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EU launches consultation on shareholder rights

EUROPE – The European Commission is seeking feedback from institutional investors as it puts together a proposed directive on corporate governance.

The Commission has launched a public consultation about the basic shareholders’ rights in company general meetings and in particular the cross-border exercise of such rights, the body said.

“Responses will be taken into account in a forthcoming proposal for a directive – part of the Commission Action Plan on Corporate Governance.”

“Shareholders need to be able to ensure that management is acting in the best interests of the company,” said outgoing Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein. “To do so, they need access to appropriate information and to effective ways of exercising real influence. Making sure shareholders can exercise their rights will help spread cross-border investing and integrate EU capital markets.”

He said the old opacity and “communication from the age of the carrier pigeon” must be replaced by “modern, electronic, transparent information systems that result in real rights being exercised”.

“So I encourage all interested parties - companies, individual and institutional shareholders and regulators - to respond. We will listen.”

The move follows the adoption of an action plan on modernising company law and corporate governance in the EU in May 2003.

The deadline for responses is December 16 2004.

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