OK, hands up. We did not pay attention in March when Canadian securities regulators proposed to tighten rules for when investors must disclose their activities to the rest of the market.
The CSA is still considering, and the Globe and Mail reported on Monday that it’s not just activists who are wary. However, what has belatedly caught our notice are some excellent ideas from ISDA about derivatives disclosure, which could also be relevant south of the border. Read more
Nearly 60 per cent of shareholders voted against a 60 per cent increase in Sir Martin Sorrell’s pay for 2011. Here’s his earlier defence in the FT – and here’s WPP’s AGM trading update (including a bit on return of shareholder cash…)
An unprecedented majority of News Corp’s independent shareholders voted to sweep Rupert Murdoch, his sons and other directors off the board, the FT reports. The US media group disclosed the details of the vote late on Monday evening with little explanation, three days after it survived atempestuous annual meeting. The votes pose no immediate threat to the Murdoch family’s control, given its 38.4 per cent bloc of voting shares and support from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi investor who controls 7 per cent. Just 20 per cent of voting shareholders not aligned with News Corp’s founding family voted for James Murdoch to be re-elected, reflecting concern about the deputy chief operating officer’s response to the UK phone hacking scandal that scuppered the group’s bid for British Sky Broadcasting. He faces a separate re-election battle as chairman of BSkyB next month. About 60 per cent of non-aligned shareholders voted against Rupert Murdoch’s re-election or abstained. An investor proposal to split his roles as chairman and chief executive was defeated.
Calpers won a victory for shareholder rights at the Apple annual meeting as the California pension fund succeeded with a resolution in favour of majority voting for director elections, the FT says. However, investors, in voting that attracted a high turnout for a shareholder meeting on Wednesday, also appear to have been swayed by arguments in favour of board discretion at the high tech company and rejected calls for a detailed succession plan. Reuters adds that the shareholders rejected demands that the company disclose a succession plan for ailing chief Steve Jobs.
Axa, Goldman Sachs’ largest investor, slashed its stake by more than half in the last quarter as the bank contended with civil fraud charges and brutal market conditions that crimped its results, the FT reports. The French insurer and wealth management company halved its holdings from 5 per cent to 2.1 per cent in the three-month period ending June 30. Goldman’s share price lost 23 per cent during the period after the SEC brought charges against the bank over CDO dealings during the crisis. While Goldman’s stock recovered in the third quarter following a settlement with the SEC, it has since shed 3 per cent. Axa’s move is part of a wider strategy of reshuffling its financial services holdings, with stakes in Wells Fargo and Bank of America increasing.
The SEC has approved long-debated rules allowing large shareholders to nominate directors to the boards of US companies, the FT reports — and business groups have already vowed to use ‘every method available’ to combat the new framework, fearing abuse by union pension funds. This change isn’t needed, says the WSJ. What would be more helpful is the widespread adoption of mandatory majority rules voting for directors. Meanwhile, The Conglomerate highlights key parts of the new framework.
Large activist pension funds will campaign to shake up underperforming US companies, using new SEC rules due to be agreed on Wednesday that allow shareholders to directly nominate board directors, the FT reports. Union-backed pension funds will meet next week to decide which companies to target under the new regulations, people close to the situation said. The meeting will kick off talks aimed at creating a coalition of public pension funds, hoping to take advantage of the corporate governance changes.
In Alan Greenspan’s famous admission of error, it was the failure of “the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity” that left him in “a state of shocked disbelief”.
A pity that the growing body of literature explaining the failure of bank shareholders themselves wasn’t around then, or he might have framed things differently. He also might have been less shocked. Read more
Alistair Darling is considoring the possibility of giving shareholders veto rights over bankers’ bonuses, Bloomberg News reports, citing a government official. The UK chancellor will consult on the proposal, which could give shareholders a seperate vote over pay in annual general meetings. The official said the plan would make it easier to oppose pay packages “deemed unreasonable”.