Tag Archives | Glass Lewis

Real-Time Proxy Voting Disclosure Will Drive Competition

Real-time proxy voting disclosure by big funds could drive competition for investments from individual investors and smaller institutional investors with few resources for proxy analysis. Such disclosures would also go a long way in solving problems raised by Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. StrineLucian Bebchuk, and the Main Street Investors Coalition regarding potential conflicts of interest and/or under/over investment in ESG analysis and advocacy. The cost of real-time proxy voting disclosure would be minimal and may actually save funds money currently spent converting voting files to pdfs.

Real-time disclosure would help customers compare voting records and could drive competition among big funds to vote the predominant values of their customers. For ease of use, Compare CalSTRS’ sortable real-time disclosures with those of State Street Institutional Investment Trust. [Graphic above from Pensions & Investments article, No excuse for fiduciary ignorance, 2/19/2018] Continue Reading →

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Glass Lewis 2018 Proxy Advice Update

Glass Lewis 2019 proxy advice updates address many issues. See 2019 Proxy Paper Guidelines: An Overview of the Glass Lewis Approach to Proxy Advice.

I have reproduced much of the summary of changes below, leaving off the section discussing clarifying amendments. One that stands out for our small group of so-called ‘gadflies’ addresses our concern that several boards hijacked shareholder proposals this past season by seeking ratification of existing policies and the exclusion of a shareholder proposal though a no-action request. In an email, John Chevedden noted the following: Continue Reading →

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Shareholder Collaboration

Shareholder Collaboration is a new ECGI working paper by Jill Fisch and Simone M. Sepe. Fisch is one of my favorite researchers, being insightful and less predictable than many of those in the primary academic hubs of corporate governance (Harvard, Stanford, and Delaware). In Shareholder Collaboration, the authors discuss the growing importance of a collaborative model, in contrast to models based on management power or shareholder power. (download paper in pdf) Continue Reading →

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‘Substantial Implementation’ Will Backfire

Substantial Implementation Will Backfire

‘Substantial Implementation’ Defense for Proxy Access Lite Under (i)(10) Will Backfire for Corporate Boards

Substantial implementation, that’s the deception companies have been arguing in order to obtain ‘no-action’ relief under SEC Rule 14a-8(i)(10) after implementing proxy access ‘lite.’ Law firms have been touting recent no-action letters released on February 12, with more in March  2016. It looks like a clear win for entrenched managers and directors for implementing only proxy access lite. In reality, such deception will cost companies more in legal fees and will reduce board discretion, since shareholders will increasingly file binding bylaw resolutions to obtain the same robust proxy access promised under vacated Rule 14a-8(i)(10). Continue Reading →

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Vote Real Proxy Access at Whole Foods

Real Proxy Access at Whole Foods - Give Us the Key

Real Proxy Access at Whole Foods – Give Us the Key (cartoon from old issue of Pensions & Investments)

Today is your last chance to vote for real proxy access at Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM, $WFM), unless you plan to attend the meeting in San Francisco tomorrow. The annual shareholder’s meeting will be held at the Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason Street, San Francisco, California 94108 and will begin at 8 a.m. See Pension funds line up in favor of proxy-access bylaw change at Whole Foods

If you do attend, please stop me and say hello. I would love to get your feedback on how shareholders can improve accountability through improved corporate governance. Whole Foods used to be one of the largest holdings in my portfolio. Back in October 2013 shares sold for about $65; today $35 seems to be the threshold to beat.

I used to head California’s cooperative development program, so had a lot of experience with struggling grocers and their co-op wholesale. I invested in Whole Foods Market because their model was something of a hybrid, with its emphasis on teams, employee ownership and organic foods. Let’s discuss how Whole Foods can get its groove back.

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Proxy Access at FirstMerit, No Exception

FirstMerit

Morrow&Co

Morrow&CoFirstMerit (FMER) included a management proposal for proxy access in their annual meeting agenda and excluded a shareholder proposal on the same topic from the Firefighter’s Pension System of the City of Kansas City with a higher cap on nominees. See Proposal #4 Proxy Access. What was even more startling in the ‘news’ from an April 3rd Morrow & Co. advisory was that “ISS did not make reference to the shareholder proposal that was omitted from the proxy,” recommended in favor of the proposal and was not recommending a withhold on any directors. Continue Reading →

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Replay the Glass Lewis Conference Call on Proxy Access

Glass LewisOn Thursday March 5th proxy advisor Glass Lewis held a conference call to discuss proxy access, i.e. the right for shareholders to place their director nominees on company proxies, instead of having to pay for a separate proxy and solicitation.

