Friday, 1 June 2012

Voting data doesn't tell you anything

That's something I've heard repeatedly over the past 10 years. Someone offered this fashionable opinion to me only last week as it happens. And I've heard it most often from asset managers, sometimes those whose voting record looks rather... well... weedy.

I am a complete geek about this issue, and in my spare time I've been rounding up a load more data from asset managers' disclosures. Some examples below, based on disclosures relating to the last couple of seasons, of how voting data doesn't tell you anything include - 
  • At least three well-known asset managers appear to be abstaining much less often on remuneration reports, and either voting for or against (and in practice voting against more often).
  • Most managers oppose 10% to 20% of remuneration reports at big PLCs.
  • Three well-known managers (not necessarily the same three as above) failed to back more than a quarter of the remuneration reports that I've looked at. 
  • In contrast two well-known managers supported 95% of the remuneration reports I looked at (and one of these two would be a real surprise to most people I suspect).
Clearly 2012 will mark a further change, and voting records will show some interesting trends. As we can already see in AGM results, some managers have turned up the heat (one big one in particular I suspect). But even before this year it is possible to see who the outliers are on both sides. If I can form a view of where various managers sit on the voting spectrum, I bet some smart IR and/or proxy solicitation people are alert to it too. No doubt knowledge of who the soft touches in the market are can underpin planning around key proposals.

Except, of course, that the votes tell you nothing, and the information is meaningless.

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