The Manhattan Institute’s Proxy Monitor project is aimed at “shedding light on the influence of shareholder proposals on corporations.” It provides a thorough analysis of proposals made from 2008 – 2011 by activist investors — and believe it or not, only 35 percent of those proposals were related to corporate governance. Most of the shareholder proposals that these companies deal with are attempts to direct the company in a more green or pacific or fair direction, and they come from small shareholders who do this to dozens of companies.
A new report from Manhattan summarizes the trends — the growing social proposals, and how Dodd-Frank has playing into activists’ activities — and the proxy monitor website allows you to look at any shareholder proposal from the last few years. The proposals are enlightening. The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas have submitted proposals to the stockholders of Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics stating,
WHEREAS: Space has served as a sanctuary where, over the years, nations cooperate rather than confront one another. Satellites save lives…
RESOLVED: Shareholders request that, within six months of the annual meeting, the Board of Directors provide a comprehensive report on Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the space-based weapons program, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary and classified information.
The well-meaning Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, in a proposal to McDonald’s shareholders that made the news earlier this year, requested that,
The Affordable Care Act, signed into law on March 23, 2010, included federal menu-labeling legislation requiring the posting of calories on fast food menu boards….
RESOLVED: Shareholders ask the Board of Directors to issue a report, at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary information, within six months of the 2011 annual meeting, assessing the company’s policy responses to public concerns regarding linkages of fast food to childhood obesity, diet-related diseases and other impacts on children’s health.
Many other equally well-intentioned proposals have been filed, including repeated requests by the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth that various pharmaceutical companies restrain their prices to “reasonable levels.” The Unitarian Universalists have requested that Pepsi Co. “create a comprehensive policy articulating our company’s respect for and commitment to the Human Right to Water.”
This is not to mention the numerous environmental proposals made by religious groups, requesting that the Rights of Humanity and of Mother Earth not be violated by carbon emissions and by the use of genetically engineered plants. Take, for instance, this statement from a proposal to Du Pont’s shareholders, concerning genetically engineered crops:
The right to food requires that we place the needs of the most marginalized groups, including in particular smallholders in developing countries, at the centre of our efforts
One might think the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth were unaware that it has been the genetic improvement of crops that has saved millions of the world’s poor from starvation.
We’ll keep you posted on further developments, and the effects these proposals may have on companies’ performance.