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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 corporate proxy voting on proposal outcomes 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 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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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Yale School of Management in its series Yale School of Management Working Papers with number ysm300.

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    Date of creation: 01 Sep 2002
    Date of revision: 01 Feb 2003
    Handle: RePEc:ysm:somwrk:ysm300

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    Web page: http://icf.som.yale.edu/
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    Related research

    Keywords: Institutional Activism; Shareholder Voting; Corporate Governance;

    References

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    1. Brickley, James A. & Lease, Ronald C. & Smith, Clifford Jr., 1988. "Ownership structure and voting on antitakeover amendments," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 267-291, January.
    2. 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.
    3. 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).
    4. 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.
    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. Gillan, Stuart L. & Starks, Laura T., 2000. "Corporate governance proposals and shareholder activism: the role of institutional investors," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 275-305, August.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Pound, John, 1988. "Proxy contests and the efficiency of shareholder oversight," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 237-265, January.
    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.
    12. 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.
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    Cited by:
    1. Abe Jong & Gerard Mertens & Peter Roosenboom, 2006. "Shareholders’ Voting at General Meetings: Evidence from the Netherlands," Journal of Management and Governance, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 353-380, November.
    2. de Jong, A. & Mertens, G.M.H. & Roosenboom, P.G.J., 2004. "Shareholders’ Voting at General Meetings: Evidence from the Netherlands," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2004-039-F&A, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus Uni.

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