At this point, most of us have reconciled ourselves to the fact that things aren’t getting back to normal anytime soon. Since that’s the case, companies will need to prepare for the possibility that their 2021 annual meeting will once again need to be a virtual or hybrid meeting. A recent Bryan Cave blog offers up some tips on preparing for next year’s virtual meetings. This excerpt lays out some things to think about when it comes to such a meeting’s format and rules of conduct:
Companies need to decide whether a meeting will be virtual-only, physical-only or a hybrid. For any virtual component, they need to decide whether the access will be audio-only or audio plus video. While a majority of virtual meetings during the 2020 proxy season appeared to be in audio-only format, we expect that in 2021 companies will increasingly use video for their meetings, as video conferencing has evolved during the pandemic.
Clear rules of conduct are imperative. As more companies transitioned to virtual meetings in 2020, one area of focus was on how and when shareholders could submit questions. Investors and others questioned whether companies might be “cherry-picking” the questions they answered and requested that all shareholders have access to the questions submitted. Companies in 2021 will need to put in place and clearly address the Q&A process. For example, issuers need to decide whether questions may be asked live during the meeting via a chat function and/or over the phone, and/or prior to the meeting by submitting online or through email.
If you’re not already thinking about the possibility of a virtual component to your meeting next year, you probably ought to be. The blog says that many companies are already exploring retention of virtual meeting providers and video and real-time Q&A alternatives, and have also begun drafting disclosure about meeting logistics to include in their proxy materials.
-John Jenkins, TheCorporateCounsel.net November 10, 2020
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