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The Financial CHOICE Act and Shareholder Engagement

The Financial CHOICE Act introduced in the House this spring has largely garnered attention because of its rollback of Dodd-Frank, but the bill would also significantly change the rules governing shareholder resolutions for public companies. Currently, the restrictions are relatively modest, requiring that investors have at least $2,000 in stock or one percent of the stock at a company in order to be eligible to file resolutions. In contrast, the CHOICE Act would limit eligibility for proposing shareholder resolutions to investors that have held at least one percent of the company’s stock for a minimum of three years. This change would drastically limit who can file resolutions, given that one percent of the shares of larger companies could translate to millions or billions of dollars.

The timing of the proposed change potentially reducing shareholder engagement contrasts with recent shareholder decisions approving shareholder resolutions, as demonstrated by votes at Occidental Petroleum and ExxonMobil. Shareholder majorities at those companies, exercising their rights as owners, required Occidental and Exxon to disclose the risks climate change poses to their businesses and how the companies are preparing to respond to those risks. Although these votes were historic, they are not entirely surprising; surveys show that investors are significantly interested in the business impact of regulation and are dissatisfied with current disclosure practices when it comes to environmental and climate change risks.  Moreover, some research shows that corporations that adopt the kinds of disclosure practices demanded by shareholders are better at managing long term risk and adapt to changes more quickly.

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Order in the Meeting: Dealing with Difficult Shareholder Meetings

the-bank-accountOn our twentieth(!) podcast episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I take the opportunity to discuss tips for how to approach challenging shareholders or circumstances at your annual meetings.

Unfortunately, Jonathan had a brain freeze during recording, and forgot to use his favorite Mike Tyson quotation, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”  That said, planning ahead for disruptive shareholders is almost always worthwhile.

Providing a written agenda and set of governing rules to attendees can further help establish and maintain order, but it often comes back to simply ensuring that the disgruntled shareholder is provided an opportunity to be heard.

We’re also thrilled to announce that we’ve updated our recording microphones.  While our voices and ideas are unchanged, we hope you will find your listening experience improved.  We also want to thank all of our listeners for their comments and feedback.  We’ve heard from many of you via e-mail, twitter, phone calls and even in person  face-to-face meetings.  As we recorded this episode, we had already reached 5,000 downloads, including listeners in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

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