New York City Retirement Systems filed proxy access proposals with 75 companies, the largest such initiative to give shareholders a greater voice in nominating members of corporate boards of directors, said a news release Thursday from Scott M. Stringer, New York City comptroller, who oversees the five city pension funds with $160 billion in combined assets.
The initiative, groundbreaking for the number of companies, targets companies because of their involvement in carbon-intensive coal, oil and gas, and utility companies; or companies with few or no women directors, and little or no apparent racial or ethnic diversity; or companies that received significant opposition to their 2014 advisory vote on executive compensation, or some combination of these issues, a statement in the news release said.
Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Exelon Corp., Level 3 Communications Inc., Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Staples Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co., are among the targets of the initiative, called by Mr. Stringer the “boardroom accountability project.”
The proposal would allow a shareholder or group of shareholders who own a combined 3% of a company’s stock for three years to use corporate proxy materials to nominate up to 25% of the directors of the board. The proposal could mean competitive elections for directors with the shareholder nominees running against corporate nominees.
The New York City pension funds’ initiative overwhelms any previous numbers for an entire year of proxy access proposals.
Shareholders filed a total of 18 proxy access proposals for annual meetings this year through Oct. 27, according to ISS Voting Analytics. Of them, 14 came up for a vote, averaging 36.8% in support. Six received a majority vote in favor.
“Resolutions were filed at companies where we see risks associated with climate change, board diversity and excessive CEO pay,” Mr. Stringer said in the release. Especially when it comes to the environment, business as usual is no longer an option. To effect true change, you need the ability to hold entrenched and unresponsive boards accountable, and that is what we are seeking to do,” Mr. Stringer said.
The pension funds involved are the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, New York City Teachers’ Retirement System, New York City Police Pension Fund, New York City Fire Department Pension Fund and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System