RI Governance & Engagement, June 9: NY Common tables sustainabililty proposal at Freeport

RI’s regular review of governance and engagement news

The New York State Common Retirement Fund has tabled a proposal for the Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold annual shareholder meeting on June 15. The fund is calling for an independent director with environmental expertise to sit on the board of the mining firm. The company is opposing the motion. Proxy

Proxy firm Glass Lewis is calling for more board independence at Toyota Motor Corp. in the wake of a series of global recalls, lawsuits and “multiple regulatory investigations”. The Japanese auto giant holds its AGM on June 17.

Institutional investor groups in the US have contributed to a Dodd-Frank related consultation into proposed new rules on incentive-related pay at banks. Respondents include the Council of Institutional Investors, California pension giant CalPERS and labour groups AFLCIO and AFSCME (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees). The consultation was launched by the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal bodies in April. Replies were sought by the end of May and comments are available here.

A proposal from the New York City Pension Funds calling on US retail giant Wal-Mart to require suppliers to publish reports on human and workers’ rights gained around 1.9% support at the company’s annual meeting on June 3. Wal-Mart added in a statement that a proposal on gender identity gained 10.1% backing while a call for a report on political contributions had 12.6% support. The proposal on climate change risk disclosure had 1% support.

The Swedish government has set up inquiry into the future of the AP buffer funds, some of the world’s most influential responsible investors, according to a report in IPE. And the authorities are also reportedly unhappy with the way the funds have voted on executive pay at investee companies.The Singapore Exchange (SGX) has launched a consultation on proposed amendments to its listing rules to enhance shareholder engagement, encourage participation at general meetings and increase disclosure of voting outcomes. “SGX is of the view that communication and engagement of shareholders by listed companies are important components of good governance,” it said. The consultation paper will be available on the SGX website until June 17.

Harrington Investments’ proposal calling for the formation of a board committee on sustainability at Google was defeated by 8.4m votes to 778.2m at the company’s shareholder meeting on June 2. The search engine giant had opposed the motion. Voting results

Internet giant Yahoo! Inc. is facing a vote on its human rights policies in China at its annual shareholder meeting on June 23. The motion, filed by California-based private shareholder Jing Zhao, calls for a ban on information technology products or technologies to “authorities in China and other repressive countries that could contribute to human rights abuses”. Proxy

The US authorities are considering forcing companies to rotate their auditors. “The Board is prepared to consider all possible methods of addressing the problem of audit quality — including whether mandatory audit firm rotation would help address the inherent conflict created because the auditor is paid by the client,” said Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Chairman James Doty in a speech.

CalPERS and CalSTRS have been asked by California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer to develop formal policies supporting shareholder initiatives to require full disclosure of corporations’ political spending. Lockyer, who sits on both funds’ boards, said in a letter: “As fiduciaries, it’s our duty to ensure investors have the information they need to accurately evaluate a firm’s profitability and long-term sustainability.”