The Annual Meeting: From Gloss to Dialogue

by James McRitchie for CorpGovnet, March 17th, 2011.

Directors & Boards ran an important series of articles in its 1st quarter 2011 magazine on Fixing the Annual Meeting. Some excellent ideas are put forward, especially if we parse out the thoughtful from the conventional. (Link through the Shareholderforum to a compilation of most of the articles cited below from Directors & Boards and also reference their extensive review of electronic meetings.)

One of the most dramatic ideas, central to any real attempt to actually make annual meetings worthwhile, is the major survey finding by David Shaw, publishing Director of Directors & Boards. 90% of shareowners responded that annual meetings are “very important” or “somewhat important.” Contrast that with 78% of public company directors, who responded that annual meetings are “somewhat important” or “not very important” or “not at all important.”

Until directors recognize the importance of annual meetings to the shareowners they are supposed to represent and take their related duties seriously, the schism is likely to remain or grow.

Let’s look at the advice given by authors in this focus issue, starting with those given the largest space, since we can presume those authors reflect the most conventional wisdom (assuming Directors & Boards, a very prestegious publication, has been able to attract the leading thinkers).

By far the largest space is given over to Carl T. Hagberg, an expert, having served as inspector of elections at hundreds of annual and special shareowner meetings. He is dedicated to helping companies “optimize their spending on investor relations and on their investor servicing programs” and has been awarded the highest honor bestowed by the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals. (continue reading… )



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