For almost a year, the United States Proxy Exchange (USPX) has spearheaded a shareowners response to the threat (and opportunity!) of virtual annual meetings. The immediate concern has been corporations hosting virtual-only annual meetings without shareowner-approved guidelines or safeguards to ensure all participants’ rights are upheld.
When intel announced plans to hold a virtual-only meeting, we convinced them to change course and hold a hybrid (both live and virtual) meeting instead. We organized a letter writing campaign to protest Symantec’s virtual-only meeting. When that attracted national media attention, Symantec promised to hold a hybrid meeting next year.
While our movement has had success challenging inappropriate virtual-only meetings, we cannot continue to do so one company at a time. There are approximately 13,000 annual meetings in the United States each year. At some point, the trickle of corporations experimenting with virtual meetings will become a torrent. We need a comprehensive solution.
To that end, the USPX is organizing a three-pronged shareowner response:
- Organize an on-line members community to draft shareowner-approved minimum guidelines for the conduct of virtual and/or hybrid meetings,
- Actively encourage corporations to hold hybrid annual meetings, so long as they do so according to the guidelines, and
- Agree on sanctions the shareowner community will impose on corporations that conduct virtual meetings not in accordance with those guidelines.
We have formed a group (currently composed of Brett Davidson, Glyn Holton, Michael Malamut, Jim McRitchie, and Steven Towns) to organize this response. Their first step is to draft a white paper to identify issues and opportunities raised by virtual meetings. The white paper will not propose any guidelines or answer questions. Rather, it will pose questions, asking how shareowners feel they should respond to issues and seize opportunities. We hope the white paper will be ready in six weeks, at which time we will invite member comments. Based on member comments, we will draft possible guidelines for the conduct of virtual meetings, which members will edit, debate, and ultimately vote on in a members forum early next year.
Plans are coming together rapidly. This is extremely important work, and we need your help! Please contact Glyn Holton to join the organizing group.