Will 2011 be a Watershed Year for Activism?

2011 was the first proxy season in which companies were required to provide advisory votes on executive compensation. Corporate governance advocates, mindful of the fact that annual compensation for CEOs at S&P 500 companies increased by 35% in 2010, might well find themselves agreeing with James McRitchie of CorpGov.net, who told SocialFunds.com in June, “2011 could be a watershed year if next year people look back and wonder why the hell they didn’t do anything.”

…board declassification, a majority voting standard, an independent board chair, and reporting on political spending, received more than 30% of shareowner support… resolutions gaining majority support addressed sustainability reporting, sexual orientation and gender identity, refinery safety procedures, political contributions, and risk management relating to coal combustion waste.

Approval of social and environmental resolutions averaged over 20% for the first year ever.

Increased Support for Shareowner Proposals in 2011 by Robert Kropp, SocialFunds.com, 8/27/2011.

However, as the latest BNY Mellon Shareowner Services Annual Meeting Study concludes,
“expectations for major changes continue to outpace actual shareholder voting results.” Advisory proposals are unlikely to bring the real corporate accountability that many seek. BNY Mellon Shareowner Services 2011 Proxy Season Study Shows Predictions of Change Continue to Outpace Actual Results, 8/31/2011.

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