Proxy voting agency and corporate governance specialist Manifest has hit back at five trade bodies which called for the speedy introduction of electronic voting.
Manifest is furious with the groups has written to the top 200 pension funds in the UK, local authorities and fund managers to “set the record straight”.
Manifest is taking retaliatory action after a letter was sent to CRESTCo, the UK body responsible for settling trades on the Stock Exchange. The proxy voting agency has attacked the trade groups for “their involvement in attempting to direct the business activities of others”. This, it says, is “leading to a conflict of interest between their own commercial imperatives and the needs of their members for impartial and informed support”.
However, the trade bodies – the Association of British Insurers, the National Association of Pension Funds, the Fund Managers' Association, the Association of Investment Trust Companies and the Association of Unit Trust and Investment Funds – insist that the information presented CRESTCo was accurate.
Manifest managing director Sarah Wilson said: “It is important that trade associations represent the facts in a clear and unbiased way. It is not appropriate for them to make an issue out of something when there are commercial alternatives out there which are working.”
Manifest has expressed its concern with three statements made by the groups:
• Electronic voting suffered a setback when the sponsor of E-Vote, a commercial project, withdrew.
• Registrars and others require “encouragement” to implement electronic proxy voting.
• Written voting instructions pass from fund managers through custodians to the registrar creating a complex paper-chain which can easily break.Wilson added: “These three particular comments were so way off the mark that we really felt we had no choice. We really felt we had to take a stand.
The Fund Managers' Association’s deputy director general Julian Le Fanu believes Manifest is wrong.
He said: “One of the purposes of our letter to Nigel Wicks was to raise the profile of the whole issue of proxy voting and make people more aware of the importance of having an effective system of voting.”
PIRC’s proxy voting manager Paul Marsland said Manifest and the trade associations all have a common interest to improve voting levels. At the time of going to press, the trade bodies had not seen Manifest's letter.
The ABI declined to comment.
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