Corporations have faced almost 200 shareholder proposals from major union-sponsored pension funds so far this proxy season, targeting largely executive pay and board accountability.
Union pension funds "have tried to focus on issues that have gotten a fair amount of support by shareholders," said Robert McCormick, vice president-proxy research and operations at Glass Lewis & Co., San Francisco.
In fact, union pension funds have accounted for the largest number of shareholder proposals of any group, according to Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., Rockville, Md.: In 2006, 295 of 699 shareholder proposals were introduced by union pension funds. By contrast, for 2006, public pension funds sponsored 31 proposals; mutual funds and other types of equity funds, 23; social or religious funds, 39; and individuals, 280.
Among the funds:
• The $558 million United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Pension Fund, Washington, introduced proposals at 120 companies, mainly calling for a majority vote to elect directors and greater linkage of pay and corporate performance.
• The Washington-based AFL-CIO Reserve Pension Fund and AFL-CIO staff retirement fund, which have a combined $180 million in assets, introduced proposals at 28 companies, including resolutions for independence of compensation consultants used by boards.
• The $850 million American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees staff pension plan, Washington, introduced proposals at 27 companies, including one resolution calling for corporations to reimburse shareholders' expenses in proxy contests that meet certain conditions.
• The International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund, Washington, introduced proposals at 19 companies, focusing on issues that include backdating of executive stock options and board independence, including separation of the chairman and CEO positions. Teamsters officials declined to disclose the size of the fund.