RI Governance & Engagement, June 16: Call for Shell to exit Syria

RI’s regular review of governance and engagement news

Peace group IKV Pax Christi has called for Shell to cease its operations in Syria, arguing that the oil major is a “key associate” of the state oil company and that it is doing business with an elite that commits gross and systematic human rights violations. The campaigners say they will also target other companies such as Total. Link

The Florida State Board of Administration, with the aid of the American Corporate Governance Institute, has tabled a resolution at retailer Best Buy Co.’s annual meeting in Richfield, Minnesota on June 21 calling for annual director elections. “Such a change would enable shareholders to register their views on the performance of all directors at each annual meeting,” the SBA says in support. The company opposes the motion.

A proposal tabled by the Jewish Voice for Peace group calling for TIAACREF to engage with Caterpillar, Veolia, and Elbit Systems over their activities in Israel has not made it onto the agenda of the US retirement provider’s annual general meeting. The company’s AGM will be held on July 19 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The number of shareholder proposals on social issues at US company annual meetings has reached “historic highs” during the 2011 proxy season, according to Proxy Monitor. “Although no social policy proposal has passed over the past four years, the number of such proposals garnering support from at least 30% of shareholders is on the rise,” it says.

The Canadian Coalition of Good Governance (CCGG) released its first Shareholder Democracy Study at its annual meeting yesterday (June 15). It found that despite some progress “many leading Canadian companies have failed to accept the fundamental right of shareholders to be able to effectively vote for or against each individual director nominee”. As the end of 2010, 43% of big listed companies still had not adopted majority voting.

A new survey has found that although most UK firms are on track to meet the new Bribery Act’s deadline, many feel that they have not adequately prepared their top managers and directors for the new legislation. Thomson Reuters quizzed over 400 senior compliance officers, risk managers, internal auditors, lawyers and company secretaries. One of the biggest concerns was a lack of awareness at the board level over the impact of the Act.Extractives industry body the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has published a set of climate change principles, to ensure ICMM members contribute to the climate change challenge “while securing the continued competitiveness of the mining and metals industry in a future low carbon economy”.

Northwest & Ethical Investments, the Canadian asset firm, has tabled a resolution at Blackberry maker Research in Motion calling on the company to have a separate chairman and CEO. The company, which holds its AGM on July 12 in Waterloo, Ontario, says the proposal is “not in the best interest of the company or its shareholders”.

Superior Energy Services, the New Orleans-based oilfield services company, faces being removed from the Calvert Social Index as it no longer meets the Index’s standards for Workplace Safety, asset firm Calvert said. If approved, the deletion will take place in September 2011.

“Little by little, institutional shareholders are returning some power to public shareholders and balancing the allocation of power in corporations.” That’s the conclusion of a recent article by Amy Miller of law firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann (BLB&G) in The Advocate for Institutional Investors magazine.
Asset manger Henderson Global Investors says its SRI team engaged with approximately 75 companies on mostly environmental and social issues in 2010. Around half of the engagements were closed during the year, the remainder was ongoing. Of the completed engagements a total of 44% were considered successful and just 14% were deemed unsuccessful. Link

LBBW Asset Management, the funds arm of Germany’s Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, has ruled out investments in companies producing cluster munitions. It is working with researcher Oekom to compile a list of relevant manufacturers.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has welcomed the 43.7% shareholder support for his resolution seeking greater disclosure over hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) at Carrizo Oil’s annual meeting this month. He filed the motion as trustee of the $140.6bn New York State Common Retirement Fund which has a stake of around $11.1m in Houston-based Carrizo.