“One Share, One Vote? A Debate on Dual Class Share Structures” was the title of this year’s Morrison & Foerster Lecture in honor of Marshall L. Small, held at Stanford Law on May 20, 2019. The side favoring a ban, or at least sunset provisions, on dual class shares was slightly more convincing in their arguments. Continue Reading →
Tag Archives | dual-class
Do the Opposite was funny in the sitcom Seinfeld but not so funny when Franklin Resources does the opposite of shareholder proposals. In fact, doing the opposite threatens the existence of even the facade of democratic corporate governance, alive since 1947 with the legal right of shareholders to file and vote on proposals. Continue Reading →
For years, the “Chevedden group” (Chevedden, McRitchie/Young and Steiner) has focused almost exclusively on governance proposals. More democratic corporations are likely to listen to their shareholders on other issues as well. Democracies facilitate voice and the exchange of ideas. Fighting for environmental and social issues, while extremely important, felt like addressing symptoms, rather than root causes.
Chevedden group proposals seek to declassify boards, require majority votes to elect directors, allow proxy access, and allow shareholders to call special meetings. Since many large cap companies have now adopted such provisions, we are broadening our scope to also focus on other issues. Below are some preliminary results for 2018. Continue Reading →
Ford Motor Company (F) designs, manufactures, markets, and services a range of Ford cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles, and electrified vehicles; and Lincoln luxury vehicles worldwide. Placing a big bet on the continued profitability of gas guzzling SUVs and trucks, they recently announced phasing out most sedans. Most shareholders do not vote because reading through 100+ pages of the proxy is not worth the time for the small difference your vote will make. Below, I tell you how I voted and why. If you have read these posts related to my portfolio for the last 22 years and trust my judgment (or you don’t want to take the time to read my rationale), go immediately to see how I voted my ballot. Voting will take you only a minute or two and every vote counts.
Mark Zuckerberg, the social media titan, needs to embrace a new model of ownership and corporate governance.
As Mark Zuckerberg comes to terms with his latest public-relations disaster, he has made some interesting admissions. One is that the Facebook CEO feels “fundamentally uncomfortable sitting here in California in an office making content policy decisions for people around the world,” as he told Recode. This sentiment echoes his manifesto on the future of Facebook from earlier this year, in which he called for “a system of more local governance,” for the same reason: He can’t figure out by himself how to set standards of behavior for Facebook’s more than 2 billion monthly active users. Continue Reading →
US stock exchanges should require sunset provisions for dual-class shares, SEC commissioner Rob Jackson said in his first speech since taking office last month. In the speech at UC Berkeley School of Law, he likened dual-class shares that do not sunset to “corporate royalty” and said such structures were “antithetical to our values as Americans.”
If you run a public company in America, you’re supposed to be held accountable for your work—maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday.
CII welcomed Jackson’s remarks. “We applaud Commissioner Jackson for using his first major public speech to support CII’s ongoing efforts to address the problem of unequal voting rights,” CII Executive Director Ken Bertsch said in a statement.
A dual-class structure without a sunset provision —‘forever shares’— says to investors, ‘we’ll take your money, but we won’t ever value your vote on how we use your capital to run the business over the long-term.’ That’s not equitable treatment of investors, and it’s certainly not good corporate governance.
CII has endorsed those measures taken by indexes to ban dual-class shares and only reluctantly backed sunset clauses. Jackson did not suggest his fellow commissioners take action, although he did say he hopes they share his views someday. Fellow Democratic appointee Kara Stein already does, saying that dual class listings are “inherently undemocratic.”
I certainly welcome Commissioner Jackson’s remarks. I’ve written many posts on dual-class shares over the last few years. I like the ban indexers are enforcing and also embrace the idea 0f sunset provisions for dual-class shares of two years. However, I don’t see US stock exchanges imposing sunset provisions. That is much more likely to come from the SEC… maybe, under the next administration. Continue Reading →
Mutualism, the subjects of Kara Stein’s recent talk at Stanford Law, has been a subject that has fascinated me since the 1980’s when I was awarded an NIMH Fellowship to study what types of corporate governance structures (including mutualism) might be most beneficial to employees, shareholders, and society. I applied many lessons learned in heading California’s Cooperative Development Program (now defunct) and continue to try to apply concepts from cooperatives and mutualism to publicly traded companies, such as Twitter.
