Glass Lewis acquires French proxy firm Proxinvest

Influential proxy adviser also publishes 2023 guidance, including provision on shareholder proposal proponent disclosure, which could help address anti-ESG resolution confusion.

US proxy giant Glass Lewis has acquired Proxinvest, the France-based adviser that provides coverage of French and European companies for investors. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed. 

Proxinvest, which was founded in 1995, is the only proxy adviser operating in France. It will remain a wholly owned subsidiary of Glass Lewis following the acquisition, which is effective from 1 December.  

The move is the latest in a string of deals in the proxy advisory space in recent years and adds to Glass Lewis’s European footprint, following its acquisition of the clients of Spanish corporate governance and technology company Alembeeks last year and German-based advisor IVOX in 2015.  

In May 2021, Banque Hottinguer founder and president Jean-Philippe Hottinguer acquired a stake in Proxinvest. Hottinguer joined the board of Proxinvest in June 2020 when the board’s chair, Alain Demarolle, acquired a controlling stake in the adviser.   

Earlier that year, Glass Lewis itself was sold by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board and Alberta Investment Management Corporation to private equity firm Peloton Capital Management and Canadian entrepreneur Stephen Smith.  

In 2020, Glass Lewis’s rival ISS was sold to Deutsche Börse by private equity firm Genstar. 

Glass Lewis said the acquisition of Proxinvest “demonstrates increased commitment to its growing client base in the European market”. 

Existing Proxinvest clients will gain “immediate” access to Glass Lewis products and services such as proxy recommendations on companies and its voting platform.  

Glass Lewis and ISS dominate the proxy advisory space. Historically, ISS has been the more progressive when it comes to ESG-based shareholder proposals and votes, but there have been signs of a shift in recent years. For instance, Glass Lewis – in contrast to ISS – opposed the climate plans of big emitting Australian firms Woodside this year and BHP in 2021. 

Glass Lewis was an early supporter of racial equity audit proposals, whereas ISS recommended votes against resolutions at big US banks last year. 

This year has also seen the two big advisers diverge on tax transparency proposals, with Glass Lewis supporting one at online giant Amazon and ISS opposing it.  

2023 ESG voting guidelines 

Glass Lewis also recently published its 2023 ESG voting guidelines, which included a warning that it “may recommend voting against responsible directors” where there is a lack of disclosure or board level accountability on climate change at firms exposed to “climate risk stemming from their own operations”. 

Another addition to the guidance is that Glass Lewis will also “generally” recommend a vote against governance committee chairs at US firms that do not disclose the identity of filers of shareholder proposals going to a vote in their proxy statements.

Anti-ESG shareholder proposals – those filed by conservative groups that mimic sincere proposals but have a contrary aim – are a growing phenomenon in the US. Disclosing the identity of a filer in the proxy statement would give shareholders greater insight on the motivation of the proponents.