Tag Archives | simple majority

BlackRock 2019 Proxy Voting Guide

BlackRock 2019 annual meeting is May 23. To enhance long-term shareholder value, vote AGAINST directors Murry Gerber; Jessica Einhorn; William Ford; Margaret Johnson, Cheryl Mills; Gordon Nixon; Ivan Seidenberg; and Marco Antonio Slim Domit, as well as pay and the auditor. Vote FOR shareholder proposals to report lobbying and move to a simple majority voting standard. Continue Reading →

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FB Facebook Proxy Vote Recommendations

FB, Facebook, provides various products to connect and share through mobile devices, personal computers, and other surfaces worldwide. Most shareholders do not vote because reading through 60+ pages of the proxy is not worth the time for the small difference your vote will make. Below, I tell you how I am voting and why. If you have read these posts related to my portfolio for the last 22 years, have values aligned with mine, and trust my judgment (or you don’t want to take the time to read it), go immediately to see how I voted my ballot.

Voting will take you only a minute or two and every vote counts. The annual meeting is coming up on May 31, 2018. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 0% of the time. Facebook’s corporate governance needs a makeover, away from dictratorship. View Proxy Statement via SEC’s EDGAR system (look for DEF 14A). Continue Reading →

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Discover Financial Services: Proxy Voting Guide

Discover Financial Services (DFS), through its subsidiaries, operates as a direct banking and payment services company in the United States. Most shareholders do not vote because reading through 60+ pages of the proxy is not worth the time for the small difference your vote will make. Below, I tell you how I am voting 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 it), go immediately to see how I voted my ballot. Voting will take you only a minute or two and every vote counts.

The annual meeting is coming up on May 2, 2018. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 93% of the time. View Proxy Statement via SEC’s EDGAR system (look for DEF 14A). Continue Reading →

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Marriott (MAR): Proxy Score 64

Marriott InternationalMarriott International Inc (NASD:MAR, $MAR) is an operator, franchisor and licensor of hotels and timeshare properties across the world. It also operates markets and develops residential properties and provides services to home/condominium owner associations. It is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on May 6, 2016. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of three funds when I checked. I voted AGAINST the pay plan and compensation committee members, FOR moving to a simple majority voting standard. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 64% of the time. View ProxyStatement.

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Kellogg Company: Proxy Score 75

Kellogg CompanyKellogg Company (NYSE:K, $K) manufactures and markets ready-to-eat cereal and convenience foods. It is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on April 29, 2016. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of three funds when I checked. Vote FOR all items in the proxy, including shareholder proposal to adopt a simple majority standard for all votes. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 75% of the time. View Proxy Statement.

Read Warnings below. What follows are my recommendations on how to vote the proxy in order to enhance corporate governance and long-term value. Continue Reading →

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Steris Corporation’s Proxy Voting Deflate-Gate

Steris Proxy Voting Deflate-GateMost companies opposing a shareholder proposal simply rely on an opposition statement, although sometimes they  solicit the votes of their largest shareowners. Steris Corporation (NYSE:STE) took it a bit further. Was it cheating? That depends on your perspective. Like a partially inflated football, a partially stuffed ballot can provide the crucial margin needed to win.

Proxy Voting Deflate-Gate: What Steris Did

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Netflix: Proxy Score 11

NetflixNetflix, Inc. (NFLX), an Internet television network, engages in the Internet delivery of TV shows and movies directly on TVs, computers, and mobile devices in the United States and internationally. It is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 6/9/2015. ProxyDemocracy.org had the vote of two funds when I checked and voted on 6/3/2015.  I voted with management 11% of the time and assigned Netflix a proxy score of 11. Continue Reading →

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Google Inc.: Proxy Score 39

googleGoogle Inc. (GOOG), a technology company that builds products and provides services to organize the information, is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 6/3/2015. ProxyDemocracy.org had the vote of one fund when I checked and voted on 5/28/2015.  I voted with management 39% of the time and assigned Google Inc. a proxy score of 39.

View Proxy Statement. Read Warnings below. What follows are my recommendations on how to vote the Google Inc. 2015 proxy in order to enhance corporate governance and long-term value. Continue Reading →

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Marriott International Inc (MAR): Proxy Score 71

Marriott InternationalMarriott International Inc $MAR is one of the stocks in my portfolio. They operate and franchise of hotels, corporate housing properties, and timeshare properties under numerous brand names which includes Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, EDITION, Autograph Collection, AC Hotels by Marriott, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Courtyard by Marriott, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott, TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Marriott ExecuStay, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Vacation Club, Grand Residences by Marriott. Their annual meeting is coming up on 5/8/2015. ProxyDemocracy.org had the votes of two funds when I checked and voted on 4/30/2015.  I voted with management 71% of the time and assigned Marriott International a proxy score of 71. Continue Reading →

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Simple Majority Vote Counting Initiative for Proxies

voteThis guest post from Bruce Herbert of Investor Voice provides an overview of a simple majority vote counting shareholder initiative, which seeks to eliminate abstentions from the denominator in calculating votes as well as super majority threshold requirements that have not been approved by shareholders.

“Fair corporate suffrage is an important right that should attach to every equity security bought on a public exchange.”

– U.S. House of Representatives, Securities Exchange Act of 1934 Continue Reading →

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Visa: Simple Majority – Win or Lose?

