According to a news release, www.proxymatters.com allows users to publicly discuss issues such as the election of boards of directors and the approval of executive compensation with other interested online parties.
Unveiling of the new Web site comes at a time when a number of large pension funds have gotten more and more active in pressuring public companies on a variety of reform efforts. State officials sitting on fund boards in California, New York, North Carolina and others have waged a particularly high profile proxy effort in recent months (See A Call to Action , Angelides Leads Appeal to Improve Investor Influence ).
“The 2004 proxy season is shaping up to be one of the most contentious on record and until now, shareholders have had no venue to voice opinions, concerns or target questions to management and boards of directors,” said Brian Heil, founder and CEO of ProxyMatters.com. “Until ProxyMatters.com, the primary source of information available to proxy voters has been SEC-mandated materials written by company management, which can be biased toward a company’s position.”
Using a process similar to an online auction format, ProxyMatters.com’s discussion boards rank messages in accordance to each message’s daily bid as determined by the author, and not chronologically. Higher paying messages are awarded premium placement on the screen. Users may view all messages without charge and free message posting is available for shareholders who are not interested in premium placement.
The site’s technology also provides users an E-mail Alert system that can be programmed to inform them when proxy discussions are underway regarding a public security in which they’re interested.
In 2003, 1,082 shareholder resolutions were filed for the 2,000 widely held U.S. companies tracked by the Investor Responsibility Research Center. That number was up sharply from the 802 resolutions filed in 2002. Seventy four percent of the 2003 resolutions were tied to corporate governance issues, which include matters such as executive compensation, option shares and golden parachutes, while 26% were related to social and environmental issues.