Should I stop throwing away those proxy voting things from the stocks I own?
July 8, 2012 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Should I stop throwing away those proxy voting things from the stocks I own?

I rarely read them, and in general I always assume the vote is not going to be close. Also, I usually have no idea what the vote is for anyway. Should I be paying closer attention to these things or should I just keep throwing them away like a champ?
posted by malhouse to Work & Money (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You should shred and recycle them.
posted by BrandonW at 2:53 PM on July 8, 2012


I agree with shred and recycle.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:01 PM on July 8, 2012

When I was a General Motors stockholder, I would read through the literature accompanying the proxy card. I noted how it was "recommended by the Board" to vote, and carefully proceeded to vote opposite from the recommendations. (The issues generally were nuns pressing a proposal to be more accountable for pollution, etc....perfectly reasonable things like that. If the Board thought that was a bad idea, it must have been a good idea.)
Do as you please, but it is personally gratifying to be a contrary voice.
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:27 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

You effectively have no real vote on any issue you would care about.

Most of the voting power rests with two groups, the company itself and the institutional investors. Most of the time, their interests will align (since the board has a legal obligation to maximize investor return, and the major shareholders want exactly the same thing). On "fluffy" issues like whether or not to pave the everglades to make an extra three cents this quarter, those two groups will both vote to pave, massively outweighing the rest of us.

The only time you will have a real say in the vote - When Goldman Sachs disagrees with Dan Akerman about how best to screw everyone else - You won't even understand the issue up for a vote, and probably wouldn't care about it if you did. :(
posted by pla at 3:56 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Register online and then you'll save the environment and still be able to vote should you see fit. I always vote against political lobbying contributions.
posted by arcticseal at 3:57 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Always vote your proxies. It doesn't matter until it does. Reflexively vote no to compensation plans (even though its non-binding usually) reflexively vote no for classified boards or yes to plans to de-classify a board. Always vote no to re-incorporations or poison pills. Always vote for non-board nominated candidates - usually it will be clear when this is going on because you'll get an extra usually colored proxy in the mail.
posted by JPD at 4:12 PM on July 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

I always vote my shares, and always against the remuneration package for directors. Not sure where you are located but Australia has recently changed the laws in regards to what happens if remuneration packages are not approved by shareholders.

A company requires "a vote for directors to stand for re-election if a board proceeds with its remuneration proposals despite the company’s remuneration report receivings a ‘no’ vote of 25 per cent or more of its shareholders at two consecutive annual general meetings"

25 per cent is a lot more achievable by small share holders than an absolute majority.
posted by trialex at 5:22 PM on July 8, 2012

Please vote your shares. It is not a cure-all but it really does make a difference. Anyone who is telling you different is speaking from ignorance or cynicism.

I know it makes a difference because I worked as a shareholder advocate for three years. That means it was my job to file shareholder resolutions at companies. These are the proposals that show up on the proxy statement that the board wants you to vote against.

Shareholder resolutions are a way to force companies to publicly address issues that they would really rather ignore. It is one of the few ways we have to hold corporations accountable. And believe it or not, companies do care what shows up on their proxy and they do care how the vote turns out. CEOs hate shareholder resolutions. The annual meeting is supposed to their party. A shareholder resolution is like showing up at a wedding and saying that you know a reason why the union should not take place. That's really not fun for the bride and groom.

As a result, companies will engage in dialogue that they would otherwise avoid, as a way of getting these resolutions withdrawn. Those dialogues can sometimes be used to educate companies; they can sometimes be used to coerce companies. They do change companies.

A shareholder resolution I filed led Whole Foods to stop selling baby bottles made from BPA. They were the first retailer in the US to pull any product based on the fact it contained BPA.

Dozens of companies have acceded to shareholder demands that they disclose their political contributions, and shareholders are now pressing them to stop making those contributions.

Shareholder resolutions have been used to get utilities and insurance companies to plan for climate change; they've been used to get chemical companies to talk about chemical security; they've been used confront oil companies about tar sands and natural gas producers about fracking.

So please vote your proxies. It just takes a minute. Corporations are already so goddawful powerful and they are getting more powerful every day. As a shareholder you have the right to tell them what to do. Their argument is that shareholders don't care. You can show them that you do.
posted by alms at 6:10 PM on July 8, 2012 [15 favorites]

It's not always close, but many companies have problems getting a quorum, especially when they have many small shareholders, so you can cost them a lot if they have to do a second mailing.

For my part, I like to see whether there are any stockholder proposals -- sometimes those are worth taking the opportunity to make a statement...
posted by acm at 7:36 PM on July 8, 2012

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