Saturday, 6 April 2013

HP directors leave, chair steps down - a successful union shareholder campaign

Hewlett Packard has been in a bit of a mess since the Autonomy takeover, and, in particular, the massive write-down it announced in relation to it. Shareholders have been increaasingly vocal in their criticism of the board, several of whom are still in place from the time of the Autonomy deal. 

Two weeks ago Hewlett Packard was hit by a serious push against three of its board members - chair Raymond Lane and directors John Hammergren and Kennedy Thompson. Lane saw a vote of over 40% against his re-election, and Hammergren and Thompson were re-elected with an even narrower margin. Then, this week, Lane announced that he was giving up the chair (but staying on the board) and Hammergren and Thompsonannounced they would leave the board entirely.

This is, clearly, a significant win for shareholders who felt that the board needed refreshing, though obviously there is more work to be done. The interesting thing to note is how much involvement the US unions had, through CtW Investment Group. In addition to pushing for Hammergren and Thompson to go, they were also active linking up HP shareholders. I don't think it's overselling to say that the outcome may not have been the same without TU involvement. (And if you're interested they are going after JP Morgan next.)

This kind of campaaigning takes a lot of work, but the HP example shows that you can get results. There's a lesson here for UK unions, and, now that we have TUSO on the scene, maybe we will see something similar develop here.

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