Archive | June, 2013

IRRCi Award Winners Announced

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Lucian Bebchuk & Edward Waitzer

Two seminal research papers have won the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute’s (IRRCi) prestigious annual researchcompetition focused on the interaction of the real economy with investment theory. One research paper highlights the financial market’s ability to learn the value of corporate governance, and the second explores evolving fiduciary responsibilities resulting from the need for long-term value creation. IRRCi Chair Linda Scott announced the 2013 prize recipients yesterday at the Columbia University Millstein Governance ForumCorporate Governance in the New ‘Normal’: The Impact of New Patterns of Corporate Ownership. Continue Reading →

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Corporate Elections: Looking in the Wrong Places

Congress$Bartlett Naylor, Financial Policy Reform Advocate, and Taylor Lincoln, Research Director, both with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, wrote an excellent post recently, Looking for Conflict in All the Wrong Places. They criticize the the Congressional hearing entitled “Examining the Market Power and Impact of Proxy Advisory Firms.”

Instead of proxy advisors, Congress should be looking at the JPMorgan proxy vote, where $5 million of the company’s money – shareholders’ money – was used to contest the resolution to split the CEO and chairman roles. And, of course, our money – the money of shareholders – is also being used right now to lobby Congress to weaken our rights. Continue Reading →

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Video Friday: Considerations of a Fossil Fuel Divestment Strategy

May 13th, 7:00 P.M. at First Church in Boston — Unitarian Universalist

Bill McKibben of 350.org has called for the divestment of fossil fuel stocks as a key strategy in the fight against climate change. Thoughtful professionals within the socially responsible investment and liberal religious communities have taken reasoned and moral positions both for and against this strategy. This is a dilemma for people of conscience who are struggling with questions and decisions about what to do in their institutional and personal portfolios. Since there are strong arguments both for and against divestment, how are we to know what is our “right” decision? Continue Reading →

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Quick Reads in Corporate Governance

Time to Move Down the Food Chain With Proxy Proposals

How does director voting look so far this year? Eighty percent of directors up for election received over 90% shareholder support. And nine of ten received at least 80% support. Directors of large-cap companies had the highest rate of support, averaging 95% approval. Small cap and Micro-cap directors had the lowest affirmative rates, with 76% voting “for.” Only a very small number of individual directors (less than 2%) failed to receive majority shareholder support.  (From ProxyPulse, a Broadridge PwC Initiative. Much more at the site.) Continue Reading →

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Yes Men Best Chamber in Lawsuit

Maybe the SEC would be better off hiring the Yes Men to handle their rulemaking, rather than Robert Rice as SEC counsel, which could have a chilling impact on the SEC’s whistleblower program. (see SEC Chair Mary Jo White’s first big test by )

The Yes Men today implored the US Chamber of Commerce to reconsider their recent decision to withdraw the lawsuit they filed nearly four years ago, in a press conference on the steps of the lobbying giant itself. Said former defendant Andy Bichlbaum of the Continue Reading →

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Stratasys Ltd $SSYS – Proxy Score 90

SSYSStratasys Ltd $SSYS is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 6/21/2013. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of three funds when I checked on 5/18/2013.  I voted with management 90% of the time.  View Proxy Statement.

I’m busy on vacation, so have no time to analyze my proxy. Instead, I’m simply trusting that CalSTRS has done their research and I’m voting right down the line with them. Continue Reading →

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Sharegate Launches New Era of Shareowner Communications

SharegateBetaSharegate Inc., a new company that offers the investment community a modern and powerful financial social network, announced its launch recently, opening enrollment in the network to the general public.

Sharegate is an information exchange platform that connects individual and instititional investors, publicly traded companies and other special interest groups. This platform allows companies to present information, interact more directly with their shareholders and gives institutional and individual investors the opportunity to provide feedback and exchange information with these companies – and each other. According to the company’s founder, Argus Cunningham: Continue Reading →

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Google Insiders Foil Chevedden's Latest Attempt to End Dual-Class Voting

John Chevedden, Shareowner Activist

John Chevedden, Shareowner Activist

Activist, John Chevedden pushed for Google to change its capital structure to give all shares an equal vote.  Most of us own Class A stock with one vote per share. But Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with Chairman Eric Schmidt, control about 64% of the votes through Class B stock with 10 votes per share.

Chevedden argued the current system allows Google to use shareholders’ capital without giving them the power to hold management accountable for how they run the company. Most shareholders agree with his assessment. Consider the fact that Google insiders control about 70% of votes. Continue Reading →

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Video Friday: Kalpona Akter Presents McRitchie's Proposal at WalMart

walmart_logo_214x54Kalpona Akter, a former child worker in the Bangladesh garment industry, is now an activist for worker safety in her country. At Walmart’s 2013 Annual Shareholders Meeting, Kalpona addressed the Board of Directors and shareholders about the horrible conditions many garment workers are exposed to in Walmart’s supply chain. She called on Walmart to take action and sign the Bangladesh fire safety accord, to prevent tragedies like the recent factory fires and building collapses that claimed so many lives. Continue Reading →

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Facebook Inc ($FB) – Proxy Score 9

Facebook Inc ($FB) is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 6/11/2013. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected no votes when I checked on 6/5/2013.  I voted with management 9% of the time.  View Proxy Statement. Senator Warren recently called on the exchanges to block companies with unequal voting structures from listing. Too bad that didn’t happen years ago.

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Garment Worker to Access WalMart Annual Meeting

I am delighted to announce that Kalpona Akter, a former garment worker from Bangladesh who is the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, will have access to the floor of the WalMart ($WMT) annual meeting on Friday, June 7 in Bentonville, Arkansas. She has been an outspoken critic of sweatshop conditions in Bangladesh where Wal-Mart is the second largest producer. Ironically, she will be presenting my proposal to allow shareowners to call a “special meeting.” Continue Reading →

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Netflix: More Reasons for Proxy Access

Netflix, Inc. ($NFLX) is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 6/7/2013. I reported how I voted and why I am proposing proxy access in Netflix Needs Proxy Access – Proxy Score 10 Out of 100.

I’ll just add that so far this year, insiders of NFLX have sold approximately 635M in shares and have purchased zero shares. The stock price has risen dramatically since my wife filed har proxy access resolution last year. Hopefully, that won’t deter shareowners from voting for better corporate governance, which should help protect shareowners now and in the future. Below, I reproduce the full analysis by John Laide of proposals to be voted on at the NFLX annual Continue Reading →

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