May 27th, 2024

Virtual-only meetings erode shareholder democracy, group warns

By The Canadian Press on April 18, 2024.

An initiative led by the B.C. General Employees Union that includes pension funds, asset managers and socially responsible investors is raising concerns about the use of virtual-only shareholder meetings and an erosion of shareholder democracy. The Bay Street Financial District is shown in Toronto on Friday, August 5, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

BURNABY, B.C. – An initiative led by the B.C. General Employees’ Union that includes pension funds, asset managers and socially responsible investors is raising concerns about the use of virtual-only shareholder meetings and an erosion of shareholder democracy.

In an open letter, the group says that in theory virtual-only meetings could increase shareholder participation, but there is evidence since the pandemic began that they have instead muted shareholder voices.

The 38 signatories to the letter include the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, Desjardins Global Asset Management, the Church of England Pensions Board and Connor, Clark and Lunn Investment Management.

Together, the group represents more than $1.7 trillion in assets under management and advisory.

It is asking S&P/TSX 60 companies to publicly disclose how they will ensure shareholders’ statutory and common law rights are being upheld.

The group says 57 per cent of S&P/TSX companies held virtual-only meetings in 2023 compared with zero in 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2024.

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