RI Governance & Engagement, Oct. 20: OTPP votes against News Corp.’s James Murdoch

RI’s regular Thusday review of corporate governance and engagement news

The C$107.5bn (€76.8bn) Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) will vote against News Corp. director James Murdoch at the media giant’s annual meeting in Los Angeles tomorrow (October 21). “We have concerns of the lack of oversight James Murdoch provided as Chair of News International during the ongoing phone hacking scandal. Given the negative impact the scandal has had on News Corp,” it said, “We consider our concerns serious enough to warrant a vote against the election of Mr. Murdoch.”

Proxy firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has opened the annual comment period for its 2012 proxy voting policies. It allows institutional investors, corporate issuers, and governance market participants to provide feedback while the policies are still in draft stage. The comment period ends on October 31.

Investors are to receive $285m from banking giant Citigroup, the Securities and Exchange Commission says. The SEC has charged the bank over its role in misleading investors about a $1bn collateralized debt obligation (CDO) tied to the US housing market at the height of the pre-financial crisis bubble.

The first FIR (French SIF)-Vigeo Awards have gone to chemicals group Rhodia, consumer products giant Unilever and media firm Vivendi for their responsible governance. Established for the first time this year, and awarded during France’s Socially Responsible Investment Week, the awards recognise companies demonstrating the most advanced integration of Corporate Social Responsibility within their corporate governance. Link

Société Générale, the French bank, has released its 2011 Women on Boards Report, produced by its SRI research team. The 38-page ‘Getting the Right Women on Board – Cherchez la Femme’ found that the 16 countries analysed have increased female board representation since 2008, but progress is slow. A “disheartening” 60% of the 778 companies reviewed still have one or no women on the Board (28% have zero).

The Financial Reporting Council, the UK watchdog, has launched the Financial Reporting Lab in a bid to bring together companies and investors to identify practical solutions to corporate reporting problems, such as the length and complexity of reports and accounts. Participants will include investors and representatives from a wide range of companies.The links and engagement between institutional shareholders, corporate directors and proxy advisers are explored in a new study from the Australian Institute of Company Directors. The Institutional Share Voting and Engagement report, conducted by Mercer, found a “failure to communicate” often results in a loss of goodwill all round.

Proxy advisory firm Glass, Lewis & Co has opened an office in Limerick, Ireland to help it serve institutional investors throughout Europe. The move takes Glass Lewis’s network of worldwide offices to five. “We look forward to working more closely with European investors, corporate issuers, regulators and standards-setting organisations,” said CEO Katherine Rabin.

Calvert Investments, the US sustainable fund firm, has recognised three carmakers – Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen for their leadership in environmental policies and practices, human rights and supply chain impacts. It comes in a new report, Calvert Investments Sustainability Performance Review – Automotive Industry, which reviews the environment, social, and governance (ESG) practices of leading automakers.

Today (October 21) is the deadline for signing up to an investor letter being organised by Canada’s Social Investment Organisation. The SIO is writing to the federal and provincial governments of Canada calling on them to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). It’s also calling for greater disclosure of payments made to governments by Canadian extractives firms.

Canadian gold mining firm Barrick Gold Corp. has settled a lawsuit against the authors and publishers of a book called Noir Canada, which made unsubstantiated claims about Barrick’s operations in Tanzania in 1996. Publisher Écosociété will cease publishing and reprinting Noir Canada and has made a “significant payment” to Barrick. Announcement

US investment fund Harris Associates has called for an independent investigation of photographic giant Olympus following accusations of financial wrongdoing, according to the Financial Times. Olympus fired CEO Michael Woodford last week; he told the FT he was ousted because he had threatened to disclose over $1.3bn in suspicious payments.