Corporate Voting and the Proxy Process: Managerial Control Versus Shareholder Oversight
44 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2000
Date Written: June 2000
A rise in shareholder activism and recent changes in the SEC's proxy rules have been accompanied by an increase in shareholders' use of the proxy process. However, because managers have discretion over the design and implementation of the proxy process, issues remain concerning shareholders' ability to initiate change by voting. More generally, we hypothesize that certain features of the institutional and regulatory environment may allow managers to influence shareholder voting turnout and results. To the extent managers may strategically influence votes, they may disenfranchise shareholders and, conceivably, reduce the control rights of shares. We find evidence suggesting that managers control the proxy process and receive a vote-getting advantage from doing so. The results indicate that managers hire proxy solicitors when ballots include nonroutine management or shareholder proposals, and bundle nonroutine management or difficult-to-pass issues with others in joint proposals. It appears that managers also craft proposals so that they are classified as routine, rather than nonroutine, which increases the number of votes cast in support of proposals. We find that routine management proposals received as many as 14.42% more affirmatively cast votes than nonroutine proposals of the same proposal type and as much as 17.25% higher voting turnout. The passage of as many as 5.3% of routine proposals may have been due to their classification as routine rather than nonroutine proposals. Some institutional features, however, appear to constrain managers' ability to gain shareholder votes. Notably, against recommendations from ISS, an advisory service providing voting recommendations to many institutional investors, were associated with 13.63% to 20.56% fewer affirmative votes for management proposals, depending on the specific proposal type.
Keywords: corporate governance, shareholder voting, institutional and regulatory environment
JEL Classification: G30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation