Corporate governance at Facebook is much closer to being a dictatorship than a democracy. Who is the better model, George Washington or Vladimir Putin? Continue Reading →
Tag Archives | democracy
Nell Minow is one of my heroes. Her 1991 book with Bob Monks, Power and Accountability: Restoring the Balances of Power Between Corporations and Society, helped me give a name and framework to what I thought was the world’s most important overlooked problem — corporate governance.
During the last 27 years, I have never met anyone else in the field of corporate governance as witty, insightful or quotable as Nell Minow. She demonstrates these qualities and more in a recent lecture delivered at Sarah Lawrence. Continue Reading →
The final victory over Carthage in the Punic Wars led to rising economic inequality, dislocation of traditional ways of life, increasing political polarization, the breakdown of unspoken rules of political conduct, the privatization of the military, rampant corruption, endemic social and ethnic prejudice, battles over citizenship and voting rights, ongoing military quagmires, the introduction of violence as a political tool, and a set of elites so obsessed with their own privileges that they refused to reform the system in time to save it.
Duncan makes no references to our current administration but the parallels are obvious… at least to me. Seven years ago the wealth of 388 billionaires equaled the wealth of the poorest half of humanity. Now it only takes five billionaires. Large companies like Snap, Facebook and Alphabet are virtual dictatorships and they can have a huge influence over our elections and governments. Continue Reading →
The following is a coalition letter on Twitter, Co-ops and Democracy — specifically on our proxy proposal #4 Exit to Democratic Ownership. Take Action: vote before midnight Sunday (San Francisco time) by phone or electronic proxy OR vote on Monday at the Twitter annual meeting in San Francisco.
This is part of the #WeAreTwitter movement, well documented at BuyTwitter.org. I’m pasting the letter below and related links below that. Thanks to all who signed our letter. If the campaign continues at the annual meeting in 2018, I’m sure signatories will at least double.
Twitter has been an important tool to promote democracy – think #ArabSpring, #BackLivesMatter, #OccupyWallStreet, #WomenOnBoards, etc. Now, through #BuyTwitter @ BuyThisPlatform, Twitter is being called on to explore its own form of corporate governance – how the company itself can be more democratic and inclusive. The results could have implications for the future of capitalism.
Take Action: On May 22 shareholders (owning as of March 30) will decide if Twitter should study and report on the feasibility of “selling the platform to its users via a cooperative or similar structure with broad-based ownership and accountability mechanisms.” Voting by proxy on the proposal has already begun. As one of the authors, I hope you will consider voting “For” our Proposal #4. Continue Reading →
McDonald’s shareholders will vote on a proposal to give franchisees a seat on its corporate board of directors at their annual meeting in May. See ‘McD’s must let investors vote on proposal to give franchisees a board seat.’ (Crain’s) Could similar, more inclusive, proposals use preferred shares to create new forms of stakeholder democracy? A report at Twitter could assess viable options. (#WeAreTwitter Record Date Approaches)
Under the proposal, McDonald’s would have to issue franchisees a special class of stock with the right to elect one director, but carrying no economic interest in the company. Each franchisee would get one share of stock with one vote for each restaurant the franchisee owns.
Gadflies at the Gate: Why Do Individual Investors Sponsor Shareholder Resolutions? is the catchy title of a new paper (8/2006) by David F. Larcker and Brian Tayan. Its part of the Stanford Closer Look Series from the Corporate Governance Research Initiative. While I am happy to see a more objective view the role retail shareholder advocates play in corporate governance than the nonsense presented by Steven Davidoff Solomon, I’m not sure what Gadflies at the Gate really adds by raising questions without advancing answers. I suppose, like many academic papers, it is pointing out the need for further research, like a cobbler calling for more shoes. I advise further reading that is more action oriented.
Gadflies at the Gate: Possible Misrepresentations
Shareholder Empowerment: A New Era in Corporate Governance (link) by Maria Goranova and Lori Verstegen Ryan (editors) is the best book on corporate governance I have read in quite some time. No, it does not have all the answers but it does ask many of the right questions. For an academic reader, I found it a surprising page-turner.
Maria Goranova and Lori Verstegen Ryan, the editors, set up the central problem in the introduction. There is growing public outrage over the pay gap of CEOs and average employees. Corporations are no longer reliable providers of job security, healthcare and retirement benefits. Power has been shifting from corporate officers and directors to shareholders. Finance and legal scholars, “who equate the well-being of corporations with the well-being of investors,” have dominated the corporate governance debate. Perhaps the management academy can shed some insight into these issues. Continue Reading →
Take Action: Comment on SEC’s Rule 14a-8(i)(9) Review
As proxy season draws to an end, managers, boards and their legal advisors are calling on the SEC to allow companies to exclude shareholder proposals if a company includes a proxy proposal on the same subject, even if it would do the opposite of the shareholder proposal. That recommendation threatens to hijack the very existence of the proxy proposal system, which simply allows shareholders to petition boards to take action and to put those petitions to a proxy vote to gauge support from shareholders. Your meaningful vote in corporate elections and the foundations of democratic corporate governance are at stake. Continue Reading →
Five years ago today the US Supreme Court held that corporations could spend unlimited funds on election campaigns in their decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Last night I joined about 100 people a local showing of Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes. I highly recommend it. See the film with a group and leave plenty of time to talk what you can do to overturn the impact. The film suggests a number of reasonable solutions but as I have discussed before, the Court’s decision gave investors a special role.
Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion justifies the Supreme Court’s decision by pointing to the Internet. Continue Reading →
I think it was Dina Medland who got many of us in the #corpgov Twitter world, tweeting cartoons on Sunday (#cartoonsunday). These tweets and retweets get ‘read’ far more than most of our actual work-related efforts, certainly more than mine.
Thankfully, they offer a quick distraction and usually a hint of insight on the weekend when most have a little more time for reflection and sorting through priorities. Continue Reading →
Corporate Governance Publisher’s Note: Yes, you’ll find many broken links in the material referenced below. After 5, 10 and 15 years, the internet moves on. Many of the organization’s linked have since gone under. We’re just glad to still be here, offering our readers a sense of the history we have shared. More about the WABAC machine.
Shareowners.org Launched. Finally a social networking site that will actually accomplish something. Yes, you can “friend” people and post to their “wall.” However, right now, ShareOwners.org will help engage typical investors by sending their comments in support of the group’s agenda directly to their members of Congress. Over the long run, ShareOwners.org’s broad four-part agenda focuses on the need for stronger regulation (including a beefed-up SEC), increased accountability of boards/CEOs, improved financial transparency and protection of the legal rights of investors. At some point, shareowners will also be able to vote their shares directly through ShareOwners.org. Unfortunately, the site went dark a few years later and nothing has arisen to take its place. Continue Reading →
Below is an email I sent to Pensions & Investments (P&I) editorial chief Barry Burr praising their editorial enhancing fiduciary duty and opining on how it may speed the arrival of the time when retail investors will vote their values with the simple push of a button or two on their cell phones. I will follow this tomorrow with some additional remarks regarding the advent of open client directed voting, assisted by this expanded fiduciary duty.
Thank you for your important editorial, Winning Over Proxy Voters, which argues that institutional investors have a fiduciary duty to announce their proxy votes in advance of annual meetings, if doing so is likely to influence voters.
Votes are assets. Announcing votes in advance of meetings puts the value of those assets to their full use; announcing votes after the meeting does not. Continue Reading →
ITC Holdings $ITC, is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 5/21/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of no funds when I checked and voted on 5/15/2014. I voted with management 50% of the time. View Proxy Statement. Read Warnings below. My proxy voting recommendations follow. Continue Reading →
EMC Corporation $EMC is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 4/30/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of four funds when I checked and voted on 4/22/2014. I voted with management 13% of the time. View EMC’s Proxy Statement, which is user friendly. Continue Reading →
The thesis of this book argues that national corporate governance is extremely important for societies. Recently many scholars have said that a convergence of corporate governance is inevitable. We believe that it is true but like Mark Twain said “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” We show that although there is some convergence, national law of corporate governance is thriving. We also believe that it is necessary for the identity of each country. The reason that national diversity in corporate governance is still widespread is because of the history, philosophy and economy of each county as shown in its cultural heritage, and which it gives its identity. The cultural heritage in each state is identifiable in the company law and corporate governance codes. We consider that this is crucial for the well being of democratic nations. Convergence in corporate governance is a threat to ordered commercial regulations because of the power of the preeminent economic paradigm in the West which is the neo-liberal model. The neo-liberal agenda that predicates deregulation, privatisation and the liberalisation of markets is moulding many jurisdictions into an Anglo- American model of corporate governance which is dangerous for a number of reasons: Continue Reading →
Shareholder-owned corporations were the central pillars of the US economy in the twentieth century. Due to the success of the shareholder value movement and the widespread “Nikefication” of production, however, public corporations have become less concentrated, less integrated, less interconnected at the top, shorter-lived, and less prevalent since the turn of the twenty-first Continue Reading →
Corporation Nation (Haney Foundation Series) by Robert E. Wright delves into the history of the corporation, particularly in pre-Civil War United States (the antebellum period). Like the earlier reviewed Shareholder Democracies?: Corporate Governance in Britain and Ireland before 1850, Corporation Nation addresses central issues such as agency theory, democracy and public interest through the lens of history.
Despite protests that corporations were potentially corrupting, U.S. state governments early on combined to charter more corporations per capita than any other nation—including Britain—effectively making the United States a “corporation nation.” Robert E. Wright traces the shift in corporate governance from relatively self-governing business republics to the much more regulated entities we are familiar with today. Continue Reading →
After posting Cisco Systems: Prime Target For Proxy Advisor Competition, Cisco 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 →
I have a ‘no-action’ request by Apple on my desk. They are fighting my attempt to include consideration of a proxy access proposal at their next annual meeting. Like most no-action requests to the SEC, this one is full of dry uninspired attempts to raise procedural minutiae as a basis for exclusion. Also sitting on my desk is the latest issue of Directors&Boards with the following sentence in huge type on the cover: Should You Serve on an Activist’s Slate?”
