With the election of board directors too important to be considered routine, NYSE Rule 452 was amended to eliminate broker voting thereby removing typically management-friendly broker votes from director elections this year.
But if shareholder voting on the election of directors is viewed as a critical component of good governance, how do you get registered shareholders to vote?
The SEC has launched an investor-focused Web site to help consumers invest wisely and avoid fraud. The site, www.Investor.gov provides tools and information, a way to ask questions, research brokers and even the mission of the SEC in ensuring fairness in the markets. There’s a tab for proxy issues where the SEC explains “Your right to vote”, “Voting Your Shares”, “What You Should Do” and “How to Vote.”
Some companies see the opportunity to engage with shareholders. Peggy Foran of Prudential Financial and has taken a creative approach, offering retail shareholders who vote their proxies an environmentally correct tote with the Prudential logo. Or, the proxy-voting shareholder can also opt for a donation to a charity.
Not only will such a move encourage shareholders to vote but it signals the company’s true desire to engage with shareholders.
Navigating this proxy season will not be easy but companies that find creative ways to engage with their shareholders will improve their position and set the stage for the future.