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Does Confidential Proxy Voting Matter?

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  • Roberta Romano
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    Abstract

    Confidential voting in corporate proxies is a principal recommendation in activist institutional investors' guidelines for corporate governance reforms. This paper examines the impact of the adoption of confidential voting on proposal outcomes through a panel data set of shareholder and management proposals submitted from 1986-98 to 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 firms' 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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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9126.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9126.

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    Date of creation: Aug 2002
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    Publication status: published as Romano, Roberta. "Does Confidential Proxy Voting Matter?" The Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 32 (June 2003).
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9126

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    1. 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.
    2. 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.
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    8. Romano, Roberta, 1996. "Corporate Law and Corporate Governance," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 277-339.
    9. 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).
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Pound, John, 1988. "Proxy contests and the efficiency of shareholder oversight," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 237-265, January.
    13. 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.
    14. Barber, Brad M. & Lyon, John D., 1997. "Detecting long-run abnormal stock returns: The empirical power and specification of test statistics," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 341-372, March.
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