UK – The Trades Union Congress is to redouble its efforts to get institutional investors to disclose their voting records.
It comes as fewer fund managers responded to the TUC’s fourth survey of voting behaviour.
The survey – to be distributed to roughly 1,000 pension trustees – provides trustees with a “snapshot” of how fund managers exercise voting rights regarding controversial issues at AGMs. It also gives an insight into the voting and engagement processes, said the TUC.
The 2006 survey saw 26 organisations providing full voting records to the TUC versus 28 in 2005. There was also comprehensive voting data for 27 investors compared with 32 in 2005.
“Overall, just under 50% of the target group provided full voting records. Just over 61% of the target group provided some form of response. In 2005, 50% provided a full response and 68% provided some information,” according to the survey’s executive summary.
It continued: “Based on the lower level of responses to this year’s survey the TUC believes that a voluntarist approach to disclosure of voting and engagement records is unlikely to result in much greater public reporting than at present.”
In October 2005, the Department for Trade and Industry issued a draft clause attached to the Company Law Reform Bill, enabling government to mandate public voting disclosure in the UK – a move “strongly endorsed” by the TUC.
According to the TUC: “This has effectively signalled that the government wishes to see institutional investors embrace transparency in relation to voting.”
It added that fund managers have also taken voluntary steps towards public disclosure – welcomed by the TUC and regarded as a “significant step” towards transparency and accountability.
While Fidelity Investments is the latest fund manager to make its voting record public, Hermes and Barclays Global Investors are also due to start reporting publicly, said the survey.
“We remain sceptical, however, that most fund managers will disclose voluntarily, as a significant number have made clear again in this year’s survey that they do not intend to do so.
“Therefore, if there is not a significant increase in the level of voluntary disclosure by fund managers, the TUC will strongly lobby the government to mandate public reporting,” according to the TUC.
Pension trustees were also urged to consider fund managers’ voting and engagement records during manager selection processes.
“This would both demonstrate that clients take such issues seriously, and provide a clear commercial incentive for fund managers to devote proper resource to engagement activity,” said the TUC.