RI Governance & Engagement, May 19: Investors target companies over human trafficking, slavery

RI’s regular review of governance and engagement news

A coalition of institutional investors from the 300-member $100bn Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility are sending a statement to 25 target companies calling on them to make eradicating human trafficking and modern day slavery in their supply chains a top priority. The statement will be sent to high profile companies in the apparel, agriculture, food & beverage, travel & tourism, technology and retail sectors. Announcement

Canadian mining firm Goldcorp says a shareholder proposal calling on it to suspend operations of its Marlin mine in Guatemala was defeated with 94% of shareholders voting against the motion at its annual meeting in Vancouver this week. “The voting results reflect management’s consistent position that the Company is conducting business in a responsible manner which contributes to the sustainable prosperity of communities,” Goldcorp said.

New York City Comptroller John Liu has announced a victory in his effort to get more disclosure of companies’ political donations. He pointed to the vote at Sprint Nextel which showed 53% of votes at its annual shareholder meeting support the New York City Pension Funds’ proposal for transparency on its political contributions. “It is one of the largest majorities ever recorded on the issue,” Liu said. Announcement

“The world’s corporate reporting system is at risk,” according to a new report. “The future of corporate reporting is at a critical point– its ability to evolve and meet business and society’s changing needs will be essential if the threat of future systemic risk is to be minimised,” say the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, PwC, and think tank Tomorrow’s Company. Their report is called Tomorrow’s Corporate Reporting: A Critical System at Risk

Investors in offshore oil drilling contractor Transocean, one of the companies embroiled in the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year, have refused to discharge the company’s directors of liability over events in 2010. Shareholders voted against the company’s proposal calling for directors and senior management to be discharged at Transocean’s annual shareholder meeting in Cham, Switzerland on May 13.CalPERS, the largest US pension fund, has outlined a plan to exit its investments connected to Sudan and Iran. The $236bn fund said the move was in response to sanctions by the US, United Nations and European Union which prompted the withdrawal of several large oil and energy companies. CalPERS once had up to $2bn invested in 47 companies in the two countries – compared to just $160m in only eight companies now. Link
Peace organisation IKV Pax Christi has called for Royal Dutch Shell to suspend its operations in trouble-torn Syria with immediate effect. “In Syria it is impossible for Shell to ensure that it is not involved in human rights violations,” the group said, adding that it has commissioned a detailed report of the oil major’s activities in the country from Profundo economic research.

French activist shareholder PhiTrust has expressed its dismay following the recent annual general meeting of oil giant Total. It says the company has demonstrated a lack of transparency and failed to respect the rights of its shareholders over disclosures about its involvement in tar sands operations in Alberta, Canada. PhiTrust fears a “culture of autism” at the firm.

Corporate governance expert Edward Waitzer, Senior Partner in Stikeman Elliott and chair of Corporate Governance at York University is to present a lecture Corporate Governance: Challenging Basic Assumptions on May 26. It’s hosted by the Hennick Centre for Business and Law at Toronto’s York University.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has issued a new report showing that the largest mutual funds – including Vanguard, BlackRock, ING and Lord Abbett – are the least likely to use proxy votes to align executive pay with performance. The report Tipping the Balance? Large Mutual Funds’ Influence upon Executive Compensation analysed 26 of the largest mutual fund families’ voting patterns on compensation proposals in 2010.

Lloyds Banking Group’s annual general meeting this week saw 8.1% of votes cast against approving the directors’ remuneration report for 2010. Announcement