Shareholder Resolutions Break Records in 2011

Corporations and governments around the world took notice of the power of the masses in 2011 with the Occupy movement taking center stage.  But behind the scene, investors used the power  of their proxy and sent strong messages to executives and board members in record numbers to advocate for change at the companies they invest in.

The Records

  • The average shareholder support level rose above 20%
  • 21 resolutions received more than 40% support
  • 5 resolutions received more than 50% support

The Issues

The environment continues to be the primary concern for shareholders with almost 25% of all resolutions filed on behalf of mother nature.  Hydraulic fracturing and coal use dominate the landscape here.  Corporate political spending hit a hot button this year, as proposals grew by more than 50%.  Issues such as support for trade association, lobbying and disclosure of dollars spent were at the top of this list.  Human rights and labor issues took 3rd place getting 13% of all resolutions.  With the numerous resource extraction companies operating in global conflict areas, this comes as no surprise.  In 4th place is board and executive diversity and in 5th is sustainability with companies such as Revlon and Dollar Tree being asked to create sustainability reports.

You may be asking, why such an increase in the support of these shareholder resolutions?  Well, many online services have recently come to the table that guide investors on how to vote.  To receive email alerts on how investors are voting before annual meetings organizations Proxydemocracy can help.  Other organizations that assist shareowners with proxy decisions and provide reports on corporate governance include Moxyvote and Transparent Democracy.

Along with these valuable resources for individual investors, the large mutual fund companies are starting to tip the balance by voting with the shareholders and against corporate management.  Because of the large amount of shares owned by these institutions, votes in favor of the resolutions can make a world of difference. For example, in 2011 more than 1/3 of the 40 largest mutual fund companies supported political spending resolutions. This is the highest amount recorded in the past 8 years.

Though shareholder resolutions don’t gain the same media attention as Occupy Wall Street, this method of addressing corporate accountability should continue to become a strong arrow in the quiver of sustainability.

 

Top 12 List:  Shareholder Resolution Votes for 2011

CompanyProposalProponentVote (%)
Layne Christensenpublish sustainability reportWalden Asset Mgt.92.8
KBRadopt sexual orientation/gender ID nondiscrim.NYC pension funds61.7
Tesororeport on accident prevention effortsAFL-CIO54.3
Sprint Nextelreport on political spendingNYC pension funds53.4
Amerenreport on coal combustion waste and risksSch. Srs. N. Dame, St. Louis52.7
Energenreport on hydraulic fracturingMiller/Howards Inv.49.5
R. R. Donnelley & Sonsreport on political spendingNYSCRF48.7
Halliburtonreport on political spendingTrillium46.5
Lorillardreport on political spendingNYSCRF45.8
Coventry Health Carereport on political spendingNYC pension funds44.3
State Streetreport on political spendingTrillium44.1
Carrizo Oil & Gasreport on hydraulic fracturingNYSCRF43.7

 

Dale Wannen

Dale Wannen is President of Sustainvest Asset Management, an investment advisory firm focused on sustainable and responsible investing (SRI). Prior to Sustainvest, Dale was a portfolio manager at Harrington Investments and specialized in ESG investment strategies, securities analysis, and shareholder advocacy. Prior to this position, Dale was a financial advisor with UBS Wealth Management Services in San Francisco. He is often a guest speaker on the topic of ESG investing and shareholder advocacy.Dale has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Rowan University and currently is a volunteer with Mentor Me Petaluma, Rebuilding Together Petaluma, and the founder of Green Drinks Petaluma.He also currently sits as Board of Director and Treasurer of San Francisco human rights organization, Global Exchange, teaches Economics for the Oakland non-profit Game Theory Academy and is a committee member for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in San Francisco. Previous volunteer work has included Treasurer and Board Member for bird conservation organization, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO), committee member of the Petaluma Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC), and President of the Social Venture Finance Club at Presidio Graduate School.Dale currently holds the Series 65 FINRA license and has previously held the Series 6, 7, 63, 66 and California Life and Health Insurance Certification. He is a member of National Association of Professional Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA).Dale lives in Petaluma, CA with his wife Lauri and their Malamute Shadow.