Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), manager of the $550 billion Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, has filed shareholder proposals for binding bylaw proxy access proposals at six US companies (Wells Fargo, Charles Schwab, Western Union, Staples, Pioneer Natural Resources and CME Groupas) part of its efforts to strengthen shareholder rights. According to Anne Kvam, global head of ownership policy at NBIM:
Board members must be held accountable. When they fail to meet our expectations, we as shareholders should be able to propose alternatives without incurring prohibitively high costs. This is the first time we file proxy access proposals. We will continue to identify companies with unsatisfactory performance.
NBIM proposes each company establish a procedure for shareholders to nominate candidates to the board on the company’s ballot, subject to limits. Shareholders should own a minimum 1 percent of common stock for at least one year to nominate members and may propose no more than 25 percent of a board’s members. A maximum of 25 percent of the members of an elected board may have been nominated by shareholders. The six companies’ annual general meetings will be held in the second quarter of 2012.
I applaud NBIM and hope their proposal will be widely supported. With six proxy access proposals already filed by United States Proxy Exchange (USPX) members, the total is now up to twelve companies. Wall Street Journal coverage here. Better coverage at Investment & Pensions Europe. Also covered by ISS. Speaking of ISS, last chance to register ISS Webinars: Policy Perspectives for 2012, Europe 12/6; US 12/7.