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Proxy voting group Ethos nominates new presidents as Biedermann exits

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Dominique Biedermann, long-term president of the Swiss proxy voting service Ethos, will not stand for re-election at upcoming general meetings of the company and the Ethos foundation.

In a statement Ethos – which is owned by Swiss pension funds – said the meetings on 14 June were “an important milestone in Ethos’ history”. 

“Dominique Biedermann, the last remaining Ethos founding member, will not stand for re-election after 21 years of continuous engagement in favour of Ethos’ development,” it said.  

Biedermann will step down as president of Ethos Foundation and Ethos Services. The foundation was established by several pension funds in 1997 to represent them at shareholder meetings of listed Swiss companies. In 2000 it created Ethos Services to take over management and consulting services in socially responsible investment and active ownership. 

Ethos said Biedermann had decided the time was right to hand over the organisation to “the next generation”. 

His role had been criticised because his wife Yola is head of Ethos’ corporate governance department. The perceived “shortcomings in corporate governance” led the pension fund for the Swiss postal service to announce it would end its membership as per year-end 2018.

In a statement issued earlier this year, the €15bn Pensionskasse Post said it might revise this decision if Ethos made changes to its management structure prior to the general assembly.

Françoise Bruderer Thom, managing director of Pensionskasse Post, told IPE: “As Mr Biedermann will no longer stand for presidency either of the Ethos Foundation or Ethos Service, his conflicts of interest are resolved, which we welcome.”

However, the pension fund would carefully review the proposals for the general assembly and then decide on how it would vote, as well as its further relationship with Ethos, she added.

The two Ethos boards have decided to appoint different presidents, one for Ethos Foundation and one for Ethos Services.

To replace Biedermann as chairman of Ethos Foundation, the members have put forward former social democrat MP Rudolf Rechsteiner, who is an expert on renewable energy and president of the charity Swissaid.

Beth Krasna, an engineer at the university ETH Zurich and an expert in microfinance and corporate governance, has been proposed for election as president of Ethos Service.

Swiss pensions journalist and commentator Peter Wirth suggested Rechsteiner could be a controversial candidate. 

“This proposal adds a political flavour which is problematic and which not all members will want to stomach,” he wrote in a recent newsletter. 

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