Investor Event

M&S Shareholder Rights Petition: A Postmortem

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.

This article reflects the opinions of its author and not necessarily those of ShareSoc.

With 4,292 signatures, the M&S petition failed to meet the threshold

The M&S Shareholder Rights Petition, led by Archie Norman and supported by ShareSoc, UKSA, The QCA and Equiniti, has closed after failing to meet the threshold of 10,000 signatures for a government review and 100,000 signatures for a parliamentary debate.

The petition aimed to help more investors engage with UK plcs by modernising the Companies Act, specifically:

  • Giving beneficial shareholders the right to direct information from their investee companies and giving companies the right to know who owns them.
  • Making email addresses a requirement for shareholding registration.
  • Recognising digital AGMs.
  • ShareSoc chose to support the petition.

 

Positives:

  • Huge publicity about the issues.
  • Greater awareness about the lack of email addresses on the shareholder register and the difficulties that companies and others with a proper purpose have in contacting shareholders, particularly those who hold via nominees.
  • Greater awareness that beneficial holders are not members of the company and only members of the company have full shareholder rights.
  • Recognition that hybrid AGMs are the best approach for most companies. In particular, M&S committed to looking at hybrid for its next AGM.

 

Negatives:

  • The petition failed to reach the 100,000 threshold.
  • The debate about digital only AGMs reduced the time spent debating the more important issues of electronic communication, email addresses on the shareholder register and register of interests and the rights of beneficial holders.
  • Some people and media were suspicious of Archie Norman’s motives and suggested he was trying to avoid facing up to difficult shareholders.

 

Overall, the M&S Shareholder Rights Petition was a mixed bag. It raised awareness of important issues, but it failed to achieve its primary objectives.

Cliff Weight, ShareSoc Member.

DISCLOSURE: The author holds shares in Marks and Spencer

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