The directorate-general for internal market and services of the European Commission hired Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., Rockville, Md., to research and analyze EU equity structure, said Jean-Nicolas Caprasse, managing director of ISS Europe. It will look at companies that give disproportionate control to a few shareholders in excess of their ownership interests.
The European Commission wants to know the extent of deviation from the one-share one-vote principle and to get a sense of the value the investment markets place on the issue. It will use the study as a basis for policy initiatives, he said.
In a study commissioned last year by the Association of British Insurers, ISS found that 38% of large-cap European companies conform to one-share one-vote, while 62% have disproportionate control. In the United States, an academic study found only 8% of companies deviate from one-share one-vote, Mr. Caprasse said.
"If you look at the United States, there is no restriction to having dual classes of shares, like Google has, but the market forces are such that 92% of companies decide to respect one-share one-vote, probably on the grounds that it is the cheapest way for them to attract capital," Mr. Caprasse said.