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Does Confidential Proxy Voting Matter?

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  • Romano, Roberta
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    Abstract

    Confidential voting in corporate proxies is a principal recommendation in activist institutional investors' guidelines for corproate governance reforms. This paper examins the impact of the adoption of confidential corporate proxy voting on proposal outcoms through a panel data set of shareholder and management proposals submitted from 1986-98 to the 130 firms that adopted confidential voting in those years. Institutional investors promoting confidential voting maintain that private sector institutions have conflicts of interest that prevent them from voting against management even though to do so would maximize the value of their shares; they contend that anonymous ballots will enable such investors to vote their true interest, and thereby anticipate reduced support for management proposals and increased support for shareholder proposals. The paper finds, contrary to confidential voting advocates' expectations, that adoption of confidential voting has no significant effect on voting outcomes. voting outcomes are best explained by proposal type; neither institutional nor insider ownership, nor prior performance, significantly affect the level of support a proposal receives. Moreover, the conflict of interest hypothesis is not supported in the data, as private institutional holdings post-adoption of the voting reform do not affect the support level for proposals. Confidential voting also does not affect firm's stock performance. The results suggest that institutional investor initiatives directed at confidential voting are not a fruitful allocation of investors' resources.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics in its series Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt9z88z4th.

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    Date of creation: 01 Sep 2002
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    Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt9z88z4th

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    1. Woidtke, Tracie, 2002. "Agents watching agents?: evidence from pension fund ownership and firm value," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 99-131, January.
    2. Bizjak, John M. & Marquette, Christopher J., 1998. "Are Shareholder Proposals All Bark and No Bite? Evidence from Shareholder Resolutions to Rescind Poison Pills," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(04), pages 499-521, December.
    3. Pound, John, 1988. "Proxy contests and the efficiency of shareholder oversight," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 237-265, January.
    4. Guercio, Diane Del & Hawkins, Jennifer, 1999. "The motivation and impact of pension fund activism," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 293-340, June.
    5. Mulherin, J. Harold & Poulsen, Annette B., 1998. "Proxy contests and corporate change: implications for shareholder wealth," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 279-313, March.
    6. Wahal, Sunil, 1996. "Pension Fund Activism and Firm Performance," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(01), pages 1-23, March.
    7. Roberta Romano, 2001. "Less is More: Making Shareholder Activism a Valuable Mechanism of Corporate Governance," CeRP Working Papers 12, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
    8. Willard T. Carleton & James M. Nelson & Michael S. Weisbach, 1998. "The Influence of Institutions on Corporate Governance through Private Negotiations: Evidence from TIAA-CREF," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(4), pages 1335-1362, 08.
    9. Karpoff, Jonathan M. & Malatesta, Paul H. & Walkling, Ralph A., 1996. "Corporate governance and shareholder initiatives: Empirical evidence," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 365-395, November.
    10. Strickland, Deon & Wiles, Kenneth W. & Zenner, Marc, 1996. "A requiem for the USA Is small shareholder monitoring effective?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 319-338, February.
    11. DeAngelo, Harry & DeAngelo, Linda, 1989. "Proxy contests and the governance of publicly held corporations," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 29-59, June.
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