Although fund companies will not be required to begin revealing their proxy votes until next month, most have already filed their voting guidelines with the SEC. While their corporate governance policies are mixed, the new stipulation is, nonetheless, causing some reforms in how funds vote, The New York Times reports.
How funds cast their proxies has significant bearing on corporate governance in America, as mutual funds hold 18% of all shares of stock in the nation.
A professor and an assistant professor at Baruch College analyzed the guidelines of the 10 largest mutual fund families: Fidelity, Vanguard, American Funds, Putnam, Janus, Franklin Templeton, AIM/Invesco, T. Rowe Price, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Oppenheimer.
Most of these fund companies take a hard stance against management with regards to anitakover measures, such as poison pills, to protect their positions. They also oppose the repricing of stock options. Further, they also want accounting firms to do a better job of auditing and limit their consulting. Members of the boards compensation, audit and nominating committees should be independent, half the fund companies said.
But fund companies seem to side with management on some issues, the study found. None think there should be a limit on executive compensation or have a policy on firms that restate their financial results. Further, only four of the companies Vanguard, AIM/Invesco, American Funds and Putnam have a policy against such conflicts of interest as holding shares in companies in which they run the 401(k) or other investment plan.