By Hanna Roberts, CEO at GES
As a representative of active institutional investors, the GES engagement team is actively involved in shareholder engagement and voting at general meetings on behalf of its clients. We believe that the latest OECD principles of Corporate Governance will further the responsible investment agenda and strengthen stewardship activities across the globe. We are convinced that voting and constructive engagement led by active and informed share owners and their representatives are an integral part to the efficient working of capital markets. Many studies show that well-governed companies create more value over the long-term. That’s why robust frameworks for corporate governance benefit all market participants.
GES welcomes the recommendations across the Principles’ six chapters. The emphasis on the rights of a range of stakeholders and their role in corporate wealth creation is an important addition to the Principles. We also regard as a positive development the creation of a new chapter on institutional investors, stock markets and other intermediaries. It is a well-formulated attempt to address the issue of aligning incentives throughout the investment chain leading from ultimate beneficiaries to companies. The chapter encourages a movement towards greater transparency on the part of institutional investors, companies and stock markets, which should in our view help principals to hold their agents to account and enhance the quality of decision-making.
The renewal of the Principles may be timely. We have seen a notable resurgence of differential voting rights in various markets, most recently in France (the expansion of double voting rights with the Macron law) and Italy (the introduction of loyalty shares). We consider that these developments have reduced transparency of ownership and more generally undermined minority shareholders’ rights to influence investee companies. The Principles now emphasise the importance of the equitable treatment of shareholders, including in the area of voting rights, and we consider that policymakers, shareholders and companies should give them due weight before similar legislation is passed in other markets.
GES fully supports the updated G20/OECD Principles and agrees with the OECD Secretary-General that their implementation may contribute to “better corporate governance as a key element of trust and confidence of our citizens in companies and markets”.