Tag Archives | annual meeting

MBII Annual Meeting Gone Missing

MBII, Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc., was added to the Russell Microcap Index after the market closed on June 23, 2017. Hopefully, that will provide some needed stability to this volatile stock, so it is great news. However, corporate governance concerns remain. For example, when will our company hold the 2017 annual meeting?

MBII Has Plenty of Positives

According to Dr. Pamela Marrone, Founder and CEO of Marrone Bio Innovations,

We are very pleased to have joined the Russell Microcap Index. This is an important milestone for Marrone Bio Innovations and represents an opportunity to increase our visibility within the public market investment community.

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Town Hall Style Annual Meeting – Prepared?

Warren Buffett's Town Hall Style Meeting - Photo from NY Times

Warren Buffett’s Town Hall Style Meeting

Town Hall Shareholder Meetings

It’s a presidential campaign year here in the U.S., and though the election is still over 6 months away, we’ve already been enlightened (or depressed) by a large number of candidate debates and town halls. Whatever your political views, the candidates seem able to instantly recall policy, financial or data details off the top of their heads. Trade figures, funding levels, voting records — their ability to deliver these on the spot, under bright lights and hostile questioning, is an impressive skill.  Continue Reading →

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Report From ITC Meeting

Darius Peek

Darius Peek

Guest Post from Darius Peek, a junior at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, majoring in Finance who presented our proposal to allow shareowners to call special meetings.

ITCITC Holdings (ITC), the nation’s largest independent electric transmission company, held its annual shareholders meeting yesterday at its headquarters in Novi, Michigan. ITC invests in the electric transmission grid to improve reliability, expand access to markets, lower the overall cost of delivered energy and allow new generating resources to connect to its transmission systems. Continue Reading →

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Chevron Enters Foxhole Contest

ChevronAs reported by CSRwire, Under Fire from Critics, Chevron CEO Quietly Moves Annual Shareholder Meeting to Remote Town In Texas.

PeabodyWe are still in the midst of our second Foxhole of the Year Award for the company that makes it the most difficult for shareowners turn up at their annual meeting. Last year’s winner was Peabody Energy for their choice of Gillette, Wyoming, a town with less than 30,000 residents.  

With Chevron (CVX), we have another 2014 entrant. Continue Reading →

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Contest: Foxhole of the Year Award

Peabodyno-entryAnnouncing the second Foxhole of the Year Award for the company that makes it the most difficult for shareowners turn up at their annual meeting. Last year’s winner was Peabody Energy for their choice of Gillette, Wyoming, a town with less than 30,000 residents.  Nominations are now being accepted for 2014.

Yuanzhi Li and David Yermack studied the location and timing of annual shareholder meetings in their study Evasive Shareholder Meetings. When companies move their annual meetings a great distance from headquarters, they tend to announce disappointing earnings results and experience pronounced stock market underperformance in the months after the meeting. Continue Reading →

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Reeds Inc (REED): Examining The Vote

ReedsTshirt1

Reeds Hippie T-Shirt

ReedsRedAs some readers noted, I put in more effort at Reeds Inc. (REED) than at many of my other holdings, proposing proxy access and writing about the problems at Reeds four times before the annual meeting, even doing a short video.

My rationale is that while I am a small shareowner at both Apple and Reeds, for example, my proportionate share at Reeds is much larger. So, focusing more on Reeds makes sense for me personally. In addition, while other companies in my portfolio get plenty of attention from the financial press and often from other shareowner activists, Reeds does not. Additionally, although Reeds has great products, it is far from reaching its full potential.

I recommended against directors Muffoletto and Fischman because they own no shares, for a say-on-pay frequency of once each year to ensure annual accountability and, of course, I favored my own proxy access proposal to give shareowners a stronger voice going forward. Glancing at the 8-K report filed by Reeds after the AGM, you might think shareowners were in complete agreement with management. However, further analysis reveals otherwise. Continue Reading →

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Former Corp Fin Staff Speaks

Don’t miss upcoming important events from TheCorporateCounsel.net. Tune in tomorrow, Wednesday, for the webcast – “The ‘Former’ Corp Fin Staff Speaks” – to hear former Senior Staffers from the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance Brian Breheny of Skadden Arps, Marty Dunn of O’Melveny & Myers, Linda Griggs of Morgan Lewis and Dave Lynn of TheCorporateCounsel.net and Morrison & Foerster weigh in on what you need to be doing for the upcoming proxy season, and provide a “bring-down” of what’s happening now in Corp Fin. Continue Reading →

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The Annual Meeting: From Gloss to Dialogue

Directors & Boards ran an important series of articles in its 1st quarter 2011 magazine on Fixing the Annual Meeting. Some excellent ideas are put forward, especially if we parse out the thoughtful from the conventional. (Link through the Shareholderforum to a compilation of most of the articles cited below from Directors & Boards and also reference their extensive review of electronic meetings.)

