Tag Archives | Broadridge

Announcing Proxy Votes Improves Corporate Governance

democracy

Shareowners Upholding Industry

Yesterday, I posted a recent letter to the editor of Pensions & Investments praising their editorial, Winning Over Proxy Voters, which argues that institutional investors have a fiduciary duty to announce their proxy votes in advance of annual meetings, if doing so is likely to influence voters. If institutional investors heed their call, it will speed the development of open client director voting (CDV) and more intelligent proxy votes.

As corporate power grows and the power of government falls, mechanisms to govern corporations become more important. As government power falls, their power to regulate corporations falls as well. Further, as the influence of corporations over governments increases (e.g. lobbying) the will of governments to regulate corporations also falls.  – CHR for Social Responsibility

Historically, most retail shareowners toss their proxies. During the first year under the “notice and access” method for Internet delivery of proxy materials, less than 6% made use of their proxy votes. Those that do vote own disproportionately more shares (about 25-30% of total retail shares). The voting rate hasn’t improved much, if at all. This contrasts with almost all institutional investors voting, since they have a fiduciary duty to do so. Unfortunately, it isn’t time/cost efficient to read through the entire proxy to vote a few retail shares intelligently. Continue Reading →

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Investor Forums

forumInside Investor Relations (IR) had an important article on July 30th, On the Way to the Investor Forum that raised the question: do companies really want to encourage their shareholders to chat about them in online forums? Wouldn’t it create a lot of work for investor relations officers (IROs) “who are responsible for monitoring these online groups, responding to any misinformation posted on them, dealing with legal and other consequences?” Continue Reading →

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2013 Proxy Season Review

ProxyAccessSteven Hall Partners published a list of all the failed “say on pay” votes this season to date. 56 companies  failed with an average 60% ‘Against’ vote.

  • Two additional company received less than 50% ‘For’ but considered the vote a win because ‘For’ votes outnumbered ‘Against’ votes due to abstentions. I say they’re crazy. They failed.
  • Nine companies have failed previous votes
    • Abercrombie & Fitch Co. failed in 2012
    • Big Lots, Inc. failed in 2012
    • Cogent Communications failed in 2011
    • Comstock Resources failed in 2012
    • Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold, Inc. failed in 2011
    • Gentiva Health Services failed in 2012
    • Three companies have failed all three of their say on pay votes (2011, 2012 & 2013)
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Quick Reads in Corporate Governance

Time to Move Down the Food Chain With Proxy Proposals

How does director voting look so far this year? Eighty percent of directors up for election received over 90% shareholder support. And nine of ten received at least 80% support. Directors of large-cap companies had the highest rate of support, averaging 95% approval. Small cap and Micro-cap directors had the lowest affirmative rates, with 76% voting “for.” Only a very small number of individual directors (less than 2%) failed to receive majority shareholder support.  (From ProxyPulse, a Broadridge PwC Initiative. Much more at the site.) Continue Reading →

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Proxy sites dump one-click vote button on SEC concerns

That was the blaring headline in Ross Kerber’s article for Reuters yesterday. Unfortunately, they didn’t dump one-click voting; they renamed it.

The real change was almost entirely for appearances. We no longer have a “Vote with the Board’s Recommendations” button. Instead, we have a “Submit” button. What happens when you hit that button and don’t fill out anything else? All your votes go to the board recommended boxes. There is no change in what actually happens. If there are 20 items, it still takes one click to vote with the board, 21 to vote against the board. Continue Reading →

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Biased Ballots: Oshkosh Vote Questioned – Take Action

I found another case of corporate elections where ballot measures failed to be identified “clearly and impartially.” This time at Oshkosh ($OSK). Should we be surprised? Isn’t it time you took a minute out of your day to send a message to the SEC asking for an end to such abuses?

Broadridge claims:

When it comes to proxy ballots, regulations are complex and mailing deadlines are tight. Broadridge helps fulfill regulatory responsibilities efficiently and economically. Broadridge handles the entire process on-line and in real time, from coordination with third-party entities to ordering, inventory maintenance, mailing, tracking and vote tabulation. Continue Reading →

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Broken Windows & Proxy Vote Rigging – Both Invite More Serious Crime

Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference discusses the “Broken Window theory.

If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and a sense of anarchy will spread.

