4 big managers get low scores on AFL-CIO labor proxy-voting issues

Vanguard Group, Northern Trust Investments, BlackRock (BLK) and Fidelity Investments scored the lowest among 121 institutional money managers in supporting labor proxy-voting issues in 2012, according to a survey by the AFL-CIO.

On proxy-voting issues at 32 companies the AFL-CIO considers representative of a “worker-owner view of value that emphasizes management accountability and good corporate governance,” Vanguard voted against all 32 proposals; Northern Trust, 28 out of 29; BlackRock, 30 out of 32; and Fidelity, 28 out of 30.

The AFL-CIO surveyed 121 money managers and five proxy-voting advisory firms on 19 different proxy proposals, ranging from proxy access to executive compensation, filed at 32 companies by Taft-Hartley, union and public employee pension funds as well other shareholders. Each company was the target of one of the proposals. Not all the managers and proxy-voting advisory firms voted or issued recommendations on the proxy issues at all 32 companies, according to the survey.

Calvert Investments, Amalgamated Bank's LongView Funds, McMorgan and Bridgeway Funds scored the highest among the investment managers in support of the proposals. Calvert voted in favor on all 32 proposals; Amalgamated's LongView, 31 of 31; McMorgan, 24 of 24; and Bridgeway, 21 of 21.

Among proxy-voting firms, Marco Consulting and Proxy Vote Plus scored the highest, each supporting all 32 proposals, while Shareholder Association for Research & Education supported 15 out of 15 proposals. Institutional Shareholder Services favored 26 of 32, and Glass Lewis, 18 of 32.

“Asset managers more concentrated in defined contribution plans tend to vote more often with management on issues covered in the key-vote survey,” Brandon Rees, acting director of the AFL-CIO office of investment, said in an interview.

“There is always a concern about potential conflict of interest that any asset manager might be tempted not to bite the hand that feeds it given the growth of the 401(k) market.”