 million. Such sale and purchase transactions were well below the limits set forth in the Board’s independence standards and, for any of the last three fiscal years, were significantly less than 1% of either Praxair’s, Community Health Systems’ or ITT Corporation's consolidated revenues. Therefore, the Board has determined that such ordinary course business relationships are not material and do not otherwise impair the ability of either Ms. Ramos or of Mr. Smith to exercise independent judgment as a director.

Section 16(a) Beneficial Ownership Reporting Compliance

Based solely upon a review of SEC Forms 3, 4 and 5 furnished to the Company and written representations from the Company’s executive officers and directors, the Company believes that those persons complied with all Section 16(a) filing requirements during 2014 with respect to transactions in the Company’s stock.