RI Governance & Engagement, April 29: Robeco, Ethos, Coca Cola, RWE

RI’s regular review of governance and engagement news

Robeco, the Dutch asset manager with €149.6bn under management, says that around 30% of its engagement activities are now related to credit investments. And it added that it has a list of more than 80 companies that qualify for “enhanced engagement”, while its Responsible Investing unit has already started a dialogue with 21 of these companies “and this number will increase in 2011”. The remarks come as the firm released its first quarter results.

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the C $151.7bn (€107.9bn) Canadian investment giant, says that 12% of its total votes at company meetings in 2010 were against management proposals. According to the Caisse’s new 2010 annual report, that breaks down to 7% in Canada, 13% in the US and 12% international.

Swiss pension-fund owned shareholder advisory firm Ethos has put its weight behind Swiss biotech company Actelion in its boardroom battle with activist hedge fund Elliott Advisors ahead of its annual general meeting set for May 5. Ethos, which is owned by 113 institutional investors, reckons Elliott aims to take control of the company and change its strategy.

A shareholder proposal calling on the board of US energy firm Energen to prepare a report by on the environmental impacts of its hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” operations won 49.5% support at its shareholder meeting on April 27, according to consulting firm Strategic Counsel. The motion was submitted by Miller/Howard Investments.

Domini Social Investments’ shareholder proposal calling for Coca-Cola to review its use of potentially toxic Bisphenol-A from can linings won the support of 26% of votes cast at the drinks giants annual meeting in Atlanta. “We went from one out of five shareholders to one out of four and Coke keeps ignoring the concern of a significant number of shareholders,” Michael Passoff, campaign director of the As You Sow group told the Leader-Post.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has launched the Report or Explain Campaign Forum to encourage more companies to be transparent about their impacts on the world. The forum’s first campaign partners are: the Green Economy Coalition, the Unit for Corporate Governance in Africa, Lawyers for Better Business, SOMO, Calvert Investments, Manidis Roberts, IDEARSE and Net Balance Foundation. Link to GRI*Calvert Asset Management* and the Board of Pensions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have filed a proposal on board diversity at insurer American Financial Group for the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Cincinnati on May 12. The company is advising investors to vote against the motion.

The Association Française de la Gestion Financière, the French Asset Management Association, has released the ninth version of its Corporate Governance Code. “These recommendations set shareholder voting criteria for resolutions, notably for managers that are AFG members. They are not necessarily intended as a basis for new legislation,” it says. Link

Union Investment, the Frankfurt-based asset manager with €177bn in assets under management, is planning to launch an engagement service, according to reports. Union, whose institutional client base includes banks, pension funds, insurance companies, church organizations and foundations, will offer engagement for its institutional Spezialfonds clients, including proxy voting, according to IPE.com.

The Florida State Board Of Administration and the American Corporate Governance Institute have announced that they have contributed to board declassification in seven S&P 500 companies: Biogen Idec, Dean Foods, E*TRADE Financial, Fiserv, National Oilwell Varco, NVIDIA and Ross Stores. It follows the submission of shareholder proposals to repeal the classified boards at a number of companies’ 2011 meetings.

There was an almost 10% shareholder rejection of the remuneration report of UK banking Barclays at its annual general meeting this week. Barclays said the report for 2010 was approved by 90.3% of votes cast, while 9.7% voted. And its long-term incentive pay plan was opposed by 11% of votes.

VIP, the German Association of Institutional Shareholders reports that 29% of the 51% of shareholders at RWE, the German energy group, admitted to attendance at its April 20th AGM voted in favour of a resolution posited by Hermes, the UK fund manager, against a list of 10 shareholder candidates proposed to the board comprising four representatives from German municipalities, who hold about 25% of the shares, and including three politicians.

The International Integrated Reporting Committee will meet in New York on Friday 13th May in order to agree a discussion paper on integrated reporting which is due to be published for public consultation in June.
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