Tag Archives | John Chevedden

SLB 14I (CF) – SRI Conference: 1st Impression

SLB 14I (CF): Issued During 28th Annual SRI Conference

The latest SEC Staff Legal Bulletin, SLB 14I (CF), was issued on November 1, while 800 attended the 28th Annual SRI Conference in San Diego. I was flipping though the agenda when I got an email from a Bloomberg reporter asking for feedback on SLB 14I, which will further discourage shareholders from submitting proposals, especially those focused on environmental and social issues. It is yet another move against the ability of shareholders to fight for a salubrious environment, while seeking a healthy return.

28th Annual SRI Conference

First, a brief few words about the SRI Conference, then I will dive into SLB 14I. I should have been attending these conferences for 28 years but they did not seem focused enough on governance issues. Over the years, governance and engagement have become more of an issue for them, while environmental and social issues have become more important to me… a happy convergence. Continue Reading →

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Alphabet Shareholders Overwhelmingly Support Equal Voting

Alphabet DemocracyAt Alphabet, Inc.’s most recent annual meeting on June 7, 2017, class A shareholders overwhelmingly supported a shareholder proposal asking company management to recapitalize the share structure so that each share has one vote. According to the proponents of the proposal, assuming that all outstanding class B shares were similarly voted, then up to 99.8% of class A shareholders supported the proposal. Of class B insider shares, if only executive officers and directors of the company are counted, then an estimated 88.7% of class A shareholders still supported this proposal. Continue Reading →

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Alphabet: Another Democracy Vote

Alphabet Democracy

Alphabet’s Corporate Governance

At the June 7 annual shareholder meeting of Alphabet, shareholders will vote for a sixth year in a row to weigh in on tech-giant Alphabet’s unequal voting structure. Today is the last day to vote without attending the meeting tomorrow.

Shareholders are expected to vote in favor of the Recapitalization Plan for all Stock to Have One-vote per Share the but winning depends on getting far more than a majority vote. It means those holding shares with out-sized votes being willing to yield their power. What will make them see the value of more democratic corporate governance? The election is more symbolism than real. Still, symbolism can be powerful. Continue Reading →

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Deal Professor: Haranguing

Haranguing

Haranguing

Haranguing – A speech addressed to a large public assembly; a popular oration; a loud address to a multitude; in a bad sense, a noisy or pompous speech; declamation; ranting. A speech before a multitude or on the hustings.

Once again, the Deal Professor blasts gadflies John Chevedden, James McRitchie and William Steiner – this time for haranguing directors at annual meetings. A couple of years ago, Deal Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon equated our activities with terrorism (Deal Professor Equates Filing Proxy Proposals with Terrorism). Last week he wrote that we “make a habit of haranguing directors at corporate meetings.” (Online Shareholder Meetings Lower Costs, but Also Interaction, NYTimes, 5/31/2016).

In an otherwise fairly balanced article on the positives and negatives of online shareholder meetings, Solomon writes, Continue Reading →

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International Business Machines: Proxy Score 21

International Business MachinesInternational Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM, $IBM) provides information technology (IT) products and services worldwide. It is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on April 26, 2016. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of four funds when I checked. I voted AGAINST the pay plan, and most of the directors. I voted FOR the report on lobbying, written consent, split CEO/Board Chair positions – voting with the Board’s recommendations 21% of the time. View Proxy Statement.

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ExxonMobil – Shareholders Offer 4 Options

Exxon MobilI don’t own ExxonMobil $XOM stock or the stock of any other oil companies, so won’t be examining their proxy when it comes out or making voting recommendations. However, oil companies do remain a potent economic force and won’t be going away anytime soon… even though folks like me hope to be driving around in electric cars fueled by the sun and wind within a few years.

ExxonMobil may be a special case, since they appear to have essentially funded a disinformation campaign on climate change for many years.  See Exxon Knew, among many other sources and campaigns. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at shareholder proposals grappling with the beast. If you own stock in ExxonMobil and want to be a responsible fiduciary, how do you get them to take climate change seriously?

Since the proxy hasn’t been published, I don’t know what proposals will be included. However, ExxonMobil requested four no-action letters from the SEC that were refused. Let’s look at those.  Continue Reading →

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Who Withdraws Shareholder Proposals?

Withdraws Shareholder Proposals

Withdraws Shareholder Proposals

Who Withdraws Shareholder Proposals and Does It Matter? An Analysis of Sponsor Identity and Pay Practices is the title of an import study in the November 2015 issue of Corporate Governance: An International Review. Examination of this topic is long overdue. Companies constantly take full credit for corporate governance reforms, such as the addition of proxy access bylaws, when they are doing so only to avoid a vote on a more robust shareholder proposal. Continue Reading →

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Sonoco Fails to Limit Democracy to the 2%

SonocoSonoco Products ($SON) recently sought no-action relief from the SEC to omit a proxy access shareholder proposal by William Steiner. The Division of Corporation Finance denied their request. The 1% now owns as much worldwide as the 99%, so why should Sonoco limit shareholder proposals and presenters to the 2%?

