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ISS partly to blame for missing Unilever votes

US proxy voting agency Institutional Shareholder Services has admitted to being partly responsible for the millions of lost votes at Unilever’s annual meeting.
Anglo-Dutch consumer products group Unilever has been investigating why the votes of three of its institutional shareholders at its annual general meeting in May were not registered, and ISS has admitted to have been partly to blame. ISS said it filled out a voting card incorrectly on behalf of one of the investors, Barclays Global Investors.
However, ISS is also holding the balloting system run by Lloyds TSB Registrars as being partly responsible, as it was not notified that the votes had been rejected as a result of the error on the voting card.
The case of missing votes is not entirely new, and is causing some concern within the industry. Richard Singleton, director, corporate governance at ISIS Asset Management points out that it is often difficult to know that your votes have been received. “As shareholders tend not to get confirmation of their votes, it can happen that votes don’t get through but it goes unnoticed.
“Depending on the issue, we sometimes write explaining our vote in addition to voting to ensure that our opinion is registered. Concern has been expressed among the industry already, and efforts are being made to look into what is really happening.”
Unilever discovered that the votes of three of its institutional shareholders were lost when it wrote to 10 of its investors from whom it did not receive votes at its annual general meeting in May. Of the 10 investors, one had voted but there had been a mix-up in names, one did not reply to the letter, two said it was their policy not to vote, three said they just didn’t vote, and three said they did vote, but there must have be technical problems. Unilever has since been carrying out audits of each stage of the voting process for the latter three investors, and has been working with the Department of Trade and Industry.

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