Newswise — Newark, N.J., December 10, 2020 - A working group of public company and investor representatives today released a comprehensive report on recommended baseline practices for virtual shareholder meetings. The report also reflects the input of a steering committee comprised of the largest virtual shareholder meeting service providers and prominent corporate governance leaders.
With the COVID-19 pandemic likely to curtail many in-person shareholder meetings again in 2021, the report provides valuable guidance for companies planning to host virtual meetings next year and shareholders who want to participate more fully in those meetings.
The report outlines trending as well as evolving practices for virtual meetings and updates a 2018 report of a similar industry committee that outlined principles and best practices for virtual shareholder meetings.
Darla Stuckey, working group co-chair and president and CEO, Society for Corporate Governance, said, “The working group’s goal is to provide practical and actionable guidance for virtual shareholder meetings that will benefit both companies planning and executing the meetings, as well as the shareholders who attend.”
In the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, more public companies than ever held their annual meetings of shareholders in a purely virtual format, allowing for attendance only via the Internet: 2,367 companies in the US opted for virtual annual meetings in the first half of 2020, as compared to 318 and 266 in all of 2019 and 2018, respectively. Many companies were forced by quarantines and restrictions on in-person gatherings to quickly switch to virtual annual meetings during the annual proxy season, posing challenges and opportunities for both companies and shareholders.
Amy Borrus, working group co-chair and executive director, Council of Institutional Investors, said, “This report represents a collaborative effort by shareholders and companies to make virtual meetings more participatory for shareholders. While virtual meetings cannot fully replicate traditional in-person meetings, the report is a useful guide for both companies and investors to ensure that virtual meetings provide an experience that hews more closely to in-person meetings.”
The working group encourages companies to experiment with innovative practices and different types of digital communication to enhance the virtual meeting experience for their shareholders.
Douglas Chia, working group facilitator and fellow, Rutgers Center for Corporate Law and Governance, said, “By providing an easier and more cost-effective way for shareholders to attend, virtual shareholder meeting technology has the potential to make the annual meeting a more important part of a company’s engagement with its shareholders, including on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.”
The full report is available for download at https://cclg.rutgers.edu/.
About the Multi-Stakeholder Working Group
Convened in 2020 by the Rutgers Center for Corporate Law and Governance to address the dramatic increase in usage of virtual platforms for annual shareholder meetings, participants included representatives from:
British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI)
California State Teachers’ Retirement System
Council of Institutional Investors
General Motors Company
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
Mercy Investment Services, Inc.
Office of the New York City Comptroller
Rutgers Center for Corporate Law and Governance
Society for Corporate Governance
South Jersey Industries, Inc.
State Street Global Advisors
- Rowe Price
The group’s Steering Committee included representatives from:
Boston Trust Walden
Broadridge Financial Solutions
Carl T. Hagberg and Associates
EQ by Equiniti
SEC, Investor Advisory Committee
A full list of members of the Working Group and Steering Committee can be found in the report.