Tribute to the Gilbert Brothers, the Original Shareholder Advocates

We were delighted to see Broc Romanek’s tribute to the Gilbert Brothers, who were the founders of shareholder advocacy.

VEA Vice Chair wrote a tribute to the Gilberts for Slate after John Gilbert died.

The Gilberts are responsible for most of the rights shareholders now have (and mostly ignore). They persuaded the then-brand-new SEC to allow shareholders to circulate their criticism of management at company expense by submitting shareholder proposals that would be included on the company’s proxy. 

The Gilberts fought for shareholder approval of auditors, confidential voting to protect shareholders from coercion, cumulative voting to give minority shareholders the ability to elect one director to the board, and annual meetings held in cities that were conveniently located. The Gilberts were among the first to object to outrageous CEO pay packages. They had a lot of fun—after one corporate lawyer told John Gilbert that he should be in a circus, he started wearing a clown nose to the annual meetings. They made a lot of money, too. Their investment policy was simple: Never sell.

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