Shareholder Participation in Virtual Annual Meetings During the Coronavirus Crisis
We have heard from a number of you over the past few days with questions about how the coronavirus pandemic will impact this season’s corporate AGMs. We anticipate that most companies will respond to the crisis by moving to virtual-only, or primarily-virtual AGMs during the Spring 2020 AGM season.
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ICCR has historically opposed virtual-only AGMs because of the limitations that they put on the ability of shareholders to meaningfully interact with companies. Virtual annual meetings allow companies to control which questions and concerns are heard, and manipulate the exchanges between shareowners and the company.
However, due to the substantial public health risks of the pandemic and the necessity for social distancing, we support a temporary move to virtual AGMs for the 2020 season. Given this reality, virtual AGMs should be implemented with care, and with safeguards to ensure that shareholders can present proposals, ask questions and receive answers, and otherwise meaningfully participate in the meetings.
We have drafted a joint statement with the Shareholder Rights Group which lists expectations and best practices for companies that are holding virtual annual meetings. The statement will be shared with companies to help set expectations, particularly where shareholders intend to participate in the AGM by presenting a proposal or asking a question.
Our organizations recognize the extraordinary circumstances facing our world and deeply appreciate the ramifications to our companies and our communities during the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis. We urge all companies and shareholders to follow stringent public health guidelines to help flatten the curve of infection and curtail the growing public health crisis. We also believe that every company and citizen must do their part to help meet urgent medical, food security, and economic needs. This should include generous support for employees as well as for the needs of heroic frontline healthcare, food, infrastructure, and transportation workers.
We acknowledge that changes to normal business operations and meetings are necessary to respond to the pandemic. For publicly traded companies, the annual meeting of shareholders offers a unique time for shareholders and management to discuss issues of concern or accolade, and this remains true during a time of global crisis.
You can read the statement in full here.