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Voting disclosure still rare among fund managers - LAPFF

UK - Only six UK asset managers disclose comprehensive and easily accessible shareholder voting records, according to the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF).

A study of 40 fund manager websites conducted by LAPFF and PIRC reveals the majority of UK fund managers still do not reveal any details of their shareholder voting records, despite increased pressure from pension fund trustees to do so.

Details of the Proxy Voting Disclosure report indicate Cooperative Insurance Services is regarded by LAPFF as the most open about its voting record because it provides full disclosure about all of its activities and details can found easily from its website home page. Insight and Standard Life come next - scoring top marks for accessibility and usefulness but dropping slightly on disclosure level - then BGI, F&C and Hermes.

Fidelity Jupiter and Royal London also scored within the top nine firms seen as disclosing "reasonably comprehensive data", while a total of 16 firms were found to reveal some information.

Companies were rated from 0 to 4 in each category for their level of disclosure, ease of access and usefulness of the information provided, achieving a maximum of 12 points for meeting all criteria.

However, the LAPFF says it is concerned companies are not doing more, noting, in particular, that data can be hard to locate on websites. The Forum claimed one company made the process so complicated it was easier to uncover voting records through a search engine than direct from the company's website.

"Publishing information once a quarter is not too onerous, as [firms] would usually give that information to clients and is therefore not really any more work," said PIRC's spokesman.

"While you can only compare nine managers with full records, a lot of them will not appear on beauty parades, and the issue is not how companies implement processes in practice as it is unlikely companies do not keep an audit trail," he added.

Only last week, the UK's investment industry trade body, the Investment Management Association (IMA), published figures suggesting 16 firms made details of how they vote public by putting them on their website.

The IMA has today responded to LAPFF's argument for improved fund manager disclosure by suggesting many companies are holding back from completing the necessary work on the prospect of UK government regulatory requirements on shareholder voting information.

"One of the problems is the government might use its powers to come up with regulations in this area, so some fund managers are waiting to see what the government comes out with," said Mona Patel, head of communications at the IMA.

"But voting shareholder disclosure is just one part of what many companies are doing in terms of engagement. We will reveal much more information about how they make their engagement public, for example, and how many reveal this is client agreements as well as whether engagement is integrated into an investment process and who take the decisions in controversial situations," she added.

Full details of the IMA's findings are expected to be revealed on Thursday, June 28.

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