SRI firm Zevin withdraws climate change voting proposal at T. Rowe Price

Investor will pursue engagement with Baltimore giant

Lead filer Zevin Asset Management has withdrawn a shareholder proposal on climate change and proxy voting at T. Rowe Price to pursue engagement on the issue at the $991bn Baltimore-based asset management giant.

Zevin and its co-filers had filed a proposal with T. Rowe Price in December calling on the company to issue a report on proxy voting policies and practices related to climate change.

They said T. Rowe Price’s public voting records showed “consistent” votes against the vast majority of climate-related and social resolutions at companies – “even when there is a strong case for support”. This was in contrast to peers such as Fidelity, Vanguard and BlackRock.

T. Rowe Price’s funds “appear reluctant to exercise proxy votes supporting shareholder proposals on climate and environmental risk”, the preamble to the proposal stated.

In a submission to the SEC, the company had argued that as a holding company the proposal did not apply to it.

Zevin withdrew the proposal earlier this month.

Director of Socially Responsible Investing Pat Miguel Tomaino told RI: “We withdrew the proposal to pursue engagement with T. Rowe Price through 2018 as the company moves to improve disclosure around proxy voting and climate risk.”He said that since Zevin and others began pressing the company on this issue, T. Rowe Price has hired a Director of Research For Responsible Investing [Maria Elena Drew, recruited in August last year from Goldman Sachs Asset Management]. It had also, he said, improved its ESG disclosures and provided additional training regarding ESG proposals and voting.

But he added: “We continue to believe that T. Rowe Price can do more to enact its commitment to address risks in its portfolios with thoughtful proxy voting, and we will work constructively for more improvement.”

An October 27 2017 letter from Tomaino to T. Rowe Price’s Corporate Secretary David Oestreicher included in the SEC correspondence said how he valued Head of Corporate Governance Donna Anderson’s account of the proxy voting process.

“It was encouraging to note that the company acknowledges the need for better public reporting on that process, on its views regarding material environmental and social issues, and on its reasoning for voting important shareholder proposals at high-risk companies and across high-risk sectors,” Tomaino said.
But he expressed concern that there was no timeline for improving its approach.

T. Rowe Price, a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment since 2010, current has two responsible investment vacancies on its website: for Associate Analysts in fixed income and US equity.