As the 2020 proxy season enters its busy stretch, money manager Neuberger Berman said it will publicly disclose and explain the firm's voting rationale and intentions for more than 25 key annual shareholder meetings.
With the launch of "NB25+," Neuberger Berman will become the first major asset management firm to provide advance proxy vote disclosure, driven by its more than 600 investment professionals, the firm announced in a news release Thursday. The firm plans to expand the initiative over time.
"Leadership matters, especially in difficult periods," said CEO George Walker in the news release. "Firms with sustainable practices will be more resilient. Shareholders need to engage as owners for our capitalist system to work. Therefore, we have decided to step forward and share our thinking upfront on issues facing companies in which we invest. It can be tough to publicly challenge management or speak up for or against activists, but we think it's more important now to make our voice heard as we seek to improve the firms in which we invest."
The NB25+ disclosures began April 3 on the firm's engagement and proxy voting website. To date, the disclosures include a vote against the executive compensation plan and the election of the director currently chairing the compensation committee at Lennar Corp., one of the nation's top homebuilders, and one in support of management at Adobe Systems during the company's annual meeting Thursday. Neuberger Berman said it would vote against a shareholder proposal regarding a median gender and racial pay equity report. While the firm generally supports efforts to study and report on any discrepancies in compensation based on gender, in this case it said the company has "provided substantial disclosure that allows shareholders to evaluate the quality of oversight and progress on this issue."
Jonathan Bailey, head of ESG investing, said in the news release that it's time large asset managers disclose their votes in advance of annual meetings. He added: "By disclosing key votes in advance, we hope that more companies will be clear about our expectations."