One of the most dramatic ideas, central to any real attempt to actually make annual meetings worthwhile, is the major survey finding by David Shaw, publishing Director of Directors & Boards. 90% of shareowners responded that annual meetings are “very important” or “somewhat important.” Contrast that with 78% of public company directors, who responded that annual meetings are “somewhat important” or “not very important” or “not at all important.”

Until directors recognize the importance of annual meetings to the shareowners they are supposed to represent and take their related duties seriously, the schism is likely to remain or grow.

Let’s look at the advice given by authors in this focus issue, starting with Continue Reading →

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Intuit's Annual Meeting

Mathew Rafat attended Intuit’s (INTU) annual shareowner meeting on January 19, 2011. He is the only shareowner I know of who regularly reports on what goes on at the annual meetings he attends. In this post he doesn’t discuss proxy issues or resolutions, so I presume there was nothing of note. Still, if you’re a Intuit shareowner, you may find it interesting.  (via News From Intuit’s Annual Meeting: Evolving Software, Focusing on India – Seeking Alpha.)

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Notes From Accuray’s 2010 Shareholder Meeting

After I attended Accuray’s (ARAY) annual shareholder meeting, I had a chance to tour its Sunnyvale campus, where I learned more about CyberKnife. CyberKnife is a radiosurgery tool that attacks and destroys cancerous tumor cells using highly precise radiation beams. CyberKnife is much less invasive than “scalpel” surgery. Its high accuracy (hence, the name Accuray) allows patients to minimize exposing their healthy organs and body parts to radiation. I rarely feel optimistic after shareholder meetings during this Great Recession, but Accuray gives me hope not only for its own future, but the future of medicine.

(via Notes From Accuray’s 2010 Shareholder Meeting — Seeking Alpha, 11/24/2010)

Matthew Rafat continues to be one of a very few people who routinely posts observations from annual shareowner meetings. I wish more would do the same. His insights from the Accuray meeting last year helped lead me to make a small investment in the company.

It was troubling to learn that for a second year in a row, Accuray attempted to avoid a public Q&A session. What are they trying to hide?

This year I had trouble voting my stock (see How I Voted at Hain, Cisco & Accuray). Later I was able to determine that in order to vote I needed not only a “control number,” which came with the e-mail from my broker but also a “pin” number. After some confusion, I was able to vote with management and CalSTRS.

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Seven Smart Practices for Shareowner Meetings

CII recently published Seven Smart Practices for Shareowner Meetings containing excellent advice for issuers on best annual meeting practices. It contains nothing that might be considered cutting edge, so should be easy for all companies to follow.

Although the guidance recommends hybrid, rather than virtual-only meetings, it contains no discussion of how electronically transmitted questions might be handled differently than in-person questions. For example, a more extensive discussion might recommend that all such questions be made visible to those attending so that it can be readily seen if softball questions are given priority.

The “Smart Practices” should be viewed as an excellent base from which to build. Here are the seven points but I encourage all to read the full discussion.

  1. Talk to your shareowners long before the big day.
  2. Make sure the meeting is reasonably accessible.
  3. Set fair policies for admission, disclose them clearly and enforce them consistently.
  4. Broaden participation without sacrificing the in-person meeting.
  5. Promote a substantive Q&A period.
  6. Treat presenters of shareowner resolutions with professionalism.
  7. Ensure the integrity of the vote.
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Apache to Shareowners: Give Us Your Money and Shut Up

John Chevedden forwarded a report he received from on Apache’s annual meeting.

No one spoke on the vote [ballot] items.  I saw no press.  The meeting length was 1.5 hours and well presented.  There was a power point presentation by all three execs.  Estimated attendance is 400 persons.  I think mostly employees.  Farris spoke the last words of his presentation and immediately shut it down.  Took me by surprise.  Not sure if anyone wanted to speak, it all happened so fast by their design.  No one that I could see voted at the meeting.

Loren Steffy reports much the same for the Houston Chronicle (Apache scalps shareholder discussion at meeting, 5/7/10)

Houston-based Apache, which has shown little patience for its own investors, ended its annual meeting yesterday without taking any questions from shareholders.

Apache has long embraced a 1950s-era approach to corporate governance, treating with disdain the very idea of shareholder input. Earlier this year, Apache hauled one investor into court to prevent him from filing a shareholder proposal. It prevailed in that case on a technicality.

Perhaps Apache’s management – motto: give us your money and shut up – didn’t want to open itself up to angry owners. Local shareholder activist Harold Mathis, who owns Apache shares, said he planned to ask a question about the decision to sue fellow shareholder John Chevedden but he never got the chance.

