This is the TUC’s eleventh annual fund manager voting survey. The survey is intended to give trustees information on how various fund managers exercise voting rights in relation to controversial issues at company AGMs, and an insight into voting and engagement processes. We intend to repeat it on an annual basis.
This year’s survey includes many of the key votes that occurred during the socalled ‘shareholder spring’ of 2012. There is evidence that some asset managers were more willing to vote against management over remuneration issues last year.
In addition, there was also an overall reduction in the proportion of abstentions, whereas oppose votes increased, suggesting a tougher approach on the part of some investors.
However, many asset managers continued to support managers on most issues most of the time. At one end of the spectrum, two respondents voted in favour of over 85% or more of management resolutions, and even on remuneration reports, the area where some investors did seem to toughen up their response, one respondent supported management on over 85% of votes.
There is also possible evidence of the way that overseas ownership of UK companies is beginning to affect shareholder voting patterns. Barclays remuneration report was opposed by the large majority of our respondents, who include most of the UK’s major institutional investors, and its remuneration committee chair was also opposed by a clear majority. Yet the company won the votes on both resolutions relatively easily at its AGM. This might suggest that the votes of overseas shareholders were a significant factor.
Looking at engagement, a large majority of our respondents say that their engagement with companies is not affected by regulatory barriers, such as insider trading and concert party rules. More respondents indicated that a lack of resources affected their ability to engage.
The large majority of respondents now disclose some level of voting data publicly, but there continue to be variations in the nature of disclosure that make comparative analysis difficult.