An unprecedented gathering of publicly traded companies, regulators, proxy services providers, public interest groups and other stakeholders has laid the groundwork for improving the processes by which shareholders of Canadian public companies vote their shares at annual meetings.
The Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries (CSCS) held its first Shareholder Democracy Summit in Toronto on October 24 and 25, providing a forum to discuss the problems with the proxy voting process in Canada and to develop action steps that can be taken to ensure an efficient and transparent shareholder rights process.
‘The simple act of getting the stakeholders in each other’s presence and sharing information that is presently trapped in silos affords insights that will allow all the stakeholders to learn how they are able to contribute to improving the existing processes,’ says CSCS chairman David Masse, who is also senior legal counsel and assistant corporate secretary at CGI Group. CSCS is spearheading the efforts to reform the proxy voting process in Canada, and the summit process ‘presents an opportunity for the participants, as Canadians, to develop an efficient modern shareholder democracy process that will be a significant competitive advantage for Canadian capital markets and serve as an example to US, European and Asian markets,’ Masse adds.
Key summit presenters included Winnie Sanjoto, senior legal counsel, Ontario Securities Commission; Lucie Roy, senior policy adviser, Autorité des Marchés Financiers; Sarah Wilson, chief executive officer, Manifest Information Services; Laurens Vis, managing director, KAS Bank UK; Jean-Paul Valuet, secretary general, Association Nationale des Sociétés par Actions; Ken Bertsch, president and chief executive officer, Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals; Robert McCormick, chief policy officer, Glass Lewis; Michael Jennings, proxy voting specialist, Institutional Shareholder Services; Tom Enright, president and chief executive officer, Canadian Investor Relations Institute; and Daniel Chornous, chief investment officer, RBC Global Asset Management, and chair of the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance board of directors.