Audit market distorted and restricted says OFT

The UK’s competition watchdog, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has concluded that the audit market is not competing effectvely and is now considering a referal to the Competition Commission.

Taking a lead from the House of Lords Economic Affairs select Committee’s work on audit, the OFT has decided that there are “reasonable grounds for suspecting that there are features of the market that restrict, distort or prevent competition in the UK”.  … Read the rest

Investors take aim at US classified boards

Fourteen companies in the US S&P 500 have agreed to repeal their classified board status thanks to the joint engagement efforts of The State Board of Administration of Florida (the “SBA”), the investment manager of the Florida Retirement System, the American Corporate Governance Institute (the “ACGI”) and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.… Read the rest

Hammerson shock vote loss

Short-dated EGMs – don’t ban them, fix the voting

Pity poor Hammerson plc who last week became the first FTSE 100 company  in many years to lose a routine resolution because it failed to achieve the necessary majority. We say “routine” because, for UK shareholders at least, calling EGMs on 14 days notice is completely non-contentious, provided they are not used for frivolous business (the introduction of a new LTIP, for example).… Read the rest

Herbie votes again?

Procedures for voting at the upcoming AGM of Volkswagen AG have raised a few eyebrows at Manifest today (Tuesday 12th April).

Unashamedly putting the Shareholders’ Rights Directive (SRD) record back on the record player, and turning the volume up to 11, (and just checking it wasn’t April 1st again) we were somewhat surprised, to say the least, to find that foreign shareholders of VW’s shares are still required to physically sign a proxy form in order to appoint and instruct a proxy to vote their shares.… Read the rest

Commission consults on an EU corporate governance framework

The European Commission released the eagerly-awaited Green Paper on Corporate Governance this week. It follows on from the Green Paper in June 2010 on Corporate Governance in Financial Institutions, as a result of a strong response pointing out that many of the corporate governance reforms discussed in the FI context were relevant more generally.… Read the rest

Vote Tapping. Issuers, please – Just Say “No”

Just Say No

Here at the Manifest blog we try to keep a balance of news and stories for the informed Stewardship community – which includes shareholders and issuers. Today’s piece is addressed directly to the issuer community. It’s a simple message: when it comes to buying vote data, please  Just Say “No”.… Read the rest

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