“How To Vote Your Proxies” Video Demystifies Proxy Ballots for Regular People

Admit it. You’ve thrown away proxy ballots, those booklets that arrive every spring like daffodils – densely written, seemingly incomprehensible daffodils containing too much (and yet not enough) information about CEO pay packages, board candidates, auditor ratifications and the occasional environmentally or socially themed proposal filed by the likes of us at Clean Yield. (There were too many of them to read! They took too long! How were you supposed to know if the auditor was trustworthy? At least you recycled them!)
Relax, we’re not the proxy police. In fact, we’re here to help.
Normally, we would be the first to warn you away from vendors hawking free videos, but the relaxed, homespun webinar conceived of and produced by Clean Yield client Jonathan Scott demystifies proxy voting for the average shareholder (and does so with an array of amusing visuals, to boot). “The idea came out of conversations at a meeting of socially responsible investors several months ago,” Jon says. “A surprising number of very savvy individuals active in philanthropy on environmental and other causes confessed that they had never voted their proxies. They were embarrassed, a bit intimidated, and wondering how they could get started. So I decided to call everyone’s bluff and put together a ‘how to’ webinar using this year’s ExxonMobil proxy ballot as an example.”

Proxy voting does matter, and companies do pay attention to the votes (even though they are nonbinding). But even though individual shareholders, as a group, own about 30% of the outstanding stock in U.S. companies, we vote far less than our institutional counterparts (public and corporate pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds, endowments, etc.). This skews the vote in favor of Wall Street’s preferences.
In the webinar, Jon is joined by As You Sow Foundation President Andy Behar, Proxy Impact CEO Michael Passoff, and Clean Yield’s Director of Social Research and Shareholder Advocacy, Shelley Alpern. Using this year’s ExxonMobil proxy ballot as a template, the presenters dispense tips on how to interpret and contextualize typical items up for a vote, where to find more information on the issues, and how other investors are voting.  You can find it posted at http://vimeo.com/65777015.
(A note to Clean Yield clients: Beginning in 2014, you’ll have the option of authorizing us to vote your proxies on your behalf.  Please watch for a letter from us in the next several months with more details. And as always, you can call us for proxy voting advice on any ballots that arrive before our new system is in place.)