“They had no Q&A,” Mathis said. “They immediately closed the meeting after the company presentation.” They didn’t even validate investors’ parking.

It is very disheartening to learn of shareowners being so mistreated. When something like that happened to Lewis Gilbert in 1932 it lead to the beginnings of the modern movement for more democratic corporate governance. Gilbert felt he had been “publicly humiliated by one of my own employees.” He quit his job and established a new avocation, “devoting all my time to the cause of the public shareholder.” We should heed his admonition, “Rights are won by exercising them. Rights are lost by default when they are not used.” (further reading at
Apache v. Chevedden: a Non-Starter.)

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Annual Meeting Horror Stories

The Council of Institutional Investors wants your horror stories on barriers to annual shareowner meeting attendance. We’ve been hearing that companies seem to be making investors jump through more and more hoops to attend annual meetings. If you have any horror stories that will help Council staff identify and discourage unreasonable barriers to attending annual shareowner meetings, please notify Council staffer Justin Levis.

Nell Minow told a recent audience, MAXXAM once “moved their annual meeting from Houston, a city you can fly to, to a small city in Texas, Huntsville, that is impossible to reach. They also set the meeting for 8 in the morning and bought up all of the hotel rooms in town. And then they had the chutzpah to put in the proxy, ‘We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the annual meeting.'” John Chevedden tells me that some serous shareowners actually rented a motor home in order to attend the MAXXAM meeting.

Your story doesn’t have to be that bad to be worthy of passing on to CII. Of course, I’d appreciate letting our readers know about them too.

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Intel Virtual Mtg Out for 2010 But Exploring Future with USPX

Bowing to shareowner concerns, Intel Corp. scrapped plans to hold an exclusively on-line virtual annual meeting in 2010 and is likely to participate in a Fall conference to establish safeguards for the conduct of virtual meetings in the future, the United States Proxy Exchange (USPX) announced today.

Background

Last Fall, Intel Corp. announced plans to scrap its annual shareowner meeting for 2010 and host an on-line forum in its place. In 2000, Delaware enacted legislation allowing corporations to do exactly this. Sadly, that state’s legislators granted shareowners no say in the matter, leaving the decision solely to the discretion of corporate boards.

Broadridge Financial Services has developed software for the conduct of virtual meetings. A handful of smaller corporations have already adopted that software and switched to entirely virtual meetings. For a number of years, Intel has held hybrid shareholder meetings, allowing people to attend both in person or via the Internet. Their plan had been to go to an all virtual meeting in 2010.

There is every reason to believe that, with strong safeguards, virtual shareowner meetings could enhance shareholder participation in meetings while protecting—even restoring— shareowner rights that have atrophied over the decades. However, no such safeguards are in place. Here are just a few scenarios illustrating how virtual meetings will deprive shareowners:

  1. A well known shareowner activist plans to ask some pointed questions at the shareholder meeting, but his connection to the meeting somehow fails. He is left wondering if he was targeted or if there truly was an honest technical problem.
  2. A shareowner wants to challenge the chair’s conduct of the meeting with a point of order. She is within her rights to do so and may interrupt the chair for this purpose, but she finds that the electronic forum software won’t allow her to do so ….. one more shareholder right lost.
  3. A shareowner wants to make a floor amendment, but the software doesn’t allow that either.
  4. The meeting software provides no means of group communication, such as applause of booing, so shareowners come away from meetings with no sense of how other shareholders felt.
  5. Corporate executives decide to pre-record their comments for a virtual shareowner meeting, including answers to pre-selected “shareowner questions.” The executives then don’t bother logging in during the actual “meeting.”

Most annual meetings are heavily scripted. The chance for real interaction often comes in informal encounters before and after the formal meeting. Those opportunities would also be gone with virtual meetings.

Formation of the Coalition to Preserve Shareowner Meetings

Following the announcement by Intel, shareowners discussed what might be an appropriate response to virtual shareholder meetings. Intel was the first major corporation to announce plans to switch to a virtual meeting, and more corporations were likely to follow suit. Without safeguards in place to protect shareholder rights, the situation was critical. There were few attractive options.

The SEC would be unlikely to intervene to preempt a Delaware law. We could launch a withhold vote campaign against the directors of Intel and other corporations that host electronic-only meetings, but that would entail participating in—and thereby accepting as legitimate—the virtual meetings.

In November, the USPX announced it was exploring a two-pronged strategy to address the issue of virtual shareowner meetings:

  1. Host a conference in the Fall of 2010 to develop safeguards that would allow virtual meetings to be held in a manner that protects shareowner rights, and
  2. Organize a withhold proxy campaign against corporations holding virtual meetings without safeguards.

