With so many companies moving to virtual meetings, one of the issues that has become front and center is how shareholder Q&A sessions should be handled. A Bass Berry blog provides some insight into how companies have addressed that issue. The authors surveyed Fortune 100 public companies that filed their proxy statements after March 1, including those that opted for a virtual meeting after filing definitive materials. Of the companies surveyed:
– 6% are permitting stockholders to submit questions only in advance.
– 58% are permitting stockholders to submit questions only at the meeting.
– 32% are permitting stockholders to submit questions both in advance and at the meeting.
– 4% do not clearly address their Q&A in the proxy materials the style of their Q&A sessions couldn’t be determined.
The survey found a few outliers. One company chose to limit in-person attendance to a handful of officers and employees who will deliver proxy votes. Shareholders were encouraged to present questions to financial journalists listed in the company’s annual report, who will choose questions that they consider the most interesting and important. The survey doesn’t identify the company, and I want to respect its privacy as well — so all I can tell you is that its initials are “Berkshire Hathaway.”
The survey identified two other companies that are not permitting live Q&A. One required shareholders to submit questions up to three days in advance, while the other is requiring stockholders to submit their questions in advance only through a portal on the company’s website.
I haven’t seen any survey data on how companies that are holding virtual meetings are dealing with shareholder proposals, but I can tell you that the folks at ValueEdge Advisors are not happy with the way AT&T has chosen to handle them at its virtual meeting.
-John Jenkins, TheCorporateCounsel.net April 23, 2020