Posts filed under ‘press’

How Shareholders Can Make a Difference

“Shareholders are fed up about corporate excesses,” Laura Berry writes in a guest column for the Des Moines (Iowa) Register. “But they aren’t waiting for Congress to make changes.”

At the annual meetings of Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., for example, more than 30 percent of shareholders have supported resolutions demanding the “companies provide more information before trading in derivatives, the financial instruments blamed for fueling the financial crisis.”

Berry, the executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, says the scores of shareholder resolutions on topics such as executive compensation can force — or shame — companies into making changes. 

In urging shareholders to cast their ballots, by the way, she praises ProxyDemocracy as an excellent website “that can help you understand the issues” on corporate ballots.

For the full column, click here.

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June 1, 2010 at 8:20 am Leave a comment

Massey Directors Narrowly Prevail

Massey Energy Co.’s slate of three directors was narrowly reelected in a shareholders’ vote, calling into question the legitimacy of the board, CtW Investment Group said.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek: “Baxter Phillips, Richard Gabrys and Dan Moore, members of Massey’s safety committee, were opposed by 48.5 to 49.8 percent of the shares voted at the Richmond, Virginia-based company’s annual meeting, CtW said.”

“Massey said that each of the candidates received at least 55 percent of the vote, which took place six weeks after the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 workers.”

“It’s an unambiguous call for new directors,” CtW spokesman Michael Garland was quoted as saying. “The vote casts a cloud over the legitimacy of this board. The onus is on the board now to name new directors.”

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Florida State Board of Administration, AFSCME Employees Pension Plan and Christian Brothers Investment Services withheld votes from the candidates.

May 19, 2010 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

Mutual Funds Seek to Shed ‘Rubber Stamp’ Tag

“Investor activists say they are finally getting some support from the $12 trillion mutual fund industry, huge shareholders long scorned as rubber stamps for the management of companies whose shares they own,” Ross Kerber says in a report for Reuters.

“Sensitive to the issue, mutual fund executives say they have begun to demand more details and to vote more aggressively in corporate elections. … Activists hope to see the new approach reflected when the results of this season’s shareholder proxy votes are released, especially in the aftermath of the financial crisis that plunged the world economy into recession.”

ProxyDemocracy will track mutual funds’ reports of their proxy votes to see how measurable this trend is.

May 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

Pensions to Withhold Votes From Massey Directors

“In the wake of last month’s tragedy at Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia, the New York State Common Retirement Fund called on shareowners to withhold votes from three candidates for the company’s board of directors,” SocialFunds.com reports. “The three — Baxter F. Phillips, Richard M. Gabrys and Dan R. Moore — also serve on the board’s safety, environmental and public policy committee.”

“The disaster at Upper Big Branch, which claimed the lives of 29 miners, occurred in the aftermath of repeated environmental and safety violations by Massey, which led to at least two criminal convictions in the past three years. In addition, Massey has already reported that financial losses from Upper Big Branch could lead to losses of as much as $150 million.”

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which discloses its votes with ProxyDemocracy, will withhold support from the three candidates.  

Whether Massey’s two major institutional shareholders, Fidelity Investments and BlackRock Inc., will side with the dissidents is unknown,  according to Reuters. Both companies said “their voting policies were based on enhancing shareholder value,” Reuters reported. Fidelity owns about 9.5 percent of Massey’s common stock, while BlackRock holds just over 9 percent.

Massey’s annual shareholder meeting is scheduled for May 18. Check here for more vote announcements or sign up for our e-mail alerts.

May 14, 2010 at 1:41 pm Leave a comment

Investors Make Voice Heard on Pay

“Investor rebukes of executive-pay practices last week at Motorola Inc. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. mark a significant shift in the relationship between corporate boards and shareholders,” Erin White reports in the Wall Street Journal.

“The messages came via say-on-pay votes at the companies’ annual meetings. Corporate activists have been arguing for an advisory vote on executive pay for years, but such votes have only recently become commonplace thanks to Congress, which required them for companies that got federal bailout funds, and voluntary adoption by others.

“Last year, not a single major U.S. company lost a vote, despite widespread complaints over excessive pay. Some governance watchers wondered if the measures lacked teeth, or if ordinary investors just didn’t consider pay to be an issue. After the defeats at Motorola and Occidental, that has changed.”

See the full story here.

May 11, 2010 at 8:35 am Leave a comment

Pay Disparity at Goldman Sachs

Lance E. Lindblom and Laura Shaffer of the Nathan Cummings Foundation argue in the New York Times that huge paychecks for top corporate executives are out of whack with reality — especially at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Shareholders should send Goldman Sachs a message by using their shares at the firm’s annual meeting on May 7 to press for more information on the pay disparity between top corporate executives and rank-and-file employees, Lindblom and Shaffer write. The foundation has been a supporter of ProxyDemocracy.

April 15, 2010 at 10:04 am Leave a comment

Keeping Tabs on Mutual Funds

ProxyDemocracy earned a citation as a fund-industry watchdog from the Wall Street Journal, while money managers themselves got a demerit for failing to keep an eye on corporate excesses.

“To the millions of Americans wondering how Wall Street’s compensation culture got so brazen, one part of the answer may come as a surprise: It’s your mutual fund,” Ian Salisbury writes in the Journal.

“Many Main Street investors have fumed at the huge bonuses paid to Wall Street executives and traders following a government bailout of the financial industry,” the article says. “Yet directors at companies such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley are mostly expected to sail to reelection in proxy voting this month and next –and among the parties casting the most votes will be fund-management companies.”

Complex trading rules and fund companies’ oversight of corporate 401(k) plans are cited as possible reasons for the industry’s weak record in challenging management on pay and other issues.

ProxyDemocracy helps “investors keep tabs on the behavior of individual fund families” by assessing their votes on executive pay, corporate governance and issues such as the environment. Visit here to see how your fund company rates.

April 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm Leave a comment

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