UK - Tensions between institutional investors and big business has made the UK a world leader in corporate governance, Isis Asset Management claims.
Isis – which last week published its annual voting and governance report for 2003 – dismissed industry calls for calm, claiming the high level of dialogue was already reaping rewards.
Last month, the Confederation of British Industry held peace talks with the Investment Management Association in a bid to end “finger pointing” between the two sides.
But Isis head of governance and socially responsible investment Karina Litvack said the increase in shareholder activism in the UK was delivering results.
She said: “The calls for calm to which we have been treated recently from various industry spokesmen don’t reflect what is happening in the trenches. As any overworked practitioner will tell you in this busy voting season, the two sides have always talked and are doing a better job than ever before.”
But Litvack acknowledged that – based on yearly voting patterns – increased dialogue had not prevented heightened conflict.
Last year, Isis voted against management on 8% of occasions (1118 times) up from 5% in 2002. Support on remuneration issues fell 9 percentage points to 65%.
But director of governance Richard Singleton claimed the figures hid “huge gains” in the corporate governance arena.
He said: “The simple reason for the rising ‘no votes’ is that governance practitioners have succeeded in raising the bar in recent years. As an industry we have become more forthright in expressing our concerns.”
Isis votes on remuneration showed British companies to be among the world leaders for meeting best practice with only 20% of reports opposed, compared to 50% in the US and 44% in France.
Isis predicted the coming year would see greater “convergence” in corporate governance codes across the globe, as differences in approach begin to disappear.
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