Economy seen affecting proxy votes

Michael Passoff
Michael Passoff

With the recession lingering, finance-related issues are topping the list of concerns facing corporations during the 2009 proxy-voting season, a new report says.

As the more than 75,000 private U.S. foundations, which together hold more than $550 billion in assets, contemplate how to invest their endowments, the Proxy Preview 2009 from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors offers guidelines.

The publication encourages foundations, most of which have substantial ownership of public corporations, to vote during annual shareholder meetings, rather than delegate those voting rights to investment managers.

“In the past, many foundations have paid more attention to the 5 percent of their endowments they granted each year than to the 95 percent that was invested, clearly a missed opportunity to affect change,” Michael Passoff, author of the preview, says in a statement.

The largest shareholder campaign this year is executive compensation, the report says, while health-care reform saw the greatest increase in shareholder resolutions.

Other top issues are predatory lending, political donations and global warming.

“More foundations are seeking ways to align their missions and investments and view proxy voting as a basic first step to doing so,” says Passoff.

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