RI Governance & Engagement, Jan. 12: CalSTRS votes against entire Aberdeen AM board

RI’s regular review of governance and engagement developments

The $146.2bn (€114bn) California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) has voted against all the directors at funds firm Aberdeen Asset Management’s forthcoming annual general meeting, according to the fund’s voting disclosures. UN Principles for Responsible Investment signatory Aberdeen holds its AGM on January 19 and CalSTRS has voted against all 13 board candidates.

South Africa: the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), the ZAR1.032trn (€97.4bn) state asset manager, has said it would increase its engagement with Wal-Mart controlled domestic retailer Massmart if there is evidence it has breached the UN Global Compact, according to reports. The Independent Online said PIC has a 6.6% stake in Johannesburg-listed Massmart; it follows Dutch pension fund ABP’s exclusion of Wal-Mart earlier this month.

The Council of Institutional Investors (CII) has become the first client of new “say-on-pay” analysis software from Equilar. The California-based firm said the $3trn US investor group has signed up for its new Pay-For-Performance Analytics suite, which uses an algorithm to identify peer companies with a “realizable pay methodology using long term incentive payouts”. Link
The Association of BellTel Retirees, which represents 230,000 retirees of US telecoms giant Verizon, says it is “highly distressed” by reports the company failed to disclose $20m in additional compensation it paid out to former chief executive Ivan Seidenberg in 2009 and 2010 alone.

A new study from Harvard Law School has looked at the impact on company value of the landmark Citizens United legal ruling which permitted firms’ political spending. “Overall, the results are inconsistent with politics generally serving shareholder interests, and support proposals to require disclosure of political activity to shareholders,” finds John Coates, Professor of Law and Economics. The paper is ‘Corporate Politics, Governance, and Value Before and After Citizens United’. Link*Friends of the Earth Europe has released* a report looking at the roles of European financial institutions including pension funds in commodities futures investment, which have been accused of contributing to global food price spikes in 2008 and 2011. The report, Farming money: how European banks and private finance profit from food speculation and land grabs, includes Dutch pension funds ABP and PGGM.

All eight board candidates at US software firm Intuit have been voted down by the Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) and the Calvert Social Index and Social Investment funds. Intuit holds its annual meeting on January 19.

CBIS and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have backed a shareholder proposal calling for chemicals giant Monsanto to report on the financial risks or operational impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The company, which holds its AGM at its Creve Coeur Campus in Missouri on January 24, is advising shareholders to vote against the motion. Monsanto proxy

Greenpeace Switzerland is planning later this month to confer the ‘Public Eye Awards’ for the “worst cases” of contempt for the environment and human rights. The six nominated companies are Barclays, Freeport McMoRan, Samsung, Tepco, Brazil’s Vale and Swiss-based Syngenta. Link

Private meetings between corporate executives and investors help some investors “make more informed trading decisions”, according to new research. What are We Meeting For? The Consequences of Private Meetings with Investors has been compiled by David Solomon of the University of Southern California and Eugene Soltes of Harvard Business School. It is based on records of all one‐on‐one meetings between senior management at a mid-cap New York Stock Exchange-listed firm and investors.
Custodian Bank of New York Mellon is in talks with the US Attorney’s Office in New York to resolve a civil lawsuit alleging it overcharged customers on foreigg exchange deals, according to the Financial Times. The FT said New York suit is seeking to recover more than $2bn.