Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Proxy voting survey produces encouraging signs for investors

SHARE’s annual proxy voting survey resulted in the highest response rate and highest average score since 2005, suggesting that investment managers and proxy voting services are more willing to vote against management’s recommendations when they believe it is in the best interests of investors.

“Overall, this year’s results indicate that investment managers and proxy voting services are disclosing more information about how they vote proxies,” the report states.

This year’s high scores also indicate that participating firms are willing to take the time and care needed to look critically at issues on proxy ballots, SHARE noted. “This may be the result of a growing acceptance of responsible investing amongst mainstream asset managers.”

The survey analyzes the voting records of 40 firms with combined Canadian equity holdings of more than $70 billion, examining the decisions of investment managers and proxy voting services on selected issues that were particularly controversial or that raised critical corporate governance issues.

For example, the survey reveals that Canadian shareholders are increasingly critical of the excessive nature of executive compensation.

Last April, 85% of shareholders voted against Barrick Gold’s approach to executive compensation. The company had a net loss last year, but paid its top five executive officers $56.8 million in compensation.
“If they continue, these high levels of executive pay without any connection to Barrick's performance would be detrimental to the company and its stakeholders over the long-term,” SHARE said. “SHARE joined a significant majority of Barrick's shareholders in voting against the company's executive compensation.”

“More and more shareholders are voting against executive compensation packages,” said Catherine Smith, author of the 2013 survey report and Manager of Proxy Voting Services at SHARE. “Although the majority of shareholders continue to vote with management, votes against executive compensation packages are on the rise. The average vote against compensation at Canadian companies was 10% in 2013, compared to 8% in 2012 and 6% in 2011.”

Download the full survey.


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