Thursday, 16 September 2010

Voting disclosure - not working

Here's what Ed Davey said to the ABI conference yesterday about the Stewardship Code:
Crucially, the Code also encourages public disclosure of shareholders’ voting activities. Voting at company meetings is one of the most effective ways of providing long-term stewardship – I believe it is therefore important that all institutional investors disclose their voting records.

Placing these decisions on the public record boosts transparency and aids scrutiny. These in turn are the bedrock of effective corporate governance.

No surprise that I agree with the position. I also think this is an easy target for the Coalition (alright, I really mean the Lib Dems) if they want to demonatrate they take this ownership stuff seriously.

Voluntary disclosure is not working. At work we did a sweep of publicly disclosed voting data fairly recently to try an identify some trends at a certain group of companies. We looked at dozens of asset managers but less than half of them disclosed any data at all (even the most basic headline stats).

More important for the user, obviously, is the ability to compare voting decisions. That requires the disclosure of... err... actual voting decisions. Of those voting decisions we sought, we were able to find less than 25%.

In the US, where disclosure is mandatory, there are loads of reports on trends in fund manager voting. In the UK similar analysis is simply not possible. The TUC does the only comparative analysis and this is hampered by the fact that most fund managers don't participate.

But there is that reserve power sitting in the Companies Act - why not use it?

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