Proxy Monitor: Casting a Sharp Eye on Shareholder Activism

The Manhattan Institute’s Center for Legal Policy has launched a new web site,, designed to shed light on trends in shareholder proposal activity. As the center’s director, James Copland explains, public attention to corporate governance and shareholder activism is even more timely since passage of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill. 

The database contains information on all shareholder proposals submitted for shareholder vote between 2008 and 2010, for the 100 largest American public companies. The news release provides details on what information is available, and a report by Copland gives background and explains the database’s use.

More from Copland at Point of

We think this is a very valuable tool for investors, reporters, academics, and policymakers interested in corporate governance.While we’ve yet to do the deep empirical work that the site enables, we have done some preliminary research looking at summary statistics that does illuminate some interesting trends:�

  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, the largest companies are targeted by the highest number of shareholder proposals. Energy and financial companies seem to be particular targets.
  • The most significant sponsors of shareholder proposals are individual investors (e.g., Evelyn Davis, John Chevveden); labor unions (e.g., the AFL-CIO, AFSCME); and certain religious orders.
  • A plurality (38%) of all shareholder proposals are related to social policy goals unrelated to traditional concerns of corporate governance (e.g., human rights, animal welfare, political activity). 30% are related to executive compensation, and 32% are related to other traditional corporate governance concerns (e.g., separation of chairman and CEO, voting rules).
  • No social policy proposals were adopted by shareholders over the time period. Shareholders adopted 7% of proposals related to executive compensation and 19% of proposals related to more traditional corporate governance concerns.
  • While there was some variance in the number of proposals submitted over the 2008 to 2010 timespan, the more striking trend was on the percentage of proposals being adopted by shareholders. The percentage of shareholder proposals adopted rose from 5.2% in 2008 to 10.8% in 2009, before declining somewhat to 8.4% in 2010.

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  • […] Corporate governance buffs will want to check out new Proxy Monitor website from Manhattan Institute which includes a database of shareholder resolution activity at the 100 largest public companies [Jim Copland/Point of Law (some early empirical findings), Bainbridge ("This is going to be a great resource for anyone interested in shareholder activism"), ShopFloor] […]

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