The New York City Comptroller, Scott Stringer has taken the lead on proxy access this year with his Boardroom Accountability Project and the introduction of 75 proxy access proposals. Continue Reading →

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Apple: The Case for Proxy Access

apple

Update: Preliminary voting results indicate that our proxy access proposal got 39% of the vote. Yes, the proposal could have been worded to more closely conform to the Rule 14a-11 standards. Hopefully, Apple got the message and will propose a “best practices” revision of their articles and bylaws as needed for the 2016 annual meeting. If not, we’ll be back at that meeting with our own proxy access proposal.

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Alignment Gap Between Say on Pay Voting & Creating Value

Alignment Gap Between Say on Pay Voting & Creating ValueA new study finds that economic value creation is not a major factor in institutional investors’ Say-on-Pay voting, nor in the recommendations of the two largest proxy advisors that counsel investors how to vote. The research reveals that there is no material difference between institutional investors’ Say-on-Pay voting for those companies that create economic value as compared to those that destroy value. Continue Reading →

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CEO Pay: Link to the Cost and Future Value of Capital

IRRCi study on CEO PayTotal shareholder return (TSR), is the most frequent metric used to pay CEOs for performance. The authors of this excellent study from IRRCi believe CEO pay should, instead, be linked to the cost and future value of capital.

CEO Pay for ‘Performance”

In 1993, Congress amended the tax code to tie executive pay to “performance” metrics. To be a deductible business expense, pay had to be linked to performance. Stock price was an easy proxy for performance and the link was acceptable to the IRS. Before the amendment, in 1991, average CEO pay at large public firms was 140 times that of average employees. By 2003, it was approximately 500 times. Whereas equity-based compensation at such firms was zero percent in 1984, it climbed to 66% by 2001. The percentage of CEO pay from stock option grants rose from 35% in 1994, to 85% by 2001.

As the authors point out, “total shareholder return is, by far, the most dominant performance metric in long-term incentive plans.” Yet, increased TSR often has little to do with actually growing a business for the long-term. The rise of fall in stock price generally has little to do with CEO effort. When there is effort involved, rewards come quicker through cost-cutting (firing employees, reducing R&D), stock buybacks or financial engineering than by developing new products, training staff or increasing sales. Continue Reading →

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Will Corporate Elites Attack Public Opinion Next?

WallGreed

Public Opinion

Entrenched corporate elites may need to up their public opinion game. Robert Monks and Nell Minow are near the top of their attack list. (Shareholder crusaders Monks and Minow speak out) Having been sued several times for having the audacity to make recommendations to boards via shareowner proposals, I’m on there too. (see EMC v. John Chevedden and James McRitchie: Case Dismissed, as well as Deal Professor Equates Filing Proxy Proposals with Terrorism) Of course, proxy advisors, such as ISS and Glass Lewis are at the top for frequently advising clients to vote in favor of shareowner proposals and against those of management. Research now indicates, public opinion may be next. Continue Reading →

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Savings Plus: Transparent Proxy Voting Needed

I’ve previously written two posts on California’s Savings Plus program and how one major contractor, Northern Trust has voted. (Part I & Part II) Below, I compare the votes of Northern Trust on proxy proposals with those recommended by the AFL-CIO. A similar exercise could be performed at any deferred compensation plan. 

Shareholders have voting rights, usually one vote per share, to decide who will serve on the board and to advise on pay and other issues. Funds, such as CalPERS and the CalHR Savings Plus program, have a legal duty to ensure shares are voted in the best interest of program participants. Continue Reading →

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California’s Savings Plus: Better Proxy Voting Disclosure Needed Part II

CalHR Savings Plus

This is the second of a two part series. Part I discussed proxy voting at Savings Plus, as compared with at CalPERS. 

CalHR’s Current RFP for Savings Plus

CalHR recently released a Request for Proposal (RFP 700-14-01) seeking bids for investment management services for Savings Plus. Unfortunately, the RFP fails to require Savings Plus participants be informed of proxy voting policies or decisions.   Continue Reading →

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Letter to P&I Re Fiduciary Duty Editorial

P&I-proxy-voters-cartoon 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.

