2014 Proxy Voting Record
By Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement
Proxy voting is not particularly exciting, but it is a crucial shareowner right, and an important way to impact the behavior of public companies. Since most clients are not able to attend the annual meetings of each corporation in which they hold stock, First Affirmative votes electronically, on behalf of clients, according to our comprehensive Proxy Voting Guidelines.
How do our proxy voting guidelines translate into a collective voice to corporations? The overall picture as of July 1, 2014 seems overwhelming. We cast ballots on behalf of clients at 626 company meetings on a total of 7,657 items.
Most ballot items are put forth by management. Some are “routine,” but others are crucial management issues:
Election of Board Members. 6,730 of all ballots cast were votes on individual directors. We evaluate the board slate carefully, and vote against management if the slate does not meet our standard for diversity and/or if individual candidates lack independence, support unacceptable executive compensation packages, and fail other criteria. This year we voted against management recommendations 69% of the time. Lack of board diversity was the most common reason.
Advisory Vote on Executive Compensation. "The median pay package for the country's top 200 executives was $15.1 million last year," according to Equilar, up 16% from 2011. In spite of this, most shareholders continue to vote in favor of bloated compensation packages. Not First Affirmative. We voted against management on this issue over 75% of the time.
Shareholders who meet ownership eligibility requirements can file proxy resolutions on a wide range of environmental, social, and governance issues. First Affirmative filed 11 resolutions on behalf of clients this year, and also voted on over 325 proposals. Some highlights:
Environmental. We voted in favor of 84% of 57 environmental resolutions. Most of these resolutions asked for companies to report on sustainability and climate change impact.
Social. 74 of the 112 proposals addressing social concerns asked for lobbying and political spending disclosure. We filed 4 of these proposals and voted in favor of 73.
Governance. These proposals cover a wide range of issues impacting how companies are run. We voted in favor of 73% of the 208 governance proposals. Crucial issues included asking companies to separate the CEO and Chairman of the Board positions, instituting “majority voting” for board of director elections, and allowing shareholders to call special meetings.
At First Affirmative, we understand that the ways we save, spend, and invest can dramatically influence both the fabric and consciousness of society. We believe that in addition to the benefits of ownership, investors bear responsibility for the impact our money has in the world. Are you making conscious decisions about the impact of your consumer purchase and investment decisions?
Posted: July 14, 2014