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RI Governance & Engagement, March 25: BP to meet with SRI investors

RI’s regular review of governance and engagement news

Oil giant BP is understood to be hosting a seminar for socially responsible investors in London on May 12, with a similar event planned for the US. The session – featuring senior executives Ian Smale, Bernard Looney and Mark Bly – will cover developments following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The European Commission’s forthcoming Green Paper on corporate governance could take in non-listed companies. Commission officials have stated that there will be a question in the consultation on whether it is appropriate for the proposals to go beyond listed companies, according to the minutes of a recent European Corporate Governance Forum meeting. The Internal Markets directorate is to unveil the paper on April 5, with a consultation running to July 22.
The £1.9bn (€2.1bn) East Sussex County Council pension fund has awarded a corporate governance overlay contract to F&C Asset Management, according to a contract award notice. F&C will provide voting and engagement – “with particular emphasis on environmental impact” – for the fund’s £1bn equity portolio.

The Autorité des Marchés Financiers, the French financial regulator, has issued a voluntary code for proxy voting advisors. The recommendations call for advisors to publish the details of their entire voting policy prior to the season and justify their advice with regard to previously disclosed voting policy. They also have to give issuers a preview of draft recommendations 24 hours before publication and include companies’ responses.

Ceres reports that, in response to shareholder requests, three leading electric utilities, Dominion, Southern and PPL, will expand reporting, disclosure and mitigation on water availability risks. Link

Royal Bank of Scotland has posted a Question & Answer document about its consultation with shareholders on remuneration here. “In early 2011, the Group consulted extensively with institutional shareholders and other stakeholders (including United Kingdom Financial Investments Limited) on its remuneration approach,” it says.

US socially responsible investment specialist Harrington Investments is divesting its entire holding in Chesapeake Energy Corp. because of its poor environmental record and its lack of accountability to shareholders, according to reports.The 10th annual Canadian Key Proxy Vote Survey, a project of the Columbia Institute, Fonds de solidarité (FTQ) and the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) has been released. “This survey delivers solid evidence that leading investment managers are using their voting power to push back against poor governance and undue deference to management,” said SHARE’s Director of Law and Policy Laura O’Neill. Link

There will be a consultative vote on the 2010 Compensation Report at Credit Suisse’s Annual General Meeting next month. The event will be held on April 29 in Zurich.

Only 6% of respondents to HQB Partners’ annual pre-AGM season Governance and Voting Survey said they would vote against a board for failing to meet diversity targets. The shareholder communications and governance advisory firm said its poll of institutional investors with more than €11trn in assets found that pay remains the dominant issue. Some 81% expected their engagement with companies to increase in 2011.

US investor group, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, has welcomed a move by Delta Airlines to adopt the Tourism Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, after an engagement programme. The investors including Christian Brothers Investment Services, say children are being trafficked in a $32bn black market business. Delta is the first airline to sign up to the campaign.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has upheld the New York City Pension Funds’ request that US banks launch independent reviews of their mortgage and foreclosure practices. The decision means the issue will get on to the ballot at the forthcoming AGMs of Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The SEC allowed JPMorgan Chase to remove the NY funds’ request from its proxy as other shareholders had filed a similar proposal. Link

The Florida State Board of Administration supported 93% of shareholder resolutions asking companies to publish sustainability reports in fiscal 2010, according to its 2011 Corporate Governance Report. It backed 20% of proposals on climate change and global warming and 85% of resolutions regarding greenhouse gas emissions.