Archive for May 30, 2008

Reasons for votes

Short attention span version: We’re now displaying the reasons institutions provide for their votes. For example, see the June 11, 2008, meeting of Caterpillar Inc here; CalPERS provides reasons for its votes on each of the shareholder proposals. At this point only CalPERS is providing reasons for its votes, but we think more institutions will (and should) follow their lead.

Longer version: ProxyDemocracy offers advance notice of how respected institutional investors plan to vote at upcoming shareholder meetings. The idea behind providing this service is that investors can use this information to vote their own shares more intelligently. 

In some cases, it’s enough to know what the institution’s vote was. If you know something about the institution and its voting record, you might be able to assume that you would agree with the reasons for its position on a particular proposal.

But just as we might we might want to know why the Sierra Club endorsed a particular candidate before following its recommendation, often we’d like to know why an institution plans to vote a certain way on a proposal we face before we cast our vote the same way.

A select few institutions are now making publicly available the reasons for their votes, along with the votes themselves, in advance of meetings. We currently provide votes for one such institution — CalPERS, the California public employee pension fund. As of today we’ve started making available the reasons for their votes. I find these reasons to be very useful, particularly when the content of the proposal is not clear from the brief proposal title we are given, or for director nominations where CalPERS will back up its withhold vote with an explanation that the director serves on too many other boards or has attended too few meetings.

Some interesting ones I found:

  • CalPERS explains that it voted against Steve Jobs on the Disney board because he missed too many meetings.
  • CalPERS explains why it opposed a proposal asking Google’s board to create a committee on human rights issues.
  • CalPERS explains that it opposed a director at the Lowe’s meeting today because he sits on too many other boards.

Let me know if you find anything interesting (or wrong) in the new data.

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May 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm Leave a comment


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