In the following post I argue that relatively minor problems, like how items left blank on a proxy are counted and how Broadridge labels shareowner proposals, sends a signal. Just like an abundance of graffiti tells you gangs are in charge, switching blank votes to management and relabeling shareowner proposals to gibberish tells you that shareowners are indifferent and that corporate managers have a clear invitation to more serious crime. I ask readers to take a simple action at the end of the post that, like fixing broken windows, could lead to the end of much more serious abuses.  Continue Reading →

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UNFI Vote: Have We Turned the Corner on Annual Elections?

J. McRitchie, UNFI Shareowner

My proposal to declassify the board at United Natural Foods, Inc. ($UNFI) passed by an overwhelming margin of 87.89%:

  • 38,086,048 for
  • 5,248,963 against

See their 8-K filing. Text (pdf) of proposal and opposition. Of course, the margin would have been even higher without insider holdings and blank votes going to management. Have we turned the corner on declassification measures to the point where companies might as well throw-in the towel and declassify when faced with such proposals? Continue Reading →

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UNFI Locked Out ShareOwners but We Voted to Declassify the Board: Company Now Seeks Feedback on Meeting Format

I attended a virtual-only meeting of United Natural Foods, Inc. yesterday and was pleased that a majority of shares were voted in favor of my proposal to declassify the board. That, combined with a move to majority vote requirements for directors a few years ago, helps move UNFI ($UNFI) into the center of the pack with regard to corporate governance. However, I am very disappointed with the lockout style annual meeting. They said they are open to change. Of course, that may depend on shareowners providing feedback. I hope you will join me in requesting changes. I tell you how at the end of this post and I make it a painless cut and paste exercise.   Continue Reading →

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Turkey's e-GEM Beats Broadridge at Shareowner Communication

Turkey became the first country to require issuers to offer electronic proxy voting with the 1 October inauguration of a voting platform from MKK called e-GEM. The system will stream annual general meetings (AGMs) real time and let shareowners communicate with each other, vote before the meeting, and even change their vote as an annual meeting occurs. Other markets have e-voting but do not require it of all listed companies. Expect other markets to keep an eye on this development.  (Corporate Governance Roundup: New Rules in Canada, Switzerland, Continue Reading →

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Boards, Plumbing, Broadridge & footnoted*

The Changing Profile of Board Recruitment, in the November/December issue of The Corporate Board by Bonnie W Gwin of Heidrick & Struggles, discusses a continued risk aversion among the leadership of the Fortune 500.

Companies seeking to fill directors’ chairs with only current or former CEOs will find it nearly impossible to increase diversity on the board. This may create a conundrum for corporations who want to do both.

Companies are torn between the safety and reliability of veteran leadership but also Continue Reading →

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Will UNFI Go Virtual-Only Again? Not if Shareowners Just Say No

Ever since ownership and management diverged, owners have met with those to whom they entrust their business. They do so at least annually to learn how the business is doing, to communicate, and to exercise their rights as owners. Last year United Natural Foods, one of the companies in my portfolio, announced they were breaking from this tradition of meeting face to face with owners. Instead, they held a virtual-only meeting on December 16, 2010. Will they do it again? Not if shareowners protest. We expect an announcement in late October or early November.

Four centuries ago, Isaac Le Maire’s submitted the first recorded expression of shareowner advocacy at a publicly traded corporation. The corporation was the Dutch East India Company. His concerns are familiar:

How badly the company’s assets are being managed, and how every day needless and unnecessary expenses are being made, of great interest Continue Reading →

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Don't Let Them Get Away With Stealing Elections

Glyn Holton’s How To Steal a Corporate Election informs us of recent outrages on how elections are tipped in favor of entrenched managers and boards. If you’ve taken the time to read his post, I urge you to take another five minutes to help remedy the situation.

To address the situation at American Tower Corporation (AMT) send e-mails to the Office of Chief Counsel at shareholderproposals@sec.gov and the Chairman at chairmanoffice@sec.gov. I also recommend you fill out the complaint form, since this will go to the Division of Enforcement, the office that could take action. I recommend you write something like the following (subject line: American Tower Corporation – Violation of Rule 14a-4(a)(3)):

American Tower Corporation (AMT) is utilizing a Voter Information Form (VIF), which includes Item 04. While it appears shareowners are being asked to approve the idea of say-on-pay votes (now required by Dodd-Frank), they are actually being asked to approve a say-on-pay vote.

SEC Rule 14a-4(a)(3) states the proxy “shall identify clearly and impartially  each separate matter intended to be acted upon, whether or not related to or conditioned on the approval of other matters, and whether proposed by the Continue Reading →

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