RI Governance, Jan. 26: New proxy consultant launches in UK

RI’s regular round-up of govenrance and engagement news

A new proxy solicitation and shareholder communications consultancy has been launched in the UK. Boudicca Proxy Consultants is headed up by founder Sheryl Cuisia, a former Georgeson executive. Miguel Carrasco, also ex-Georgeson, is consulting partner. Former ISS Europe director David Dando is on board as a consultant. Link

Nine US companies are testing new key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess reputational risks and operational shortcomings associated with labour and human rights factors in their supply chains. The initiative was developed with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Harvard Law School’s Pension and Capital Stewardship Project1 with funding from the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) Institute. Link

US pension fund, the $131m (€110m) City of Westland Police & Fire Retirement System, has sued finance giant MetLife for allegedly misleading investors about its finances, according to a Bloomberg report. The fund has filed a proposed class action in US District Court in Manhattan on behalf of MetLife shareholders.

Cairn Energy, the Edinburgh-based oil and gas firm, has withdrawn a resolution for its January 30 annual general meeting proposing a £2.5m share award to founder Sir Bill Gammell. The company said it “noted the comments received from several institutional shareholders and their representative bodies”. It shows shareholders can act on egregious pay “when they really want to” said research house Manifest.

More shareholder proposals are expected to be submitted by pension funds and unions in the US proxy season, says advisory firm Georgeson. It highlighted that funds now have a new partner, the American Corporate Governance Institute (ACGI), headed by noted shareholder rights advocate Lucian Bebchuk, the Harvard Law School Professor. Link

Moxy Vote, the venture capital-backed shareholder engagement platform, has announced that it has reached 100,000 users. “A few short hours ago, we got our 100,000th user,” it said yesterday. “Six digits, baby.” Link*Ethos, the governance firm owned by Swiss* pension funds, has released its 2012 proxy voting guidelines – with extra emphasis on environmental and social issues. The new guidelines stipulate that board proposals cannot be approved if they constitute a significant environmental or social risk. And boards cannot be approved when companies are involved in serious environmental accidents or when they are accused of serious violations of employee or supplier social rights.

There’s evidence that Canada’s largest pension funds are using say-on-pay votes “to distinguish acceptable practice from poor practice” according to commentary published by Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE). It says: “All participants in the Canadian market stand to benefit from an increase in shareholder discrimination on executive pay.”

The Monetary Board of the Philippines Central Bank has approved tougher corporate governance rules for banks, according to a report in the Manila-based Business World. The board has approved “a new set of enhanced standards on corporate governance in banks” bank governor Amando Tetangco was quoted as saying.

New York-based activist hedge fund MMI Investments is winding down, according to a Reuters report citing unnamed sources. MMI – run by Clay Lifflander and Jerome Lande – has been liquidating its portfolio, the report said, adding that representative were not available for comment.

A shareholder proposal on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) at Monsanto this week was defeated by 20.7m votes in favour vs. 340.6m against. “The shareowners did not approve the shareowner proposal presented at the meeting requesting a report on certain matters related to GMO products,” the firm said.

Michael Woodford, the former chief executive at troubled Japanese camera maker Olympus, is down to speak at the Council of Institutional Investors’ spring conference. The Shaping the Future event takes place in Washington on April 1-3.