Since that announcement, USPX has made considerable progress on both aspects of the initiative. A formal announcement of the formation of a Coalition to Preserve Shareholder Meetings is expected shortly. That announcement will include details on the Fall conference.

Conclusion

“The United States Proxy Exchange applauds Intel’s decision to postpone implementing of virtual shareholder meetings until after the Fall conference. We welcome all parties— investors, shareowner advocates and service providers—to join the Coalition to Preserve Shareholder Meetings and participate in the Fall conference, said Glyn Holton.

Interested parties should contact USPX Executive Director Glyn A. Holton at 617.945.2484 or [email protected]. See also, Intel Yields on Virtual Meeting, 1/20/10. I hope to be at this conference myself and urge others to join us.

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Guest Commentary From Glyn Holton: Emergency at Intel

Intel Corp. recently announced they will no longer hold annual shareholder meetings. Instead, they plan to host shareholder forums, or “virtual shareholder meetings.” In 2000, Delaware enacted legislation allowing corporations to do exactly this. Arrogantly, that state’s legislators granted shareholders no say in the matter, leaving the decision solely to the discretion of corporation’s entrenched boards.

There is every reason to believe that, with strong safeguards, virtual shareholder meetings could enhance shareholder participation in meetings while protecting—even restoring—shareholder rights that have atrophied over the decades. However, no such safeguards are in place. Intel and other smaller corporations are taking a go-it-alone approach, forcing virtual shareholder meetings on unhappy shareholders. After Delaware changed its laws, the Council of Institutional Investors wrote the CEOs of all Delaware corporations asking them not to conduct virtual meetings. Unions have expressed concerns. Walden Asset Management has encouraged shareholders to write letters to Intel.

Here are just a few scenarios illustrating how virtual meetings will deprive shareholders:

  1. A well known shareholder activist plans to ask some pointed questions at the shareholder meeting, but his connection to the meeting somehow fails. He is left wondering if he was targeted or if there truly was an honest technical problem.
  2. A shareholder wants to challenge the chair’s conduct of the meeting with a point of order. She is within her rights to do so and may interrupt the chair for this purpose, but she finds that the electronic forum software won’t allow her to do so ….. one more shareholder right lost.
  3. A shareholder wants to make a floor amendment, but the software doesn’t allow that either.
  4. The meeting software provides no means of group communication, such as applause of booing, so shareholders come away from meetings with no sense of how other shareholders felt.
  5. Corporate executives decide to pre-record their comments for a virtual shareholder meeting, including answers to pre-selected “shareholder questions.” The executives then don’t bother logging in during the actual “meeting.”

Most annual meetings are heavily scripted. The chance for real interaction often comes in informal encounters before and after the formal meeting. Those opportunities will also be gone with virtual meetings.

Shareholders have been discussing what might be an appropriate response to Intel’s move, but there are few attractive options. The SEC will not intervene to preempt a Delaware law. We could launch a withhold vote campaign against the directors of Intel and other corporations that host electronic-only meetings. That would entail participating in—and thereby accepting as legitimate—the virtual meetings.

We reject Delaware’s law in the same way abolitionists rejected the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision in 1857. A corporation that doesn’t hold shareholder meetings is dead in the same way that a human being that doesn’t breathe is dead. Putting up a website and calling it a “meeting” doesn’t change that.

This is a crisis because the problem is going to spread. Working with Jim McRitchie of CorpGov.netand other interested parties, the United States Proxy Exchange (USPX) is exploring whether to launch a withhold proxy campaign against Intel and other corporations that adopt electronic-only meetings. Under such a campaign, shareholders would refuse to participate in those “meetings” on the grounds that they are illegitimate. Shareholders would withhold their proxies. If enough did so, offending corporations would fail to achieve quorum. Because retail brokers will vote “routine” matters, such as management sponsored resolutions, it won’t be enough for investors to not return their proxy materials. They will have to explicitly ask their broker to withhold a proxy on their behalf.

If we decide to proceed with a withhold proxy campaign, we will implement a web portal through which institutional and retail shareholders may join the campaign and coordinate their activities. At this early stage, please e-mail Glyn Holton to express support or ask questions. We will then keep you informed of developments.

Note from CorpGov.net publisher: See also virtual meetings Virtual Shareholder Meetings by Elizabeth Boros. The USPX aims to be a chamber of commerce, representing the legitimate interests of shareholders and is in the process of getting 501(c)(6) status with the Internal Revenue Code. The board set dues at $9 a month. Membership benefits include advocacy, web-based resources, and a magazine to be launched this Spring. Step up to the plate and e-mail Glyn Holton to become a member.

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