News Archive: May 2010

ProxyDemocracy News

May 24, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Shareholders of ExxonMobil Corp. will vote on eight resolutions concerning the environment, human rights and diversity.

May 19, 2010 at 05:55 AM

Massey Energy Co.’s slate of three directors was narrowly reelected in a shareholders' vote.

May 17, 2010 at 15:16 PM

"Investor activists say they are finally getting some support from the $12 trillion mutual fund industry, huge shareholders long scorned as rubber stamps for the management of companies whose shares they own," Reuters reports.

May 14, 2010 at 14:41 PM

After the tragedy at Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia, pension funds are calling on shareowners to withhold votes from three candidates for the company’s board of directors.

May 11, 2010 at 09:34 AM

"Investor rebukes of executive-pay practices last week at Motorola Inc. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. mark a significant shift in the relationship between corporate boards and shareholders," Erin White reports in the Wall Street Journal.

Around the Web

An activist investor stepped up his fight to get on the board of Blockbuster Inc. -- and influence the struggling company's turnaround -- by targeting a second director up for reelection.

Eleven shareholder proposals at ExxonMobil Corp. failed to win majority support at the company's annual meeting. Two resolutions called for increased disclosure about Exxon's oil sands mining operations and hydraulic fracturing.

Shareholder proposals focused on environmental issues -- climate change and coal ash -- were defeated at Southern Co.’s annual shareholders’ meeting.

KeyCorp received 55 percent investor opposition in an advisory vote on executive compensation at its annual meeting. The Ohio banking company is the first participant in the U.S. government's Troubled Asset Relief Program to get majority dissent over its pay practices.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known for sending out scantily clad demonstrators to protest fur and other provocative stunts, is trying to gain influence in boardrooms with a more traditional tactic: buying company stock.

A proposal to let shareholders weigh in on executive pay at UnitedHealth Group Inc. received 46 percent of the vote at the company's annual meeting, shy of the the 50 percent needed to pass it. Another ballot item, for UnitedHealth to fully disclose what it spends on lobbying, also did not pass.

An investor-sponsored proposal at Home Depot Inc. allowing shareholders to take action via written consent rather than calling for a meeting passed with 53 percent of the vote, despite management’s opposition.

Shareholders of Williams Cos. Inc. will get a voice -- although a nonbinding one -- on how the Tulsa-based company's executives are paid next year.

McDonald's Corp. shareholders approved a resolution requiring a simple majority for any matter put to a vote, but turned down proposals for the company to buy chickens from suppliers that use a different method of slaughter and to purchase more cage-free eggs. A measure seeking an advisory vote on executive pay didn't pass.

A coalition of investors fighting to unseat three Denny's Corp. board members said it doesn't believe its slate of candidates was elected by shareholders. According to a regulatory filing, the Committee to Enhance Denny's said its preliminary count of proxies shows the effort fell short.

The U.S. Senate's version of Wall Street reform would give shareholders the right to advisory votes on executive pay and make it easier for them to choose candidates for board seats at publicly traded companies. The measure must be reconciled with legislation approved by the House.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. shareholders rejected a proposal to split the roles of chairman and chief executive officer currently held by Jamie Dimon. The resolution failed to pass with about 34 percent of the vote, according to a preliminary tally given to investors.

WellPoint Inc. shareholders approved a resolution giving them an advisory vote on executive pay during the insurer's annual meetings. Similar proposals failed in 2008 and 2009.

Morgan Stanley shareholders voted against a proposal that would have required the chairman be an independent director who hasn’t previously served as an executive officer of the company.

Massey Energy Co.’s Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship and board face the first challenge to their leadership in four years as shareholders, including state pension funds, attempt to block reelection of a slate of directors in protest over the company’s safety record.

As You Sow filed a resolution at CMS Energy Corp. because it is concerned the company's handling of coal ash places it at risk of financial losses that could negatively affect investors, writes the foundation's Amy Galland.

Google Inc. shareholders rejected three investor-sponsored resolutions. One would have established a committee to consider how Google's actions in China and other countries affect human rights. Google opposed the initiatives, saying it was making a strong effort in all three areas.

Charles Schwab Corp.'s shareholders approved an amended version of the discount brokerage's executive compensation plan. They defeated investor proposals on political contributions and so-called "golden coffin" arrangements.

Qwest Communications International Inc. shareholders voted down a proposal that would have given them a say-on-pay advisory vote for compensation for some company executives. Sprint Nextel Corp. shareholders approved a similar measure

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. prevailed in its opposition to a shareholder propsal to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive officer. At this point in the company's history, its board may wish to consider a more active role in setting its own agenda, Eleanor Bloxham writes. ProxyDemocracy is cited as a resource on voting in the matter.

Investors rapped Occidental Petroleum Corp. over its pay practices, marking the second time in a week -- and ever  -- that a big U.S. company lost a say-on-pay vote.

John Brennan, chairman emeritus of the Vanguard Group, the mutual fund manager, says corporate boards do a better job than they're given credit for, but there's room for improvement.

Denny's, the family restaurant chain best known for its Grand Slam breakfast, is having a most unfamily-like proxy war. With a May 19 vote looming, shareholders have been treated to a flurry of belligerent charges and counterfilings from management and dissident shareholders.

A proposal at Goldman SachsGroup Inc. to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive officer received 19 percent of the vote, a result the New York Times described as an “overwhelming defeat.” As the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility says, a resolution does not have to get 51 percent to win.

Lloyd Blankfein, the embattled chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, is facing a demand to separate his two roles at a meeting of the investment bank’s shareholders. The proposal, which has the support of the proxy resolution service Glass Lewis, comes from Christian Brothers Investment Services.

By one measure, Warren Buffett is the most unpopular board member of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. While shareholders supported all of the company's directors in uncontested balloting, Buffett received more votes against reelection than any other candidate.

Portfolio managers get the spotlight, but mutual-fund directors are ultimately responsible for seeing that investors are well served. Some critics say they aren't doing their job.

Shareholders sent Motorola Inc. a message over its executive compensation, marking the first time a major U.S. company failed to garner a majority of support for a say-on-pay ballot item. The nonbinding proposal won only 46 percent of the vote.

It's time "for our environmental statutes to catch up with what we’ve learned from experience and science," writes Peter Kinder. "None of the consequences – environmental, political, social, economic – of the BP catastrophe is yet clear. But this is: extracting, transporting and burning fossil fuels – coal, oil, natural gas – threatens our water-based life."

Mutual fund directors do their work behind closed doors and disclosure is limited, so it's awfully tough to know how they go about their tasks. Bruce Crockett, an independent trustee and chairman of the Invesco AIM Funds' board, talks with Morningstar about issues like proxy voting and fund fees.

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s chief executive officer, faces another test of his leadership this week when he addresses the firm’s annual shareholder meeting 10 days after a showdown with U.S. senators. One shareholder proposal would separate the roles of chairman and CEO, both held by Blankfein.

Doug Gates, a founder of MoxyVote, talks about how his website can help small shareholders make a difference in the companies in which they invest.