US - Proxy season shareholder activism has seen two of the US' largest groups of institutional investors pressing for stringent controls on executive pay and parity in workplace rights for homosexual workers.
The five pension funds, including the New York City Employees Retirement System (NYCERS), NYC Police Pension Fund and NYC Teachers Retirement System (TRS) have combined assets in excess of US$110bn (€74bn).
Scott Stringer, trustee of NYCERS and president of the borough of Manhattan, said: "I have pledged to do everything in my power to ensure that the system's $42bn is invested in companies that reflect fair and equitable employment practices.
"Discrimination based on sexual or gender orientation is no more defensible than bias based on race, sex or religious belief. This is a great opportunity for some of the world's largest corporations to take a stand that is both good for business and the right thing to do."
The pension funds have a combined investment of $2.2bn in the companies. So far, a quarter of companies petitioned have agreed to adopt the proposals.
The actions were supported by NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is also a trustee of the NYC Fire Department Pension Fund and the NYC Police Pension Fund.
Meanwhile, the American Ferderation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) which represents over 70 institutional investors with combined assets of $1trn continued to push for shareholder oversight of executive pay and remuneration.
The proposal seeks to give shareholders an advisory vote at companies where "pay has been excessive or where there has been a perceived misalignment between pay and performance over the past three to five years".
Gerald McEntee, president, AFSCME, said: "Shareholders want CEOs to be paid for their long term performance. We are in the middle of a sub-prime mortgage crisis where some failing CEOs are walking away with hundreds of millions of dollars. That makes no sense, and we think giving shareholders a vote on CEO pay will help to stop it."
As Global Pensions has previously reported, AFSCME has been a vocal critic of companies such as Countrywide Financial - currently the defendant in a class-action lawsuit over allegations of material mis-statements and omissions regarding its lending practices, and other aspects of its business and finances, and the artificial inflation of the price of the company's securities.
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