Events James McRitchie will attend

James McRitchie, CorpGov.net Publisher

Events CorpGov.net publisher James McRitchie will attend:

  • Apple Shareholder’s Meeting, 1 Infinite Loop, Building 4 (Town Hall), Cupertino, California 95014. February 26, 2016, 9:00 a.m.
  • Whole Foods Market Shareholders Meeting, Fairmont San Francisco, 950 Mason Street, San Francisco, California 94108. March 9, 2016, 8 a.m.
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Apple’s Proxy Access Lite Needs Changing

Apple's Proxy Access Lite

Apple’s Proxy Access Lite

Apple’s proxy access lite led me to a little thought experiment after reading the following reaction at Mac Rumors: “Maybe if all macrumors members who are shareholders band together, we can nominate one of our own!” What are the possibilities that members of Mac Rumors, any, or even all of the thousands of Apple-centric groups around the world could join together and nominate directors? (Find Apple group near you.)

Mac Rumors

Mac Rumors

Apple’s opposition statement to my proposal for real proxy access cites a statement made by Patrick McGurn, special counsel at ISS, the shareholder advisory group, who responded to Apple’s adoption of proxy access by stating that “other boards are likely to look to such respected companies and are likely to examine this issue now.” Yes, Apple’s proxy access lite got the attention of other companies but once we peel away the layers, we see the Board’s new bylaw is mostly for show, like greenwashing a product that pollutes. Although Mr. McGurn noted the importance of Apple’s proxy access lite, that doesn’t mean ISS thought it was good. In fact, ISS urges its subscribers to vote for my proposal to create real proxy access at Apple, as do early vote announcers Trillium, TRS and Australia’s Local Government Super.

Apple will hold their annual meeting on February 26, 2016. If you are a shareholder, there is still time to vote your proxy in favor of real proxy access at Apple. Vote in favor of item #8, Adopt Proxy Access Right. I’ll analyze the other proxy items as we approach the meeting date. Continue Reading →

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Franklin Resources: Proxy Score 58

Franklin ResourcesFranklin Resources, Inc. (BEN) is a publicly owned asset management holding company, which includes Franklin Templeton Investments, and is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is on February 17, 2016. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of two funds when I checked. I voted against three directors and for the proposal for a report on voting incongruities regarding climate change voting. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 58% of the time. View Proxy Statement.

Franklin Resources: Special Note

This is one of the most important votes of the year because of the vitally important proxy proposal submitted by Zevin Asset Management, along with First Affirmative Financial and Friends Fiduciary Corporate. The proposal asks our company to report on incongruences between the proxy voting practices of Franklin Resources and its stated policy positions on climate change. If they are essentially ‘green-washing,’ this proposal should lead to a change in how they vote. If their proxy votes are already aligned with their policies and public statements, a report will provide an opportunity for good publicity. Continue Reading →

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Key Votes Survey Released by AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO Key Votes Survey 2015The AFL-CIO Key Votes Survey is designed to help pension fund trustees fulfill their fiduciary duty to monitor the proxy voting performance of investment managers. Good corporate governance matters to shareholders and proxy voting is the most direct means for shareholders to exercise oversight in relation to the corporations they own. (Read the full report.)

Proxy Votes Must be Cast in Your Interest

In 1988, the U.S. Department of Labor advised pension fund trustees that under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), the voting rights attached to company stock are “plan assets” that must be managed according to ERISA fiduciary standards. The Department of Labor requires investment managers to “maintain accurate records as to proxy voting” and permit trustees to “review the actions taken in individual proxy voting situations.”   Continue Reading →

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Norges Bank: Responsible Investment

Norges Bank responsible-investment-2015Norges Bank published their second annual report on responsible investment of the Government Pension Fund Global. They clarified expectations towards companies in 2015 and are creating a model I hope many will follow

The report provides a comprehensive review of work by Norges Bank on responsible investment in the management of the fund. Key areas of this work include developing and promoting international standards and principles, expressing expectations towards companies, and being an active owner.

Norges Bank expects companies to address a broad set of long-term risks in their strategies, investment plans, risk management and reporting.  They updated expectations with regard to children’s rights, water management and climate change in 2015, and today they are also publishing their expectations for how companies manage human rights. Monitoring environmental, social and governance risks in the portfolio is an important part of Norges Bank Investment Management’s work on responsible investment. Continue Reading →

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CSP Inc.: Proxy Score 87

CSPCSP Inc. (CSPI), together with its subsidiaries, develops and markets IT integration solutions and cluster computer systems to commercial and defense customers in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. CSP Inc. is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is on February 9, 2016. ProxyDemocracy.org didn’t have a listing for CSP I presume it is because the company is too small.  I voted for the directors, pay, auditor and for proxy access, therefore with the Board’s recommendations 87% of the time. View Proxy Statement. Continue Reading →

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TD Ameritrade Holding: Proxy Score 62

TD AmeritradeTD Ameritrade Holding Corporation (AMTD) provides securities brokerage services and related technology-based financial services to retail investors, traders, and independent registered investment advisors (RIAs) in the United States. TD Ameritrade is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is on February 18, 2016. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected no votes when I checked. I voted against the pay and bonus plans, therefore with the Board’s recommendations 62% of the time. View Proxy Statement.

