Earlier this week, more than 37 per cent of investors voted against Standard Life Aberdeen’s proposal to convene future shareholder meetings remotely, marking the first significant revolt against a virtual shareholder meeting by a UK company this year.
In the US, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, whose members include frequent shareholder proposal filers such as the Mercy sisters, has been keeping track of problems at companies’ virtual shareholder meetings. Last month, ICCR wrote to AT&T to criticise the telecom group for not allowing shareholders to present proposals at its virtual meeting.
Mary Minette, director of shareholder advocacy at the Mercy Investment Services, described other company blocking tactics. Pilgrim’s Pride, one of the largest US poultry producers, actually stuck to an in-person shareholder meeting that did not have a call-in option, she told Moral Money.
“This is a meat company that has some really significant problems in their response to the coronavirus,” Ms Minette observed.
Intel has run close to a “model” virtual meeting, said Tim Smith at Boston Trust Walden. He also applauded ConocoPhillips for its virtual meeting. “There is a spectrum here” from companies trying to do the best they can to those that are not, he said.
Pesky technical glitches have also impeded meeting attendance, several investors said.
“There have been significant examples of shareholders being quite inconvenienced in terms of trying to actually attend the meeting,” Mr Smith said.