UK - Disagreements between the Universities Superannuation Scheme and the NAPF over shareholder activism were highlighted at a recent conference.
USS corporate governance adviser Daniel Summerfield used the appointment of James Murdoch – son of BSkyB chairman, Rupert – as chief executive as a case study of a company not taking shareholder concerns seriously.
He told delegates at the NAPF’s Corporate Governance conference, the USS publicly argued against the appointment ahead of November’s annual general meeting and persuaded US shareholders to vote “against”.
However, at the AGM a number of major shareholders voted for the appointment.
Summerfield said the vote in favour was “ratified by the NAPF” and this gave out the signal that shareholders accepted the company’s poor corporate governance performance.
But NAPF corporate governance strategic adviser Geoff Lindey said it was “unacceptable” to suggest the NAPF had ratified the appointment.
And he pointed out that “not everyone shared USS’s views”.
He added: “Our view differed to USS’s but that is one of the strengths of UK corporate governance – shareholders have the right to their own view. We judged that this was a vote we were bound to lose and we did not want to go down fighting but tried to play a longer game.”
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