UK-based proxy voting and research firm Manifest Information Services, which numbers the Swedish AP buffer funds among its clients, is planning to enter the US market.
Manifest, whose US partner Proxy Governance International (PGI) withdrew from the market late last year, will begin marketing in the US shortly, said Chief Executive Sarah Wilson.
Manifest, which has a partnership with Swedish environmental, social and governance (ESG) advisory firm GES Investment Services, analyses quoted companies for corporate governance data points – it covers the MSCI EAFE stocks as well as the Australian 200/NZ top 50.
“It’s not unreasonable for us to go into the States,” Wilson told Responsible-Investor.com. She cited Manifest’s experience with executive pay and dialogue and communication.
Manifest’s move comes at an interesting time, with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new proxy access rules facing a legal challenge from the US Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce.And just this week the SEC is holding a meeting on shareholder say-on-pay votes.
It’s a market in transition. Index firm MSCI swallowed up market leader Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) as part of its $1.55bn acquisition of RiskMetrics last year and independents the Corporate Library and GovernanceMetrics International announced a merger in July.
Manifest is not the only UK player involved in the US proxy debate. The Universities Superannuation Scheme, in its submission to the SEC’s consultation on the proxy system, said it had experienced “difficulties” in ensuring votes cast through its service providers arrive at the investee company. And it voiced concern about the potential conflict of interest experienced by some proxy voting advisory firms in providing proxy voting recommendations to shareholders and consulting services to corporations. “USS believes that these service areas should be completely separated,” it said.
And Manifest’s rival PIRC called for the adoption in the US of its six-point principles of best practice for proxy voting and corporate governance advisers.