September 20, 2022

Shareholder Meetings: No Time to Vote?

Jim McRitchie recently blogged about his review of a survey on virtual annual meeting practices conducted by the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility.  One of the questions asked by the survey was “How many seconds did shareholders have to vote after the last proposal was presented?” Jim says that the answer is “not many”:

The ICCR survey documents that 10 out of 31 companies allowed 0-10 seconds to vote at annual meetings after proposals were presented. 5 allowed up to 30 seconds. 6 allowed 50-60 seconds and 10 allowed 2 minutes or more to vote.

As someone who did annual meetings for public company clients for 35 years, I can’t say I’m surprised at the results. Pre-COVID, once you got outside the realm of the Fortune 500, it was the rare annual meeting that attracted more than a handful of people – and most of them were the company’s service providers. That meant that the top priority for the management & the company’s lawyers wasn’t shareholder engagement, but instead making sure that all the required legal boxes were checked off as quickly and painlessly as possible. That’s certainly how I approached the process.

I think this traditional approach is becoming increasingly obsolete as virtual or hybrid meetings become ever more prevalent. With many more eyes on what happens in the meeting than there used to be, fairness points like the one Jim raises will become an increasingly important factor in how investors perceive a company.

John Jenkins