Read Warnings below. What follows are my recommendations on how to vote the proxy in order to enhance corporate governance and long-term value.  Continue Reading →

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Directors Prepare for Shareholder Activism

Directors Prepare for Shareholder Activism

Directors Prepare for Shareholder Activism Before the Panel

How should directors prepare for shareholder activism? That was the underlying question addressed by last week’s SVDX / Rock Center for Corporate Governance joint event – Shareholder Activism: The Good, the Bad or Just Ugly.  Shareholder activism is in the news almost every day. How does it play out in Silicon Valley? Is activism beneficial to (some) shareholders in the short-term but harmful to the company (especially Silicon Valley companies) in the long-term?

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Vanguard’s Political Disclosure Vote: Wrong!

Vanguard's Political Disclosure Vote is Wrong (2nd from bottom on graph)

Vanguard’s Political Disclosure Vote is Wrong (2nd from bottom on graph)

VanguardLet’s change Vanguard’s political disclosure vote. Our nation’s largest mutual fund voted against all resolutions submitted by shareholders asking for companies to disclose their political spending. Shouldn’t we have the right to know what candidates our investments are supporting?

Vanguard’s Political Disclosure Vote Needs Changed

Join more than 59,000 American’s who have already petitioned Vanguard to change their proxy voting behavior. Support shareholder resolutions that seek disclosure of political spending at companies where Vanguard owns a shares. If Vanguard votes with us, instead of against us, it won’t be long before other large funds like BlackRock start doing the same. Within a few years, we could actually begin to know what companies are funneling how much money to which candidates. Vanguard’s political disclosure vote can be changed – with your help. Sign the petition by U.S. PIRG to change Vanguard’s political disclosure vote. Continue Reading →

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Visa (V): How I Voted – Proxy Score 53

VisaVisa Inc (V), a payments technology company, operates an open-loop payments network worldwide. The company facilitates commerce through the transfer of value and information among financial institutions, merchants, consumers, businesses, and government entities. Visa is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is on February 3, 2016. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected no votes when I checked.  I voted against the pay plan, incentive plan, amendments and the compensation committee but with the Board’s recommendations 53% of the time. View Proxy Statement on iiWisdom. Continue Reading →

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Employee Participation and Ownership Award

Employee Participation and Ownership: Award Program

Employee Participation and OwnershipThe Foundation for Enterprise Development announced their annual award program for promising research by emerging scholars in the domain of broad-based employee participation and ownership. The purpose of the award program is to identify innovative research in management or management-related disciplines that considers high-impact ideas in the context of business and society’s needs for employee empowerment, participative workforces, and wealth creation through broad-based equity and profit-sharing mechanisms. Research that has broad implications for practice and/or policy, and that addresses pressing economic and/or social problems are especially appropriate for this award. Continue Reading →

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Costco Wholesale: Proxy Score 57

Costco WholesaleCostco Wholesale Corporation (COST), together with its subsidiaries, operates great membership warehouses. Costco Wholesale is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is on January 29, 2016. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of four funds when I checked. I voted against two directors and for proxy access, therefore with the Board’s recommendations 57% of the time. View Proxy Statement. Continue Reading →

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Who Withdraws Shareholder Proposals?

Withdraws Shareholder Proposals

Withdraws Shareholder Proposals

Who Withdraws Shareholder Proposals and Does It Matter? An Analysis of Sponsor Identity and Pay Practices is the title of an import study in the November 2015 issue of Corporate Governance: An International Review. Examination of this topic is long overdue. Companies constantly take full credit for corporate governance reforms, such as the addition of proxy access bylaws, when they are doing so only to avoid a vote on a more robust shareholder proposal. Continue Reading →

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Sonoco Fails to Limit Democracy to the 2%

SonocoSonoco Products ($SON) recently sought no-action relief from the SEC to omit a proxy access shareholder proposal by William Steiner. The Division of Corporation Finance denied their request. The 1% now owns as much worldwide as the 99%, so why should Sonoco limit shareholder proposals and presenters to the 2%?

I was happy to play a small role in helping John Chevedden present Mr. Steiner’s case. This was not a great victory destined for the annals of history. However, if Mr. Steiner had lost to Sonoco, it might have meant the beginning of the end of shareholder proposals as a mechanism of shareholder democracy. A similar case was fought sixty years ago. Continue Reading →

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Financial Economics of Climate Change

Norges BankResearch proposals on the Financial Economics of Climate Change are being sought by Norway’s sovereign wealth fund (Norges Bank). Proposals are due March 13, 2016. Norges recently awarded two research grants, one for a project on portfolio choice for long-term investors and another for an investigation of the effectiveness of engaged ownership. The objective of the Norwegian Finance Initiative (NFI) research program is to facilitate research of the highest academic standard in areas of particular relevance for the long-term management of the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG). Continue Reading →

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Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA): Proxy Score 38

Walgreens Boots AllianceWalgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (WBA) operates as a pharmacy-led health and wellbeing company. The company operates through three segments: Retail Pharmacy USA, Retail Pharmacy International, and Pharmaceutical Wholesale. Walgreens Boots Alliance is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is on January 27, 2016. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of three funds when I checked.  I voted with the Board’s recommendations 38% of the time. View Proxy Statement. Continue Reading →

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