Shareholders care little about Audit says House of Lords

“The Big Four’s domination of the large firm audit market in the UK is almost complete: in 2010 they audited 99 of the FTSE 100 largest listed firms, which change auditors every 48 years on average. It is clearly an oligopoly with all the attendant concerns about competition, choice, quality and conflict of interest.… Read the rest

Responsible NEST building

The UK’s new default retirement system, NEST, may not have invested a single penny in contributions but when it does, is determined to be a good Steward on behalf of the nation’s investors.

At a presentation to launch NEST’s Statement of Investment Principles last week, chairman Lawrence Churchill confirmed that, in addition to offering Ethical and Sharia compliant fund options for savers, NEST will become a signatory of both the UK Stewardship Code and the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment.… Read the rest

La langue de la diplomatie (the language of diplomacy)

Over the same weekend that the UN wrestled with the question of whether to intervene in the internal affairs of Libya, the French financial markets regulator, the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), issued a stunning piece of surprise, summary intervention in the proxy advisory market.… Read the rest

Let’s not do that – we can’t ask the shareholders in time!

Debate at the recent meeting of the European Corporate Governance Forum (ECGF) on the subject of related party transactions, ahead of the publication of a statement on the subject, underlined again the problems faced by European companies in effectively communicating with their shareholders on a key strategic issue.… Read the rest

Showdown at Actelion throws spotlight on complex Swiss voting procedures

(c) Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd

The long-running spat between Swiss pharmaceutical company Actelion and major shareholder Elliott Advisors comes to a head at the forthcoming GM on the 5th May. Which gives us a timely opportunity to revist some of the problems shareholders face voting their Swiss shares.… Read the rest

Lagardère vote flawed – new evidence claims Wyser-Pratte

US activist investor Guy Wyser-Pratte is turning the heat up under Lagardère and claims to have new evidence proving that last summer’s board seat bid was hit by flawed voting procedures.

At stake is Wyser-Pratte’s attempt to shake up management and strategy at the publishing group whose share ownership structure gives CEO Arnaud Lagardère control over the group while owning less than 10 per cent of the share capital.… Read the rest

Doctor of Stewardship Wanted

It is often argued that poor governance structures prepared the ground for the financial crisis. The lack of shareholder engagement in particular is seen to have enabled banks to take on more and more risk. In response, the UK Financial Reporting Council issued the UK Stewardship Code which “aims to enhance the quality of engagement between institutional investors and companies to help improve long-term returns to shareholders and the efficient exercise of governance responsibilities”.… Read the rest

Share owners should give a XXXX says EU

“Don’t be British, be Australian” is the message from Claire Bury, the EU’s corporate governance official.

Speaking at the UK’s National Associate of Pension Funds investment conference in Edinburgh recently, Claire outlined the Commission’s approach to the forthcoming Governance Green Paper which will be launched in April.… Read the rest

Henderson EGM – two counts of votes to satisfy dual listing requirements

Update 14 March 2011: The Company’s legal advisors have confirmed to Manifest that all shareholders are entitled to vote on the single resolution to approve the transaction. The votes will be counted twice – the first time to satisfy the requirements of the special resolution and the UKLA Listing Rule Class 1 transaction.… Read the rest

Voting and the laws of unintended consequences

It would be fair to say that the importance of shareholder voting has enjoyed an increasingly higher profile in recent years, not least in response to the financial crisis. Just within the UK investment context, initiatives such as the Myners Principles, the Stewardship Code, the 2006 Companies Act, the Hedge Funds Standards Board Code, UCITS IV and of course the UN PRI all make various efforts to make voting more important or easier (or both).… Read the rest