In an analysis of 10 million mutual fund votes cast between 2007 and 2009, the Investment Company Institute found that the number of shareholder proposals rose, and as such, funds approved 50% of these proposals in 2009, up from 35% in 2007.
Many of these shareholder proposals sought the right to call special meetings or to vote on executive compensation, the ICI said.
However, funds continued, as in years past, to approve 90% of management proposals, with three-quarters of these matters dealing with the election of directors. Most of the time, funds approved companies’ nominees—but they also have started to withhold votes, particularly for directors on board compensation committees, in an apparent opposition to executive pay decisions.
In fact, in 2009, funds voted nearly 60% in favor of shareholder-sponsored say-on-pay proposals and about 80% of the time in favor of management-sponsored say-on-pay proposals. Thus, funds expressed disapproval of executive compensation packages nearly 20% of the time.
“During the years spanning the financial crisis, funds expended considerable time and energy grappling with new issues and studying new types of proxy proposals,” the ICI said.