Archive | November, 2013

SEC Announces Agenda, Panelists For Roundtable On Proxy Advisory Services

SECThe Securities and Exchange Commission today announced the agenda and panelists for its December 5 staff roundtable on the use of proxy advisory firm services by institutional investors and investment advisers.

The roundtable, announced earlier this month, will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be divided into two sessions.  In the first session, participants will discuss, among other topics, the current use of proxy advisory services, including the factors that may have contributed to their use, the purposes and effects of using the services, and competition in the marketplace for such services. Continue Reading →

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Corporate Governance: the Focus for a New Type of Activist Investor

Guest post from Josh Black, Financial Journalist for Activist Insight Ltd., which “aims to provide the most comprehensive global information source on activist investment.”

ActivistInsightTraditional activists were essentially value investors, but that profile might be changing.

Carl Icahn has long championed the interests of shareholders. Yet even many who had watched him for years were surprised by the vehemence of his Wall Street Journal Op-ed after withdrawing from the shareholder vote on Dell’s leveraged buyout. Continue Reading →

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Take Action: Comments on SEC Pay Ratio Rule Due 12/2/2013

The deadline for submitting comments on the SEC’s proposed pay ratio disclosure is coming up quickly on December 2, 2013. SEC general comment instructionsSubmit Comments on S7-07-13 Pay Ratio Disclosure. Get your comments in soon, before Thanksgiving. Another advantage to earlier submittal is that those who wait for the deadline are likely to borrow from previous submission. The earlier you submit, the more likely you are to influence others. For example, I am impressed by comments from the following: Continue Reading →

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Video Friday: Double Feature on Corporate Governance at ESOP Firms

ESOPCorporate Governance of ESOP Companies from SES Advisors

Without the founding entrepreneur steering the ship, ESOP companies’ corporate governance is of paramount importance. In this webinar, you will learn: the roles of trustees, directors and officers, how corporate governance affects value, and best practices for corporate governance in ESOP companies. Continue Reading →

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Review & Reflections: The Cadbury Committee

TheCadburyCommitteeThe Committee was formed in 1991, the same year I read Power and Accountability: Restoring the Balances of Power Between Corporations and Society by Robert A.G. Monks and Nell Minow. I had spent years in academia searching for the perfect corporate form. I studied corporate systems around the world and headed California’s cooperative development program. It was obvious to me the dominant form of corporate governance in the US and UK needed improvement.

Monks and Minow brought confirmation from experts in the field. The appointment of the Committee on the Financial Aspects of Corporate Governance, better known as the Cadbury Committee, in May that year by the London Stock Exchange, the Financial Reporting Council, and the accountancy profession meant even those running the markets knew something was wrong. Real change was possible.

The Cadbury Committee: A History takes the reader back to those days to see how changes happened and why. Thankfully, Laura F. Spira and Judy Slinn took the initiative to document the Committee’s history while many members are still alive. Continue Reading →

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Shareowners File Against Virtual Lockout Meetings

LockoutIn the fall of 2013, the Boards of both PNC Financial Services Group ($PNC) and Bank of New York Mellon ($BK) amended their company’s bylaws allowing them to end in-person stockholder meetings and instead hold their annual meetings virtually in cyber space. (PNC and BNY Mellon amend bylaws to allow for ‘virtual’ shareholder meetings)  The Needmor Fund, a foundation based in Toledo, Ohio, filed a shareowner’s resolution asking the board of PNC to preserve the tradition of the physical stockholders meeting so that investors could ask questions and engage management and the Board on key issues. An individual investor filed a similar proposal at New York Mellon. Both are are clients of Walden Asset Management. Continue Reading →

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Cisco: How Our Proxy Competition Would Work – The Short Version

ciscoVoteAfter posting Cisco Systems: Prime Target For Proxy Advisor CompetitionCisco Systems: Proxy Proposal #5 – 11 Q&A, and Cisco Systems (CSCO): How I Voted – Proxy Score 56 I am still getting the most basic question from funds trying to determine how to vote. That’s understandable. People lack the time necessary to analyze proxy issues. That’s one of the reasons behind the proposal. More resources and more competition could make for better voting at Cisco for all shareowners.

