FT 20 April 2020, AGMs in these Covid times – ShareAction

This blog gives you the latest topical news plus some informal comments on them from ShareSoc’s directors and other contributors. These are the personal comments of the authors and not necessarily the considered views of ShareSoc. The writers may hold shares in the companies mentioned. You can add your own comments on the blog posts, but note that ShareSoc reserves the right to remove or edit comments where they are inappropriate or defamatory.

ShareAction has written to FTSE100 Chairs, concerned that two out of three FTSE100 annual general meetings (AGMs) announced so far are going behind closed doors, indicating a trend of shareholders being shut out in the context of Covid-19.

Companies including BAE Systems, HSBC and Next are holding AGMs with two members of the board physically present, without giving shareholders the opportunity to participate virtually. In contrast, Taylor Wimpey, RBS and others have taken steps to ensure that shareholders are heard and answered directly by the board.

ShareAction is calling on all FTSE100 companies to hold a virtual AGM in 2020, allowing for real-time questioning followed by voting to be replicated online, and ensuring that all types of shareholders can attend the meeting. It is also calling for physical meetings to return to being part of the proceedings, whenever it is safe to do so again, using so-called hybrid AGMs, which also have a virtual element.

We are supporting ShareAction in this campaign and provided them with a supportive quote, which they used in there press release (see https://shareaction.org/two-thirds-of-ftse100-agms-shut-out-shareholders-amid-covid-19/ ) and was quoted in the FT in their article on this-

Companies urged to hold virtual AGMs to give shareholders a say – Coronavirus moves meetings behind closed doors, but UK pressure groups argue now is ‘not a moment to hide away’

Cliff Weight, director of ShareSoc, a pressure group for small investors, said shareholders want to question directors about the impact of coronavirus and its implications on company liquidity and solvency. “Never has the importance of the AGM been so high,” he added.

Cliff Weight, Director,  ShareSoc

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