Sweden’s AP2 targets companies over lack of women executives

Fund also publishes AGM voting record for 2007/8.

AP2, the SEK227.5bn (€23bn) Second Swedish National Pension Fund, has launched a campaign to lobby companies which it believes are under representing women within their management and boards. The fund said it was taking the action after it conducted research of its index portfolio and found that for the first time in ten years the trend for a growing number of women to be appointed to executive and board positions had been broken. It said the proportion of women on corporate boards among its index companies had dropped from 19.3% to 18.6% while the number of female executives had remained unchanged at 13%.
AP2 said it would “initiate a dialogue” with companies in industry sectors that had the lowest such proportion of women executives in order to find out why. The fund did not say whether it would take subsequent action against the companies. AP2 currently has holdings in more than 2,200 foreign companies. The move by the Swedish fund bears similarities to a warning issued last year by the Norwegian government that it would legislate against companies that did not have equal numbers of male and female executives.
In an additional resume of its corporate governance activities in the year to the end of June 2008, AP2, said ithad voted at the annual general meetings (AGMs) of 115 companies in the year to June 2008.
The fund said it had voted in the AGMs of 64 foreign publicly-quoted companies, including collaborations with US pensions funds CalPERS, TIAACREF and Ceres, the US investor coalition, on shareholder rights issues in the US. Domestically, the fund voted at the AGMs of 51 Swedish publicly-quoted companies, including two instances where it voted against board proposals. The fund voted against plans to discharge the outgoing board of Carnegie, the Swedish banking group, from responsibility for their administration, in what it said was an attempt to “keep the doors open” on possible future legal action for damages. Carnegie’s board is currently considering legal action against its outgoing directors relating to the alleged overstatement of trading positions. AP2 said it had also voted against an incentive system at Lundin Petroleum, which it said lacked performance related criteria. Eva Halvarsson, chief executive of AP2, said the fund was also currently examining how different carbon emission credit systems worked and what their impact could be on the fund’s portfolio.