We need to change the system so shareholders who hold on to their shares for longer are rewarded with greater rights.
As I wrote previously, while I'm not opposed to look at differential shareholder rights we need to be aware of the downsides. Greater rights for long-term holders strengthens the position of Rupert Murdoch at Sky, Mike Ashley at Sports Direct, and index-trackers. Plus I am realistic - there would be practically zero support for this reform from mainstream investor and corp gov bodies.
Which raises the bigger question - what's the point? If Labour is going to intervene in company law issues, potentially aggravating issuers and/or investors in the process, I see no value in pursuing something so utterly weedy. I really question whether differential rights for shareholders would have any meaningful impact on the short-term pressures on companies (this is leaving aside the deeper issues of whether companies really are too short-termist, and, if they are, whether shareholders are to blame). So really what's the point?
I ended up feeling the same about putting employees on rem comms, which has much more going for it as something for Labour to champion in my view. If we're going to aggravate executives by introducing another voice into corp gov, why not put employees on boards? Just putting on the committees that set exec pay seems like a massive missed opportunity (and just giving employees a role in execs' pay seems even more likely to wind them up while not giving employees an influence over bigger issues).
So, in my view, Labour should either start floating some significant reforms that might change the direction of travel, or stop talking about it. I see no point in talking up short-termism and its effect on corporate priorities as a major public policy issue and then coming out with featherweight responses.
There are things that Labour could move that could be distinctive, change the corp gov settlement in the UK and start tackling market distributions. Reinvigorating collective bargaining, promoting employee ownership and representation on boards, changing directors' duties (something Byrne did touch on), enfranchising asset owners (rather than managers) and stripping out investment costs are some obvious things. But these need to be pushed together as a package of reforms with serious intent.
Picking a couple of individual, inoffensive (and ineffective) policies just to do *something* around company law because some companies moan about short-termism is not worth the effort.