Federal Council adopts postulate report on corporate governance

Bern, 26.05.2021 - During its meeting on 26 May 2021, the Federal Council adopted the report "Federal Council's ownership strategy for the autonomous units of the Confederation" in fulfilment of postulate 18.4274 from former State Councillor Fabio Abate. The Federal Council concludes in the report that the management model with harmonised corporate governance principles introduced in 2006, as well as the ownership strategy for autonomous units of the Confederation, have proved their worth. It found that three of the principles needed modifying, and decided on appropriate measures in this regard.

The Confederation manages the autonomous units (Swiss Post, ETH, FINMA, RUAG, Swisscom, Skyguide, etc.) by appointing the board of directors, setting the strategic objectives and defining the associated reporting. Various incidents (including the postal bus affair) prompted the Federal Council to submit the management of companies affiliated with the Confederation to an external audit by mid-2019. The audit's findings were positive overall. The Federal Council had adopted a number of measures in implementation of the experts' recommendations.

As part of the postulate report, the Federal Council also took the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive review of the ownership strategy. All autonomous units that are managed via strategic objectives were examined. The main focus was on the question of criteria for the Federal Council's ownership strategy and experience with its implementation. In addition, efforts in the area of federal corporate governance over the last few years were examined.

The report concludes that the corporate governance principles that were introduced in 2006 and subsequently refined have led to harmonisation in the management of the federal autonomous units. In the view of the Federal Council, the ownership strategies have proved their worth, giving the Federal Council an effective tool to supervise and manage these organisations. The corporate governance principles offer sufficient flexibility to take account of the differences between the units (e.g. market or monopoly basis, security tasks). The Federal Council has decided to make adjustments to three of the corporate governance principles based on practical experience gained in the meantime:

  • Principle 4 on the appointment of senior management of institutions will be brought into line with existing practice. In general, the director of a unit can be appointed or dismissed only with the consent of the Federal Council.

  • Changes in the economic or political environment can impact an autonomous unit's ability to perform its tasks. At the same time, the principles of good governance are evolving at both national and international level. It is thus all the more important that such developments and the potential consequences for the Confederation and the affected units be carefully monitored and, where possible, anticipated. The Federal Council is therefore expanding principle 17 such that the ownership strategy of each autonomous unit is systematically reviewed every eight years. In particular, it should be clarified whether there continues to be a public interest in the fulfilment of tasks by the autonomous unit and whether the ownership strategy is still in line with current practice.

  • Principle 26 on financing an institution will be expanded such that the fee ordinances for units performing services on a monopoly basis now need to be approved by the Federal Council. In the case of institutions with economic and safety oversight tasks, the Federal Council issues the ordinance provisions on fees and any oversight tasks.

In addition, the following measures have already been introduced to bridge gaps in the ownership strategy. For the Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets (SIFEM), legal foundations are being prepared at legislative level (organisational decree); in the case of the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IIP), the legal foundations are to be aligned with the corporate governance principles.

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