RiskMetrics Group Releases 2010 Proxy Season Watchlist

by Ted Allen, for RiskMetrics Group, January 13, 2010.

To help investors and companies prepare for the upcoming U.S. proxy season, RiskMetrics Group has posted its 2010 Proxy Season Watchlist on pending shareholder proposals.

Once again, compensation will be a prominent topic for shareholder resolutions. As of Jan. 1, RiskMetrics was tracking 30 proposals seeking an annual advisory vote on compensation. “Say on pay” advocates say they plan to file about 100 proposals for the 2010 season; 76 proposals went to a vote in 2009 and averaged 45.6 percent support. Advisory vote proponents hope that continued investor support for these resolutions will prod the U.S. Senate to follow the House of Representatives and approve legislation this year to mandate annual advisory votes.

Labor funds and other investors have filed seven proposals seeking retention periods for executive stock grants; 14 resolutions on this topic went to a vote in 2009. Shareholders also have submitted nine proposals on compensation committee independence and three resolutions that target tax gross-up arrangements for executives…(continue reading)


1 Response to “RiskMetrics Group Releases 2010 Proxy Season Watchlist”

  1. 1 Dr. Rob March 31, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Readers should be aware of this proposal that will be on the WellPoint proxy released the first week of April, 2010, for consideration at the annual meeting on May 18 in Indianapolis.
    We have been informed that Robert Stone and Karen Green Stone (husband and wife), Bloomington, Indiana, and Julia Vaughn, Indianapolis, Indiana, collectively the beneficial owners of 53 shares of our commons stock, intend to introduce at the annual meeting the following resolution. The following shareholder proposal will be voted on at the annual meeting only if properly presented by or on behalf of Mr. Stone, Mrs. Stone and Ms. Vaughn. In accordance with SEC rules, the text of the proposed shareholder resolution and supporting statement is printed verbatim from its submission.

    “Whereas, the United States allows too many people to suffer and die due to lack of adequate health insurance and this is threatening the economic stability of the country; and
    Whereas, no country has achieved universal healthcare through for-profit health insurance; and
    Whereas, in written statements WellPoint supports “the best healthcare value for our customers” and promises “to advocate for responsible healthcare reform”; and
    Whereas, WellPoint has actively opposed President Obama’s healthcare reform efforts; and
    Whereas, WellPoint was a nonprofit insurance company before it demutualized, raised capital through stock offerings, merged with, acquired, and demutualized other nonprofit Blue Cross/Blue Shield companies; therefore be it
    Resolved, that the shareholders of WellPoint urge the board of directors to launch a feasibility study for returning to nonprofit status. This study, conducted at reasonable cost, with results made available to the stockholders, omitting any proprietary information, should be completed within nine months of the 2010 shareholder meeting.
    The proponent has furnished the following statement:
    Investors are concerned about the effects of runaway health costs on the economy, and the crisis of over 46 million uninsured. Recent studies show 45,000 people a year die because they lack health insurance (American Journal of Public Health 9/17/09). Tens of millions more are underinsured, able to afford coverage only through policies with huge deductibles and out of pocket expenses. The impact of high deductible policies is seen in recent bankruptcy data showing 62% of personal bankruptcies caused by illness and medical bills, but 78% of those declaring bankruptcy for medical reasons had insurance when they became ill (American Journal of Medicine 8/09). WellPoint has been a leader in marketing high deductible policies, specifically under the Tonik label.
    From 1999 to 2008 American health insurance premiums increased 119% while workers earnings and overall inflation rose 30% (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Businesses cannot continue to afford covering their employees. The Hewitt Associates study “The Road Ahead: 2009” found 1 in 5 employers are planning to drop health benefits in the next 3 to 5 years. This system is unsustainable.
    Studies show 31% of US healthcare spending is attributed to overhead. In comparison, Medicare runs 3.1% overhead. Most other developed nations spend less than 10% on overhead (New England Journal of Medicine 8/21/03). Nations with universal systems spend about half what we spend on a per capita basis and have better health outcomes (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
    WellPoint’s reputation has suffered as a consequence of the negative publicity surrounding its efforts to oppose healthcare reform. This resolution could change that.

    The Board recommends a vote AGAINST this proposal for the following reasons:
    This proposal requests that our Board of Directors conduct a feasibility study for “returning” the Company to nonprofit status. As an initial matter, the proposal states that we were formerly a nonprofit entity. That is not correct. Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc., one of our wholly-owned stock subsidiaries, was until its demutualization in 2001, a “for profit” mutual insurance company organized under Indiana law (although some of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies we have acquired since 1993 had been nonprofit entities at some time in their respective corporate histories). Nevertheless, we assume that the fundamental intent of this shareholder proposal is to call for a feasibility study for our conversion to a nonprofit organization. We are responding to the proposal on that basis.
    Converting to a nonprofit organization would result in, among other things, the elimination of the ownership interests of our shareholders. The Board does not believe that the vast majority of our shareholders desire that result. Moreover, the Board believes that the process of converting to nonprofit status would be costly and complex. While it is not clear what transaction structure could be used to accomplish a conversion to nonprofit status, the Board believes that any conversion transaction would require at a minimum that our shareholders receive the fair value of their shares (except for shares held by any shareholders willing to contribute them without consideration as a charitable contribution), which would require, in the aggregate, the payment of significant sums of cash.
    The Board believes that our conversion to a nonprofit organization would not be in our best interests or the best interests of our shareholders, employees, customers and members, as well as the communities we serve. The Board believes that having access to the public capital markets is the best way to strengthen our capital and competitive position, to serve an increasing number of customers and members, and to continue investing in infrastructure, new products and programs that improve the quality of service to customers and members. As a nonprofit organization, we would not be able to raise capital by selling stock and could not issue stock to pay for business acquisitions. Without access to the equity markets, the Board also believes that our ability to borrow money to support our operations and fund business investments and business acquisitions would be more restricted and more costly as compared to our borrowings as a for profit stock corporation. In addition, we would be restricted in our use of stock as part of the compensation plans and programs for our employees, which would likely impair our ability to attract and retain well-qualified individuals to our management team and to set compensation and benefits programs that are consistent with market practice. Overall, the Board believes that our future growth, new product development and our ability to serve our constituencies would be impaired by the reduced capital that would be available to us as a nonprofit organization.
    The proponent of this proposal has not presented any factual information to support the view that converting to nonprofit status would benefit us or our shareholders, employees, customers and members. On the contrary, for the reasons described above, the Board believes that converting to nonprofit status would not be in our best interests or in the best interests of our shareholders, employees, customers and members. A feasibility study for converting to nonprofit status would be costly and would distract management and the Board from overseeing our operations and, given the other considerations described above, is unwarranted.
    For the reasons described above, the Board opposes the feasibility study requested in the proposal and recommends a vote AGAINST this proposal. Proxies will be voted AGAINST the proposal unless you specify otherwise.

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