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North Carolina treasurer outlines corporate governance efforts of retirement system

Janet Cowell, North Carolina treasurer
Janet Cowell, North Carolina treasurer

North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell released a corporate governance report Thursday detailing engagement practices covering $100 billion in investment assets, including the $90 billion North Carolina Retirement Systems, Raleigh.

Ms. Cowell unveiled the corporate governance initiatives at the Council of Institutional Investors conference in Boston.

The report, which covers 2008 to 2015, is the first summary of how the treasurer’s office works to improve corporate performance in four areas: corporate board accountability, maintaining shareholders’ rights in litigation, advancing diversity and encouraging more transparency. It includes data and analysis of how the department, which currently holds $39.8 million in public equity assets, voted on more than 10,000 corporate board resolutions annually. Over the period, North Carolina engaged publicly with the boards of EOG Resources, Massey Energy and Nabors Industries, and had numerous private discussions with other companies, the report said.

“Holding companies accountable for maximizing their value generates investment returns over the long term,” Ms. Cowell said in the report.

“Just as the department has no interest in accepting every available investment opportunity, it also is very selective in its engagements with companies. When it engages, the department seeks to ensure that companies listen to their shareholders’ voices, maintain high accountability standards, and transparently disclose important information,” Ms. Cowell said in the report’s conclusion.

The report will be published annually and is available on the treasurer’s website. In 2014, Ms. Cowell created a corporate governance committee of investment and legal staff to institutionalize the corporate governance work and develop strategic objectives.