IR Papers: Lack of resolution(s)
Tired of pesky shareholder resolutions clogging up your AGM? Try listing in Canada. A recent survey reveals a ‘positively anemic’ public corporate governance exchange.
Analysis of all resolutions filed from 2000 to 2009 shows just 59 distinct shareholders targeting 96 distinct corporations with a total of 878 resolutions.
‘There are more shareholder resolutions in small, emerging economies,’ explains study author Taylor Gray, a PhD candidate at
the University of Oxford. ‘The resolution landscape of today is comparable with that of the US from 20 or 30 years ago.’
In terms of the issues, nearly 85 percent of the resolutions relate to governance, 7 percent to environmental performance and 6 percent to social issues.
By way of explanation, Gray points to the absence of a national securities regulator, the preponderance of block holdings and the tendency for large institutional investors to shroud their engagement activity in secrecy. ‘It may be that private conversations between institutions and corporations are raising these concerns,’ he says. ‘The problem is we don’t know.’
Pallid vs vivid language
Vivid language – defined as language that is passionate, proximate, concrete and image-provoking – can significantly affect investor judgments, but only among contrarian investors.
‘Vivid language has only limited influence on investors that hold positions consistent with the general tone of the market,’ say the authors of a recent US study published in the Journal of Accounting Research.
Here’s the difference between the two. The pallid treatment: ‘The company reported higher sales compared with previous quarters. Its revenues exceeded the expectations of most analysts.’
The vivid treatment: ‘The company’s sales jumped in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with the same period a year ago. Analysts say this performance is very impressive.’
Investor needs evolve
Investors’ primary interest remains financial return, but the global financial crisis has provoked broader concerns, according to a new South African survey.
‘The last five to eight years have seen a paradigm shift in the information needs of investors,’ says Nirvana Bechan, associate professor in the department of public relations management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. ‘Once focused solely on financial reports, they are now demanding triple-bottom-line reporting instead.’
Bechan polled 40 of South Africa’s largest investors to discover their views of the most important non-financial aspects of a firm’s communication with the investment community. Notable findings include rising demand for transparency (including face-to-face contact with management) and better governance.
‘IR people are increasingly being asked to consider the three Ps of public relations: people, planet and profits,’ says Bechan. ‘Reflective strategists will monitor these investor concerns and feed information back to management.’
Ultimately, he adds, educational programs in the fields of PR and corporate communications must adopt the study of finance and law. ‘That way PR people can work more effectively in the role of IRO,’ he concludes.
This article appeared in the August print edition of IR magazine.