Union Investment, the Frankfurt-based asset manager that owns around 1% of technology giant Siemens, has stood up against the practice of corporate bosses being elected to directorships at other firms, voting against the election of three CEOs, including those for Allianz and Gas de France (GDF)-Suez, to Siemens’ supervisory board.
Speaking at Siemens’ annual meeting in Munich yesterday, Union portfolio manager Ingo Speich said it was inappropriate for Allianz CEO Michael Diekmann, GDF-Suez CEO Gérard Mestrallet and Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller, CEO of German machine tool maker Trumpf to serve as controllers of Siemens. “They all are heads of very big and complex companies, so they should strictly focus on that management role,” said Speich, who heads Union’s engagement and proxy voting operations.
Speich also expressed disappointment that Siemens had failed to reduce the number of board directors from ten and to include more women on the board. Siemens’ only female directors are Leibinger-Kammüller and Güler Sabanci, chairwoman of the eponymous Turkish conglomerate.
Despite Union’s objections and those of several other critical shareholders, Siemens’ candidates for thesupervisory board were elected with at least 90% of the vote. Diekmann, Leibinger-Kammüller and Mestrallet were, however, among the five candidates that got the most “no” votes (voting results).
Siemens’ shareholders were far less moved by proposals from the Association of Ethical German Shareholders (DKAA) to deny the firm’s management and board discharge. All executives were discharged with at least 98% of the vote.
DKAA had filed the motions because of Siemens’ involvement in the Belo Monte dam project in Brazil. The project, which began in May of 2011, has been criticised by the UN and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for causing the displacement of the local population and partially destroying the Amazon rain forest (see report)
Siemens CEO Peter Löscher defended his firm’s involvement in the project, noting that Brazilian authorities did not share criticism of the project. “They are either fully supportive of it or at least neutral,” he told the annual meeting. Löscher also reiterated the firm’s stance that as a signatory of the UN’s Global Compact, Siemens took concerns about the environment and human rights very seriously.