To Casey Nault, a high-performing team is as good as gold. As senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary at Coeur Mining Inc., Nault fosters a working environment based on openness and trust—not only to ensure his team’s ability to enhance the company’s performance but also to help set a cultural foundation for Coeur’s best-in-class corporate governance strategy.
A graduate of the USC Gould School of Law, Nault began his legal career as an associate at leading firms such as Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher and, in 2003, transitioned to an in-house position at Starbucks. His tenure there impressed upon him the importance of efficiency and pragmatism, Nault says, but it also opened his eyes to the benefits of transparency.
“My boss would share things with me that were happening at the board level, or transactions that the company was considering,” Nault recalls. “That helped me to do my job better, to anticipate the issues that we were going to face, and to grow.”
That growth does not go unrecognized by his colleagues in the industry. “Casey knows the law cold, but while there are perhaps others who can also cite the regs, Casey distinguishes himself with judgment, commercial instincts, and nuanced ability to apply the law to the facts,” says Steve Shoemate, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. “He is creative and drives to the most effective solution whether it be a corporate strategy, disclosure, communication, or sustainability issue.”
And that concept of lucidity to evolve expertise holds true no matter the context, he says. At Coeur Mining, a Chicago-based precious metals producer with five operating mines, Nault tries to “share as much information as I can” with the people on his team so that they can do the best job possible. “I also believe it’s important to admit my own mistakes and be transparent about the things that I’m trying to work on,” he says.
Showing that trust with his team members and encouraging open communication across functions has helped lead to some remarkable results, Nault says. “This is a cyclical industry, and in the most recent downturn in gold and silver prices, which also drove down our stock price, we were facing a pretty difficult annual meeting vote on our executive compensation program,” he explains. “Usually when the stock price drops so dramatically, you’d expect to see a very high negative vote from stockholders because it’s so hard to demonstrate alignment.”
“But our team was able to tell the story of how our programs are aligned with results,” Nault continues, “and explain why, the significant stock price drop notwithstanding, the long-term incentive plans were appropriately structured to create value over time.”
By highlighting that value, Nault’s team was able to secure a much higher ‘yes’ vote than companies in a similar situation usually receive. “It’s easy to lead a team when everyone is so strong,” Nault explains.
And as Nault has seen firsthand, the company’s determination to drive value isn’t limited to revenue. “Our purpose statement is ‘we pursue a higher standard,’ and we really live that every day—we’re constantly talking about how we can be better,” Nault says. “We’re talking about what we do to develop our people, what we do to maintain good relations with employees and communities, what we do to ensure the same high safety standards across all three countries where we operate, and what we do to minimize environmental impacts such as fresh water usage.”
“We saw that it was important for us to be more transparent about all the things that make Coeur a responsible company and a good place to work.”
Those discussions, Nault says, are a cornerstone of the company’s strategy to be more open about Coeur’s achievements.
“We feel that we have a lot of good things to say,” remarks the GC, “and in the last few years, with the increasing importance of ESG [environmental, social, and governance] factors for institutional investors and other stakeholders, we saw that it was important for us to be more transparent about all the things that make Coeur a responsible company and a good place to work.”
Over the past eighteen months, Nault has led a cross-functional internal team dedicated to improving the company’s ESG disclosures. “We added a dedicated ESG manager to enhance and regularize our disclosures around ESG and drive improvements to our ESG practices, and we now include a deeper dive on a specific ESG topic in each quarterly earnings presentation,” he says.
Good governance is a critical element of Coeur’s corporate strategy, Nault says, and this ESG disclosure initiative is a perfect example of what good governance looks like. But as Nault and the other members of the company’s executive team know, even “good” governance can always be improved upon.
“We set aside time to get away from our day jobs and work on our strategy,” Nault says of Coeur’s executive team. “We’ll spend half a day somewhere with a whiteboard and really pressure test so that we can come up with new ideas, or just validate that we’re on the right path. We also have an outstanding board populated with very impressive people who challenge us to be intentional about our strategy and be better in all ways.”
The Coeur Commitment
Dedicated to protecting the environment as well as producing valuable minerals, Coeur Mining Inc. has spent years working to understand and minimize their energy consumption, greenhouse emissions, land disturbance, waste generation, water usage, and more. By the numbers:
2 Clean Burn 5000 furnaces, the most efficient and cleanest used oil heating system in the industry, installed at Coeur’s Wharf site in 2018 to reduce overall fuel usage
100,000+ trees and shrubs planted at the inactive Golden Cross mining site in New Zealand
0 percent of Coeur’s reserves are located near sites with endangered species or protected conservation status
16 solar panels installed at Coeur Mexicana in 2018
2 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across all Coeur facilities since 2017