Shareholder Initiatives Show Their Value

For all its imperfections, shareholder democracy has real value. For evidence, look no further than a plethora of cases this week in which voting is proving to be of great consequence. Facebook’s board is planning now for the future of the supervoting power of its founder Mark Zuckerberg, while investors in Sika, the Swiss maker of building materials, are fighting the sale of just such a controlling minority stake. Sometimes, as at Tribune Publishing, votes are merely protests. A mistake at the ballot box, however, is costing T. Rowe Price hard cash. It’s too easy to be jaded about some initiatives. For example, the shareholder votes required by the Securities and Exchange Commission on executive pay are not binding. Yet it has turned out that in most cases, boards have tried to change plans if even a large minority – maybe 30 percent or so – expresses displeasure with the rewards. In a reversal from the steady increases in recent years, average compensation for the highest-paid American corporate chieftains fell 15 percent in 2015, according to Equilar.

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