UK - Pension funds have praised Unilever for approaching institutional investors to ask why they failed to vote at its annual general meeting.
Unilever sent letters to 10 of its major investors asking why they failed to register to vote at the meeting.
An NAPF spokeswoman said it was important to ensure that companies voted at the meetings, but also that the votes were properly received and logged: “This is something we had identified as an issue as long ago as January 2001 when the NAPF-sponsored Newbold report was published. We have become concerned about the slow pace of progress in solving these problems with institutional investor voting.”
The Newbold report – written by a committee headed by headhunter Yve Newbold of Heidrick & Struggles – said it was the fiduciary responsibility of investors to vote at company meetings.
In the letter to the shareholders, seen by IPN’s sister publication, Professional Pensions, Unilever asked whether the investors had failed to vote for technical or policy reasons.
It said: “We believe it is important that our majority shareholders register their views and would welcome the chance to talk this issue through.”
It also asked for feedback on the new electronic proxy voting system from provider Crest.
A senior corporate governance adviser to one pension scheme commented: “It is part of a range of activities corporations are doing to challenge investors to show that they are engaging and voting intelligently.”
He added that the Derek Higgs report into the role of non-executive directors highlighted the importance of dialogue between shareholders and the board.
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