Church-based investor coalition the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) has expressed its “deep dissatisfaction” with oil major Shell’s decision to restrict its 2013 annual general meeting to shareholders who are present at its Dutch base in The Hague.
The AGM will be held on May 21 and unlike in previous years, non-Netherlands based shareholders will not be able to participate via a live audio-visual link. Shell says the decision follows feedback from shareholders as well as the low number of votes cast at its AGMs.
The ECCR, which filed shareholder resolutions at Shell’s AGMs in 1997 and 2006 over the Niger Delta and was instrumental in the tar sands motions at Shell and BP in 2010, said the move would limit the ability of UK shareholders to fully exercise their rights as company owners.
A proposal replacement event, a presentation in London a few days later, was “inadequate” as non-executive directors such as the chair of the remuneration committee would not be present. The lack of a live link would leave UK investors “disenfranchised”, the ECCR argued.
The group’s members include Church groups, faith-based investors, non-governmental organisations, and ethical fund management firms.It’s likely Shell would have faced a series of robust questions at the AGM on a range of issues.
“This retrograde step is being proposed precisely at a time when shareholders are being encouraged by the British government to take greater interest and responsibility for the governance of the companies which they own,” the ECCR said.
“Retrograde step when shareholders are being encouraged to take greater responsibility”
The company says it ditching the link following feedback from shareholders that the arrangement did not satisfy those present in either The Hague or London.
“Given this feedback, and a drop in the percentage of votes cast by shareholders present in London compared with the total votes cast at the meeting (approximately 0.005% at the 2012 AGM), it has been decided that there will not be an audio-visual link to a satellite meeting place in London this year,” Shell says. The AGM will be webcast on the day so shareholders can still follow proceedings.
Further details will be available in Shell’s AGM notice due on April 18.