Power to the shareholder

by Brendan Sheehan for Business Insider, June 14th, 2011.

Although technological advancements may allow companies to hold virtual annual meetings, both investors and executives can benefit from convening in person.

In recent years, the trend has been towards sharply declining public attendance at corporate annual meetings. Some companies have even toyed with the idea of canceling the in-person meeting altogether and instead hosting “virtual” meetings via the Internet. Indeed, some of these online forums are highly acclaimed and well attended. Once the bastion of shareholder activism and the main opportunity for investors to interact with the board, have annual meetings become irrelevant in an age of instant information delivery? Most Fortune 500 companies get fewer than a couple hundred people through the doors.

In a stunning reflection of its CEO’s famed contrarian investment style, Berkshire Hathaway defies this trend. As you will read in Directorship’s June/July cover story, Berkshire’s recent annual meeting attracted some 40,000 people, who gathered to listen, learn, question and be entertained by Berkshire’s Charles Munger and Warren Buffett. The fact that so many people attend the event is as much an indication of how the company views its shareholders, as it is the way investors and the public view Berkshire and its iconic leader. (continue reading… )

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