Nottingham reports 95% voting record
UK - Nottingham County Council has revealed it voted at 95% of the meetings held by companies it invested in in 2008, and in 79% of these it either opposed or abstained from a resolution.
Figures published at the latest pension investment committee meeting last month showed the pension fund is an active shareholder. Its lowest level of participation in the third quarter of the year was still 83%, of which 68% included one or more opposition votes or abstentions.
Nottingham pension fund, with a main fund value of £2.09bn (€2.29bn), retains the responsibility for voting at meetings, rather than relying on its investment managers, and employs PIRC to implement any decisions which are mainly focused on meetings of its equity holdings in the UK, Europe, US and Japan.
Nottingham revealed it voted in 96% of available meetings In the final three months of 2008, slightly below the highest figure of 97% between April and June, and of these 66% included one or more votes against a proposal or an abstention.
The report on its 2008 voting record showed its action in the UK focused around the "usual issues of directors' remuneration, independence of directors and inappropriate non-audit fees".
However, other issues included concerns over political donations regarding Diageo, seen as a serious corporate governance issue, while the fourth quarter also covered a number of emergency general meetings held as "troubled banks tried to raise additional capital", in addition to events such as the Lloyds takeover of HBOS.
Nottingham noted European banks had had similar problems, and revealed "the majority of the opposing votes were at Fortis where the whole board of directors resigned", as the proposed new directors had all had recent close connections with the company, and investors had raised concerns over independence.
The pension fund noted there were less votes in line with management at US firms, which "reflects the ongoing issue of shareholder rights", with one particular issue - the nomination process for directors and board independence - accounting for 24% of withheld votes.
Publication of the voting process followed recent comments by the government and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) who claimed a lack of engagement by institutional investors, had helped to create the current financial crisis. (See earlier IPE articles: Myners wants legal governance duty for managers and FSA attacks investors for not doing enough)
Meanwhile, documents from the last committee meeting also showed the pension fund has agreed to make a "small change in asset allocation" by transferring £30m of the main fund's allocation to fixed income to the in-house equity portfolio on the basis it is expected "equity markets should improve sometime in the next year".
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