I was happy to play a small role in helping John Chevedden present Mr. Steiner’s case. This was not a great victory destined for the annals of history. However, if Mr. Steiner had lost to Sonoco, it might have meant the beginning of the end of shareholder proposals as a mechanism of shareholder democracy. A similar case was fought sixty years ago. Continue Reading →

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eBAY Commits to Gender & Racial Diversity: Issues Remain

eBayNew York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Trillium Asset Management today announced that they have withdrawn the shareholder proposal they filed at eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) after the company agreed to revise its Governance Guidelines to include gender and racial diversity among the qualities its seeks in its board members. Several other issues remain on the proxy. Continue Reading →

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SEC Reverses No-Actions Under Rule 14a-8(i)(9) On Request

John Chevedden

John Chevedden

Just a quick note to other shareholders who have filed proxy proposals this season. If the company you filed with requested and obtained a no-action letter from the SEC under Rule 14a-8(i)(9), you might obtain a reversal of that sanctioned exclusion. However, as far as I know, you need to ask for reconsideration. I don’t think the SEC is automatically reversing such letters without being requested to do so by the shareholder proponent. See letters to shareowner activist John Chevedden below.

As previously reported (SEC Withdraws No-Action: Rule 14a-8(i)(9) Suspended), the SEC has essentially suspended Rule 14a-8(i)(9) Conflicts with company’s proposal. Chair Mary Jo White issued the following: 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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United Natural Foods (UNFI) Moves on Special Meeting Proposal

Manhattan InstituteUnited Natural Foods logoThe Manhattan Institute‘s Proxy Monitor Project would call it another failure by gadfly shareholders, since United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) filed and was granted a no-action request by the SEC to exclude our proposal to allow shareowners with 15% of the outstanding UNFI shares to call a special meeting. Since the proposal cannot receive a majority vote from shareowners, the Proxy Monitor Project and SEC Commissioner Daniel Gallagher will count the proposal as a loss for shareowners and a waste of money for the corporation. Continue Reading →

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Deal Professor Equates Filing Proxy Proposals with Terrorism

Deal Professor Envisions Corporate Gadfly

Starting with Corporations

Most people don’t like their behavior criticized. CEOs and boards almost always fight my proxy proposals aimed at improving corporate governance. Likewise, I wasn’t happy with the Deal Professor’s criticisms of my shareowner activism in his August 19th NYTimes article, Grappling With the Cost of Corporate Gadflies, which also criticizes John Chevedden and William Steiner. I stewed for days but finally took the advice of a good friend, who is Assistant General Counsel & Corporate Secretary at a major company,

Better to be engaged than enraged!

If I had more time available, my response would have been shorter but I have a number of projects that demand attention. When I submit proposals, I want boards to weigh them carefully on the merits. I have tried to do that with the Deal Professor’s criticism. I hope our mutual use of hyperbole doesn’t preclude further engagement. Unlike the character in the cartoon at right, I feel no need to irritate… but I do often question mechanisms in corporate governance that isolate and concentrate power, rather than distributing it. I prefer structures that distribute power, making us of the wisdom found at all levels.  Continue Reading →

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Corporate Governance WABAC Machine

MrPeabodysWayBackMachineCorporate 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

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 →

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Déjà vu: Shareholder Rights Under Attack

WaldenAssetManagement

Timothy Smith

Timothy Smith

The following on shareholder rights by Timothy SmithDirector of ESG Shareowner Engagement at Walden Asset Management, originally appeared in the Summer 2014 Edition of Walden’s Values Newsletter, which included the usual disclaimer at the bottom.

I’ve added the links and have tacked on some additional reformatted comments from Timothy Smith regarding the role of individual investors in prompting reform. 

Every once in a long while a group of companies, usually led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, launches a campaign to change the rules allowing investors to file shareholder resolutions. Welcome to the latest iteration. Continue Reading →

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CMG Shareowners Vote Down Pay & Supermajority Requirements

JMSelfie-CMG

McRitchie CMG Selfie

cmg
Just a brief post to thank shareowners at Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) for sending a strong message to the company’s board and management.  77% of shares were voted against the executive pay package and a majority supported our proposal to end supermajority voting requirements.