VisaManhattan InstituteThe Manhattan Institute‘s Proxy Monitor Project would call it another failure by gadfly shareholders, since Visa Inc. (V) filed a no-action request with the SEC and is very likely to receive the go-ahead to exclude our Simple Majority proposal from their proxy. If that happens, there is no way it will receive a majority vote from shareowners. Therefore, the Proxy Monitor Project will count the proposal as a loss for shareowners and a waste of money for the corporation. Continue Reading →

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Walgreens (WAG): How I Voted – Proxy Score 24

Walgreens ($WAG) is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 1/9/2013. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of four funds when I voted on 1/1/2012.  I voted with management only 24% of the time.  View Proxy Statement. Warning: Be sure to vote each item on the proxy. Any items left blank will be voted in favor of management’s recommendations. (See Don’t Let Companies Change Shareholders’ Blank Votes)

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

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Apache Files Slapp Suit: More Support for DRS

As reported in Risk & Governance Blog (1/13/10), theCorporateCounsel.net Blog (1/13/10), GlobalProxyWatch (1/15/10), and by Gary Lutin via e-mail (1/15/10), Houston-based Apache has sued shareowner activist John Chevedden, contending that he failed to meet the proof-of-ownership requirements in SEC Rule 14a-8(b) required to submit a resolution. See Apache v Chevedden.

Chevedden provided documentation of his ownership but Apache contends he didn’t submit enough information to trace the shares through to a record holder. Apache bypassed the normal route of first requesting a no-action letter from the SEC, choosing instead to go directly to court and to recover costs from Chevedden. To me, that looks like a slapp suit, designed to intimidate Chevedden and other activists with mounting legal costs and simple exhaustion.

Apache has a long history of rejecting the rights of shareowners to influence management decisions. In 2007, “G. Stephen Farris, CEO of energy company Apache, argued that shareholder proposals should be banned outright, or absent that, resubmission thresholds should be raised to 33, 40, and 45 percent.”

However, even the hard-line U.S. Chamber of Commerce questioned the legality of an all-inclusive bylaw: “Under federal case law, a corporate bylaw (to opt out of allowing shareowner resolutions) … cannot act as ‘a block or strainer to prevent’ shareholder proposals from inclusion in a company’s proxy materials.” (Non-Binding Proposals Defended, RMG, Risk & Governance, 10/12/07)

Here’s what others had to say:

As reported by Risk Metrics Group–  “It’s fairly unusual for a company to sue its own investors, and it’s even more unusual to sue an investor before an SEC staff ruling,” noted Cornish Hitchcock, a Washington-based attorney who represents labor funds in no-action matters.

The RMG article says the lawsuit appears to be an attempt by Apache to get around the SEC’s no-action ruling in October 2008 that rejected a similar challenge where SEC staff said that a written statement from an “introducing broker-dealer constitutes a written statement from the ‘record’ holder of securities,” as required under the federal proxy rules.

Federal judges aren’t bound by SEC staff opinions, and may have a different opinion on what constitutes proof-of-ownership.  The RMG article goes on to recount the successful activism of Chevedden and his network of retail investors in recent years on various issues. (Disclosure: I am one of those network members.) Those victories have angered corporate officials, especially when we submit more than one proposal on different topics at the same company. However, the SEC has held the group is not in violation since the filings are by different holders, with Chevedden acting essentially as our agent.

Broc Romanek, at theCorporateCounsel.net Blog, appears to share the opinion of issuers with regard to Chevedden assisting other shareowners with their proposals, “Many corporate secretaries will be cheering to hear that Chevedden was recently sued over his efforts to submit a proposal (although this situation doesn’t involve alter egos).”

Romanek goes on to quote an anonymous member of CorporateCouncil.net: “I am glad they are taking Chevedden to court. More companies should make sure his shenanigans have some real consequences. If he started getting his butt hauled into court all across the country, then his proposals would cost more than the price of a stamp.”

That attitude simply reinforces my initial opinion that this is nothing more than a slapp suit. Escalate the cost dramatically and shareowners will be too intimated to file resolutions. Chevedden’s resolution to require simple majority votes isn’t even binding on the board if passed by shareowners. My opinion is that owners of a corporation shouldn’t be dragged into court for making a suggestion to be voted on by other owners.

GlobalProxyWatch pointed out one irony: “Apache’s in-house governance domo is none other than Sarah Teslik, ex investor champion-in-chief at the Council of Institutional Investors. If Apache succeeds, expect similar tactics from other firms seeking to block resolutions like Chevedden’s.”

Gary Lutin’s e-mail notes, “Mr. Chevedden provided records that he did in fact own shares, but the financial service firms that confirmed his position did not appear in the records of registered ownership. Leaving aside the comical aspects of this case, the court filing shows clearly that our current system of defining ownership is dysfunctional.”

“Whether you think this effort to block a shareholder proposal is proper or not, I assume you will agree that there is something wrong with rules that allow this argument to be made. What seems like a simple matter of defining ‘ownership’ of stock has become a real challenge, especially in the context of recently evolved securities lending and derivatives practices, and needs to resolved before anyone can sensibly consider what kind of ‘plumbing’ hardware to order.”

I think Lutin’s comments are spot on. With street name registration, how can Apache know if Chevedden is really a shareowner? (although, appears obvious in this case that he is)  How can anyone expect Chevedden to submit more in the way of proof? He’s already submitted a letter from his broker and, as I recall, another entity up the chain.

As we point out in our draft petition to the SEC, we retail shareowners aren’t really shareowners at all. We simply trade in “security entitlements.” The further we stray from direct registration, the more complicated it becomes to enforce the rights of ownership.We moved to the convoluted system we have now because it was the easiest way to get through a paperwork emergency that was bankrupting dozens of brokers. Direct registration wasn’t feasible because we didn’t have adequate computer power. Those days are over. Isn’t it time to move on to direct registration where companies know who there owners are and shareowners can more easily communicate with each other?

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