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Straight Shooting with Financial Firms
By Laura Isanuk

An Insider's Look at Presenting a Shareholder Resolution

With the 2016 Proxy voting season nearly over, we wanted to highlight our experiences presenting resolutions at a selection of annual meetings.  In the past companies have not been the most welcoming to our community. They cannot prevent our resolution from taking place, but when the meeting happens we were often refuted or even ignored. While management today still rarely supports these resolutions (for if they do it is likely withdrawn before it goes to a vote), we are beginning to see a change in how they accept our engagement. You will read some of this variety below. A few of the resolutions recounted were filed by First Affirmative, but others were filed by partner organizations, including network advisors. We are proud to be part of such a dedicated community with a combined mission of challenging great companies to become even greater.

Straight Shooting with Financial Firms

By Jan Bryan

Wells Fargo Flickr 110816I presented at Wells Fargo, asking the company to provide a report on its state and federal lobbying expenditures, including indirect funding of lobbying through trade associations, and support for other tax-exempt organizations.  Lots of suits and white hair both on the board and in the room.

When I arrived I was told to connect with a specific person so she could escort me into the meeting.  I was seated in a specific area near the other shareholder proposal presenter. There was an undercover policemen seated next to the other presenter and me as part of the security detail. The CEO shook my hand before the meeting – I wonder if he already knew that I would be presenting a challenging resolution? The start of the meeting came across as a somewhat congratulatory, "we are great", pep rally and part business, but there was little in-depth insight as to what is going on in the company.  After that they called the shareholder presenters' names and I stood up to read my statement. I had just three minutes to present.  The CEO refuted the issues I presented saying it simply was not the case, as well as those of the other resolution. It surprised me that, after my speech and the final resolution, the CEO asked the attendees if there were any questions relating to the resolutions. There was silence.  Both proposals brought up important issues and so the lack of evident curiosity from other shareholders seemed odd.

The meeting lasted about an hour. It felt very "pro-forma." The vote for the resolution was 11% which was expected by the filer, Trilium Asset Management, due to loss of support from the proxy voting systems, such as ISS and Glass Lewis.  With so many advocacy firms using these systems to vote their proxies, many default to what the system recommends. This can be critical in gaining momentum for a resolution.  Trillium is currently re-evaluating its priorities with the company to determine if re-filing or focusing on another topic is of greater importance.

First Affirmative understands that the ways we save, spend, and invest can dramatically influence both the fabric and consciousness of society. Are you making conscious decisions about the impact of your consumer purchase and investment decisions?

NOTE: Mention of specific companies or securities should not be considered an endorsement or a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Posted: August 11, 2016