Saturday, 19 January 2008

Tories, unions and corporate governance

I was interested by this piece on A Very Public Sociologist about a policy report from the Centre for Policy Studies on trade union funding for Labour. I don't really pay the CPS any attention as they don't really have any influence at present, although I did read an interesting-ish paper with their imprint about the performance of the stockmarket under Labour governments (guess what - it's not been great). You can download it from their website here if you search for the author John Littlewood.

Anyway, what caught my eye in the AVPS post about the paper on unions was the name of one of the authors - Jonathan Djanogly - who is MP for Huntingdon and shadow DBERR minister. Judging by his website and the CPS pamphlet he really isn't that keen on unions.

Now I've never met the bloke, but his name has popped up on my radar a few times in the past. I know he is involved with the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Governance Group (which doesn't look to have enough Labour members!). But why I really remember him is because of his involvement in the battle over disclosure of voting records by institutional investors. The Tories opposed the Government's limited intervention - taking a reserve power in the Companies Bill that could mandate disclosure, but not using it, yet. They even managed - with the aid of Lib Dems - to defeat the Government in Lords over this and get the relevant clause taken out, but it was subsequently reinserted.

Notably he took the industry arguments hook, line and sinker - mandatory disclosure would damage engagement etc. He even managed to get in a quick dig at the unions:

On one side stand the CBI and many institutional investors who resent being forced to disclose how they vote, and on the other stand the Government, who frequently appear to be taking orders on clause 1241 from the trade unions. (from Hansard see column 1031)


I had to chuckle when I saw this given that at the time I was working for the unions trying to get mandatory disclosure. The idea that we could just tell the Government what to do on this issue is literally laughable. And given the significant effort that the industry put into trying to keep their voting a secret I think Labour deserves a bit of credit to sticking to its guns (though I still think they should have just made it mandatory). Incidentally if you keep reading that bit of Hansard he goes on to name two fund managers who currently disclose their voting. Hermes is one, have a guess who the other is - £415,500 if you get it right...

Has a voluntary approach worked? I don't think so. Still only a small minority of fund manages disclose voting. I can only think of one - Baillie Gifford - that has started disclosing since the reserve power came in. And according to Mr Djanogly if you don't like it that's your problem -

An open and transparent institution is likely to be a successful one, but if an institution wishes to maintain secrecy with its investors, that should be its choice, and we should respect that. People do not have to invest with it.

3 comments:

Charlie Marks said...

A good CPS pamphlet is the one by Matt Qvortrup on citizens' initiatives...

Tom P said...

seriously?

Charlie Marks said...

Yeah, seriously. I got the pamphlet in PDF somehow, and have reformatted it and put it online:

http://rebellionsucks.googlepages.com/ssp.htm