Board members at CREF, the 106 billion dollar (105 billion euro) investment component of US teachers’ retirement fund TIAA-CREF, have voted against disclosing how their own votes are cast on social and environmental issues - a move which could be seen to compromise TIAA-CREF’s reputation as an advocate of good corporate governance.
At the annual meeting yesterday, resolutions on proxy voting and the separation of the CEO and chairman positions were defeated with 77% and 70% of board members voting against the proposals.
Repeat resolutions urging CREF to divest its holdings in tobacco investments and in companies that publicly support gun control were also defeated.
TIAA-CREF, along with CalPERS, has regularly voiced its concern about companies which do not use their proxy votes to minimise corporate abuses. For some months TIAA-CREF has been implementing a stringent set of principles. So it’s unusual that TIAA-CREF should oppose voting disclosures now.
But says TIAA-CREF: “We believe the principle of confidential voting is an important one which protects all shareholders from undue influence on the proxy-voting process.”
Among TIAA-CREF and CalPERS’s latest good corporate governance strategies is a plan to target companies that offer over-generous pay schemes, and to request changes from their boards. CREF also intends to employ greater resources in its corporate governance programme in western Europe, and has stated that is prepared to file its shareholder resolutions to seek change if companies ignore its concerns.