Commissioner Stein gave an impassioned speech on mutualism and the symbiotic relationship between companies, employees, and shareholders. Dual-class shares and other mechanisms are eroding mutualism. Such structures are inherently undemocratic. Where is the symbiosis inherent in mutualism? How do stakeholders mutually benefit? Continue Reading →
Multi-class Share Ban: Methodology
Multi-class share structures were banned by S&P from joining their most popular indexes. The move has been hailed by investors, myself included. Little noticed by the mainstream press, but discussed briefly by Davis, Polk & Wardell LLP is a provision allowing spin-offs from companies (like Alphabet) to be listed. Continue Reading →
On Thursday 16 March in a statement to Parliament the Secretary of State confirmed that she was intervening in the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox, Inc and Sky plc on the media public interest grounds of plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards. This began the process whereby Ofcom and the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) prepared reports on the public interests specified and jurisdictional issues, respectively. Continue Reading →
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 →
#ICGN16, the annual meeting of the International Corporate Governance Network, was held in San Francisco, June 27-29. #ICGN16 was the hashtag for tweeting at the meeting, so check Twitter for additional posts to #ICGN16. This post is a continuation of a few rough notes from the conference. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of #ICGN16. Continue Reading →
Yelp Inc. ($YELP) operates a platform that connects people with local businesses primarily in the United States. Yelp is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on April 13, 2016 and I have a lot of voting recommendations to make ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of one fund when I checked. Yes, I’m a Yelp critic, voting AGAINST pay plan, compensation committee and omnibus stock plan, voting with the Board’s recommendations 33% of the time. View Proxy Statement.
Fenwick & West, one of the Silicon Valley’s premier law firms serving technology, venture capital and life sciences companies, released its Corporate Governance Survey and its adjunct Gender Diversity Survey. The surveys cover more than a decade of governance and leadership trends comparing companies in the S&P 100 and their relatively smaller and younger counterparts in the Silicon Valley 150 (SV 150), which are concentrated in the technology and life sciences industries. 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.
Five Years Ago in Corporate Governance
This morning, the SEC held a hearing on proxy access. By a three to two vote, Commissioners voted for proxy access. Democracy in corporate governance will dramatically improve with our right to nominate and elect directors, even if limited to 25% of the board. Directors may actually begin to feel dependent on the will of shareowners. Continue Reading →
Sorry to be late and abbreviated in getting out my coverage of this great forum. Be sure to check out the Forum’s photo gallery, which contains many more and much better shots than what I took between notes and conversations.
The second panel discussed the growing issue of dual-class stock structures. While there was considerable debate, my sense is that most in the room see the advantages of such structures do not outweigh the disadvantages. I would like to see more discussion in the broader press about these issues when dual-class companies are going public. Maybe the discount would be even steeper. Continue Reading →
Dreamworks Animation Skg Inc (DWA) is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 5/29/2013. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of one fund when I checked on 5/17/2013. I voted with management 42% 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 →
In light of the IPOs and subsequent performances of Facebook, Groupon, Zynga, etc., there has been renewed discussion in Silicon Valley. When two classes of common stock that place control of the board in the hands of the founders and not the investors, do investors benefit or does it just entrench management? One argument in favor of two classes of common stock is that it allows the founders to run the company without interference from activist shareholders who are “short-termers.” One argument against is that a founder who is a poor CEO cannot be removed by the board — and hiring and firing the CEO is the raison d’etre of a corporate board. SVDX‘s panel of seasoned experts hold divergent views on this topic. This program, like all SVDX programs, was subject to the Chatham House Rule. I’ve added a few links that might be helpful. Continue Reading →
A new study finds that controlled companies – particularly those with multiple classes of shares – generally underperform over the long term. As compared to companies with dispersed ownership, controlled companies experience more stock price volatility, increased material weakness in accounting controls, more related party transactions, and offer fewer rights to unaffiliated shareholders. The study results challenge the notion that multiclass voting structures benefit a company and its shareowners over the long term. Continue Reading →
Four articles worth reading are linked below.
ProxyMonitor.org, a website sponsored by the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Legal Policy, sheds light on the influence of outside shareholder proposals on publicly traded corporations. Their slant is fairly obvious in their latest Proxy Monitor Report, Fall 2012, but the data is worth reviewing. Continue Reading →
CalPERS is considering a policy of not investing in the initial public offerings (IPOs) of dual-class companies where shareowning is structured so that a minority will control the majority of the votes. From what I have seen, CalPERS has already opposed those that exist but this step would allow the retirement system to avoid purchasing shares in such companies as they enter the market, even though they may be included in various indexes included in the fund’s portfolio. Continue Reading →
My wife, Myra Young, submitted a proxy proposal to Costco aimed at establishing a new and innovative way for shareowners to obtain proxy voting advice. The proposal would set up a contest, pay for proxy advice out of entry fees and corporate funds, and would then share the advice of four winners with all Costco shareowners. Continue Reading →
It was the last SVNACD event of the season and I’m already looking forward to the fall for new programs. Another great program, led by the following: Continue Reading →