CalSTRS, Florida SBA, AFSCME, Calvert, Domini, Trillium, CBIS, CtW and many others joined to reject the non-binding say-on-pay measure and a proposed stock incentive plan. Both ISS and Glass Lewis recommended their clients vote against the package and the plan. Continue Reading →

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Google (GOOGL): How I Voted – Proxy Score 41

googleGoogle Inc, $GOOGL, is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 5/14/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of three funds when I checked and voted on 5/8/2014. As I post this, I see they now have voting for five funds. I voted with management 41% 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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Heidi Soumerai’s Remarks at EMC Annual Meeting

EMCHere’s an example of classy questioning at an AGM.  Thanks to Ms. Soumerai for allowing me to reprint here.

Good morning Mr. Tucci, members of the board, and fellow shareholders.

My name is Heidi Soumerai and I am the Director of ESG Research at Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust & Investment Management Company where I also serve as Managing Director. Together, we hold approximately 1.6 million shares of EMC. Continue Reading →

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Ford Motor Company (F): How I Voted – Proxy Score 52

FordFord Motor Company $F is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is on 5/8/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of two funds when I checked and voted on 5/4/2014.  I voted with management 52% of the time.  View Ford’s Proxy Statement, which is user friendly.

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 CrimeI generally vote against pay packages where NEOs were paid above median in the previous year but make exceptions if warranted.  Continue Reading →

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Gilead Sciences (GILD): How I Voted – Proxy Score 43

GileadMtgSignGilead Sciences $GILD is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 5/7/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of two funds when I checked and voted on 4/28/2014.  I voted with management 43% of the time.  View GILD’s Proxy Statement, which has a linked Table of Contents.

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 CrimeI generally vote against pay packages where NEOs were paid above median in the previous year but make exceptions if warranted.  Continue Reading →

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International Business Machines Corp. (IBM): How I Voted – Proxy Score 75

IBMInternational Business Machines Corp. $IBM, is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 4/29/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of four funds when I checked and voted on 4/22/2014.  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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Guest Post: Meet… James McRitchie, CorpGov.Net

MikeTyrrell at Work

Mike Tyrrell

James McRitchie

James McRitchie

Mike Tyrrell is Editor of SRI-Connect – an online research marketplace for professional institutional investors, analysts & companies interested in sustainable development.  He is keen to open up the site to corporate governance analysts & corporate governance research. Mike kindly gave permission to reproduce the interview on CorpGov.net.  Continue Reading →

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SRI Funds & Advisors Send Open Letters on Lawsuits Against Shareholders

SRIIt is wonderful to have supportive friends, especially when they represent socially responsible investors and advisors. John Chevedden, Myra K. Young and James McRitchie extend sincere thanks to the following for sending letters of concern regarding their recent lawsuits against us to: EMC Corp, Omnicom, Express Scripts, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.: Continue Reading →

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Omnicom (OMC) Group Loses to Chevedden: Shareowner Rights Preserved

OmnicomIn a memorandum and order issued yesterday, Judge Louis L. Stanton, of United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, ruled John Chevedden’s motion to dismiss is granted. Omnicom’s motion for summary judgment is denied. “The clerk is requested to enter judgment dismissing the complaint, with costs and disbursements in favor of Mr. Chevedden according to law.” Continue Reading →

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EMC v. John Chevedden and James McRitchie: Case Dismissed

LawVmoneyThe chilling effect of companies bypassing the SEC’s inexpensive ‘no-action’ process may be coming to an end. Apache, Waste Connections and a growing number of companies have been successful in US district courts in Texas. Finally, we won a landmark case in U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. The law can prevail, even against the weight a $55B company can wield. Continue Reading →

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Take Action: Join Nader's Penny Brigade

RalphNaderSome have argued that Ralph Nader started socially responsible shareholder activism with Campaign GM, when the group filed shareholder proposals to expand GM’s board to include consumer advocates and empower shareholders to place their board nominees on GM’s proxy ballot (proxy access).  According to a recent article in the WSJ, the longtime consumer advocate is now putting together a shareholder-activism group. (Ralph Nader Adds Shareholder Activist to His Portfolio, 1/15/2014) Continue Reading →

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Google Insiders Foil Chevedden's Latest Attempt to End Dual-Class Voting

John Chevedden, Shareowner Activist

John Chevedden, Shareowner Activist

Activist, John Chevedden pushed for Google to change its capital structure to give all shares an equal vote.  Most of us own Class A stock with one vote per share. But Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with Chairman Eric Schmidt, control about 64% of the votes through Class B stock with 10 votes per share.

Chevedden argued the current system allows Google to use shareholders’ capital without giving them the power to hold management accountable for how they run the company. Most shareholders agree with his assessment. Consider the fact that Google insiders control about 70% of votes. Continue Reading →

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