That looks a lot more interesting. Apple can wait. Won’t it be nice, I think, when boards welcome proxy access, the new ideas and candidates that are likely to follow? Let’s see what they have to say at Directors&Boards. Continue Reading →
The next European Academy of Management conference will take place in Valencia (Spain) between the 4th and the 7th of June 2014. The conference will be held at the Valencia Conference Centre and the Faculty of Economics of University of Valencia. The theme of the conference, Waves and Winds of Strategic Leadership for Sustainable Competitiveness, is aimed to open an interesting and fruitful dialogue about how management research and education can contribute to the enhancement of new waves and winds of strategic leadership that will stimulate a balanced and sustainable view of competitiveness in our societies. Continue Reading →
Major corporations are very good at maximizing revenue capture for their owners — but they do so by externalizing costs to society. This drives many of the fundamental problems we currently face, from environmental degradation to economic inequality. IMD Professor Michael Yaziji discusses limitations to the three current solutions to this root challenge: the free market, regulation and socialization. He also proposes a new fourth solution that deconstructs the concept of capitalism to maximize the benefits of market competition and minimize the societal impact of current systems: changing company ownership and governance structures to internalize the interests, and so create value for all stakeholders. Continue Reading →
Thanks to Broc Romanek I learned of what he termed the Wildest Idea of the Year? Creating a “Vote Buying” Framework, July 29, 2013. Here’s part of his take:
Two Professors from the U. of Chicago – Eric Posner and Glen Weyl – have used their economic backgrounds as a way to devise a solution to shareholders who are too lazy to vote or too ill-informed when they vote as noted in their study. So the essence of their idea is to force shareholders to buy votes so that only “interested” parties have a right to vote – owning shares would only provide a shareholder with a right to profits… Continue Reading →
Citizens DisUnited: Passive Investors, Drone CEOs, and the Corporate Capture of the American Dream both delights and informs as only Robert A.G. Monks can. No one else writes so well about topics like “How CEOs and the Business Roundtable Hijacked the World’s Greatest Wealth Machine” and those in the current volume because no one else has been as engaged in corporate governance as Monks with such depth from so many angles.
A serial entrepreneur, public official, director, prolific author and long-time agitator, his lifework has been delineating the underlying dynamics of corporate power and devising system that integrate wealth creation with the interests of society. Citizens DisUnited is a clear call to action. I hope my review advances that call by emphasizing the need for every investor, every citizen to get involved. Continue Reading →
The subtitle of the book edited by James Meadowcroft, Oluf Langhelle and Audun Ruud is Governance, Moving Beyond the Impasse. Progress on important issues such as climate change, biodiversity, sustainable management of lands and oceans is blocked. The book’s essays, by some of the world’s leading thinkers, explore how we got here and how we might move beyond the current impasse. Although there is some discussion of accumulation, commodification, profit motive, greed, and corporate governance, more focus on those areas is needed to make more substantial progress. Continue Reading →
Chevron’s subpoena of e-mails in this case goes well beyond the individual players and is a threat to the communication rights of all shareowners. Action: Please take 60 seconds right now to send a message similar to the following to Chevron:
I write to protest Chevron’s subpoena seeking emails and communications from Trillium Asset Management and Simon Billenness to hundreds of organizations, investors and individuals active in challenging Chevron on its oil pollution crisis in Ecuador.
Your action is without precedent. Never before have shareowners faced such a legal challenge for merely communicating with each other. This is a brazen attack on shareholder rights. I urge you to reconsider your position and withdraw your subpoena.
I share the following from the Needmor Fund and Zevin Asset Management on behalf of everyone who is concerned with the rights of shareowners and the rights of people: Continue Reading →
2012 saw shareholders voting down pay deals, Apple pulled up on labour conditions & execs at Starbucks & Amazon grilled over UK tax avoidance. Lucy Marcus rounds up the year in boards. Continue Reading →
Jay M. Hoffman and Melissa Ghislanzoni of Miller Thomson in Toronto recently posted Empty Voting – Waiting for a Regulatory Response. While focused on Canada, the post applies equally to the US. The recent Telus decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal “appears to signal a green light for the continuation of empty voting, at least until a regulatory response is implemented.” That case involved Mason Capital Management LLC, a US hedge fund. The Court found no violation of law, “to the extent that cases of ’empty voting’ are subverting the goals of shareholder democracy, the remedy must lie in legislative and regulatory change.” Continue Reading →
From Fox News:
Sempra Energy (SRE, $SRE) said its board elected Chief Executive Debra L. Reed as its new chairman, succeeding former company CEO Donald E. Felsinger, who is retiring. Continue Reading →