I keep getting the same fundamental question. How would it work in practice? Here’s what I tell them.  Continue Reading →

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Cisco Systems (CSCO): How I Voted – Proxy Score 56

ciscoCisco Systems, Inc. $CSCO is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is next week on Tuesday, 11/13/2013. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of 2 funds when I checked on 11/13/2013 (there have been more since). I voted with management 56% of the time.  View Proxy Statement.

Warning: Be sure to vote each item on the proxy. Any items left blank are voted in favor of management’s recommendations. (See Broken Windows & Proxy Vote Rigging – Both Invite More Serious Crime) Continue Reading →

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Microsoft Corporation (MSFT): How I Voted – Proxy Score – 75

microsoftMicrosoft Corporation $MSFT is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 11/19/2013. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of four funds when I checked (there have been more since).  I voted with management 75% of the time.  View Proxy Statement.

Warning: Be sure to vote each item on the proxy. Any items left blank are voted in favor of management’s recommendations. (See Broken Windows & Proxy Vote Rigging – Both Invite More Serious Crime) Continue Reading →

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Cisco Systems: Proxy Proposal #5 – 11 Q&A

ciscoI received a series of questions about my 11/5/2013 post Cisco Systems: Prime Target For Proxy Advisor Contest. Since other $CSCO shareowners might have similar questions, I am posting the questions and our responses below regarding proxy proposal #5, APPROVAL TO HAVE CISCO HOLD A COMPETITION FOR GIVING PUBLIC ADVICE ON THE VOTING ITEMS IN THE PROXY FILING FOR CISCO’S 2014 ANNUAL SHAREOWNERS MEETING.

Question 1. I understand that your goal here is to increase retail investor participation – a goal we share. I certainly agree that individual investors are at a significant disadvantage without professional advice on their proxy voting.

Response: That’s not the main goal, but it would be an additional benefit. The main goal is to solve the shareowners’ “free-rider” problem, which hurts institutional investors too. For most investors it is not worth paying for good voting advice, unless you own more than 5% of the shares. (The Agency Costs of Agency Capitalism: Activist Investors and the Revaluation of Governance Rights, Ronald J. Gilson and Jeffrey N. Gordon, January 1, 2013) Continue Reading →

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Review: Directors' Duties and Shareholder Litigation in the Wake of the Financial Crisis

DirectorsDutiesAndShareholderLitigationinthWakeoftheFinancialCrisis

Joan Loughrey

Joan Loughrey

This timely book, edited by Joan Loughrey, brings together academics and practitioners to assess the efficacy of directors’ duties, or lack thereof, regarding shareholder litigation in the wake of the financial crisis. Although primarily focused on the UK and the Companies Act of 2006, the part played by the US and its regulatory scheme is not ignored. Americans reading the book will benefit from a better understanding of the UK framework and how portions may or may not apply here.

For example, the UK Code of Corporate Governance makes boards responsible for determining the nature and extent of the risks that companies should undertake. Yet, even in the wake of extreme circumstances and huge financial losses, Continue Reading →

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Cisco Systems: Prime Target For Proxy Advisor Competition

ciscoCisco Systems (CSCO) faces challenges as never before. For example, see Here’s What Happened When Cisco Lost A $1 Billion Deal With Amazon. Meeting those challenges will take a concerted effort by management and the board of directors. Shareowners, who elect the board and vote on major proxy issues facing our company, also play an important role in Cisco staying competitive and profitable. Yet, most shareowners are passive. Most of us don’t even bother to vote our proxies and who can blame us? This year’s Proxy materials are over 80 pages long. Who has time to read, digest and make decisions on all that information? Finally, we could have the help we need with a proxy advisor contest paid by all shareowners (through Cisco) and chosen by a vote of shareowners.

Proxy Advisors and Research Providers Continue Reading →

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Call for Papers: Purpose, Use, Potential Misuse of Stock Prices in Public Equity Market

MillsteinCenterPurpose, Use, Potential Misuse of Stock Prices in Public Equity Market

Deadline for Proposals:  November 15, 2013
Author Presentation of Findings:  September 19, 2014

The Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute The Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership have initiated a joint effort to better understand the purpose, use and potential misuse of stock prices in public equity markets. Details. Continue Reading →
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