Dear Editor:

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 →

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Fiduciary Duty to Announce Votes (Part 3): Take Action

PD-CkMutualVotingRecord

Take Action: Ask your mutual fund, pension fund, and/or endowment to:

  1. Send you a copy of their proxy voting policies and their proxy voting record.
  2. Report their votes in advance of annual shareholder meetings to ProxyDemocracy.org.  
  3. Make a small donation (not tax deductible) to ProxyDemocracy.org to keep that valuable service going or contact Andy Eggers to make a tax-deductible contribution through their 501(3) affiliate. I’ll match donations up to $2,000 until the end of June.

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Citigroup Inc (C): How I Voted – Proxy Score 33

citigroupCitigroup Inc $C, is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 4/22/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of no funds when I checked and voted on 4/15/2014.  I voted with management 33% of the time.  View Proxy Statement. Why an index with no links? That seems so basic. Perhaps Citi doesn’t want to make reading the proxy easy? Continue Reading →

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Directors Forum 2014: Morning Sessions

Kroc-School-of-Peace-and-Justice-University-of-San-DiegoBelow are some notes I took during the morning sessions at the Corporate Directors Forum 2014, held on the beautiful campus of the University of San Diego, January 26-28, 2014. This year, I was only able to attend on January 27th. The program was subject to the Chatham House Rule, so there will be little in the way of attribution below but I hope to provide some sense of the discussion. Continue Reading →

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Take Action: Proxy Advisory Services Roundtable Seeks Comments

SECActNowOn November 27, 2013 the SEC Announced the agenda and panelists for their 12/5/2013 Roundtable On Proxy Advisory Services. 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.  In the second session, participants will discuss, among other topics, issues identified in the Commission’s 2010 concept release on the U.S. proxy voting system, including potential conflicts of interest that may exist for proxy advisory firms and users of their services, and the transparency and accuracy of recommendations by proxy advisory firms. It is critical that members of the public, especially unrepresented retail shareowners submit comments, so your interests can be considered.

See Notice, Comments of James McRitchieComments Received, Suggested Email Comment, and Submit Comments

While the panelists look well qualified and reputable, none appear to represent retail shareowners. True, under the current framework 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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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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Review: A Real Look at Real World Corporate Governance

Larcker-Tayan-real-world-corpgovThis book follows the theme of Corporate Governance Matters: A Closer Look at Organizational Choices and Their Consequences also by David Larcker and Brian Tayan. Larcker is the James Irvin Miller Professor of Accounting, Stanford Graduate School of Business. Brian Tayan is a member of the Corporate Governance Research Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. While Corporate Governance Matters (see my review)  focuses on debunking “best practices” in corporate governance, A Real Look at Real World Corporate Governance takes more of an abbreviated case study approach, delving into how several decisions were made by boards at specific companies. 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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Goldman Sachs (GS): Vote for Proxy Access

Goldman Sachs ($GS) is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 5/23/2013. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of two funds when I checked on 5/15/2013. I’ll check back and may post again on GS before the voting deadline, depending on developments. I voted with management 26% 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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Proxy Advisors Get Tougher

I blogged about this in December (Key Changes to Proxy Advisor Policies for 2013), mainly referring to a recent Alert from Weil. Writing for Alliance Advisors, Shirley Westcott, has added to the mix. I’m not sure when it was actually written because the publication says January 2013 at the top but September 2012 at the bottom. Nevertheless, another good analysis to help us understand the changes. Here’s the lead-in from the email Continue Reading →

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The AGM Votes are in and the Winner is ….

Steve Viederman

Guest Post from Stephen Viederman, Fellow, Governance & Accountability Institute, reposted here with the permission of Viederman and Accountability-Central.com. James McRitchie, Publisher of Corporate Governance reformatted the original to bring the footnotes up, hide urls and generated those wonderful ads. 

The Spring madness of annual corporate meetings (referred to as AGMs) is upon us. Continue Reading →

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Agency Capitalism: Corrective Measures (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a post which started out reviewing the important thesis outlined in The Agency Costs of Agency Capitalism: Activist Investors and the Revaluation of Governance Rights by Ronald J. Gilson and Jeffrey N. Gordon (January 1, 2013). See Agency Capitalism: Corrective Measures Part 1 and Part 3. Current law encourages mindless indexing of portfolios and voting like lemmings to fulfill fiduciary duties. While Gilson and Gordon stressed the need for activist hedge funds, below I explore some additional options. Continue Reading →

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