Finally a social networking site that will actually accomplish something. Yes, you can “friend” people and post to their “wall.” However, you can also send a powerful message to Congress that shareowners are mad about the lack of accountability and poor regulatory framework for corporations. Shareowners.org promises to provide a central core network for involvement by shareowners and beneficial owners in corporate governance activism.
When asked by Barry Burr, of Pensions and Investments, if pension funds would have a role in the new organization, Rich Ferlauto, of AFSCME, answered in the affirmative. They will be working with funds, especially public pension funds, to mobilize their own members.
Right now, ShareOwners.org will help engage typical investors by sending their comments in support of the group’s agenda directly to their members of Congress. Over the long run, ShareOwners.org’s broad four-part agenda focuses on the need for stronger regulation (including a beefed-up SEC), increased accountability of boards/CEOs, improved financial transparency and protection of the legal rights of investors. At some point, shareowners will also be able to vote their shares directly through ShareOwners.org.
The current agenda can be summarized as follows:
- Stronger regulation of the markets through a beefing up the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), ensuring that it has the resources and authority to increase supervision and enforcement of financial professionals, hedge funds, and mutual funds, and also forfeiture of compensation and bonuses earned by management in a deceptive fashion, strengthening state-level shareowner rights, and protecting whistleblowers and confidential sources who expose financial fraud and other corporate misconduct.
- Increased accountability of boards and corporate executives by allowing shareowners to vote on the pay of CEOs and other top executives, empowering shareowners to more easily nominate directors for election on corporate boards, requiring majority election of all members of corporate boards at American companies, splitting the roles of chairman of the board and CEO at major companies, stopping the practice of brokers casting votes for shareowners in board elections, and allowing shareowners to call special meetings.
- Improved financial transparency, including a crackdown on corporate disclosure abuses used to manipulate stock prices, strengthening corporate disclosures so that shareowners can better understand long-term risks, and protecting U.S. shareowners by promoting new international accounting standards.
- Enhanced protection of the legal rights of defrauded shareowners, which means preserving the right of investors to go to court to get justice, ensuring that those who play a role in committing frauds bear their share of the cost for cleaning up the mess, and allowing state courts to help protect investor rights.
The site also includes the results of an extensive survey that shows American investors want major reforms. Hopefully, they also want to learn how to more effectively influence boards and management at the companies they invest in. I urge readers to sign-up to become members of this important new network. While you are there, send a message to Congress and go ahead, add me as a friend and write something on my “comment wall.” (see Group to use Internet to mobilize shareholders, P&I, 6/25/09; A third of American investors are “angry” (hopefully not enough to torture their advisors), The National Post, 6/25/09; press release)