Virtual-only annual meetings seem to be gaining traction – as Broc blogged last summer, despite opposition from a number of prominent investor groups, the number of companies going virtual-only increased significantly in 2017. However, this Bloomberg article says that some big companies are having second thoughts about the virtual-only approach:
Railroad operator Union Pacific Corp. will revert to an in-person annual meeting this year, after its 2017 virtual-only gathering drew a shareholder rebuke and a proposal to end the practice, a company lawyer told the Securities and Exchange Commission in a letter dated Monday. ConocoPhillips is also backpedaling after investors objected to the oil producer’s online meeting last year.
“A virtual-only meeting is a totally disembodied event online — there’s no exchange or opportunity for investors to look the board in the eye,” said Tim Smith, a director at Boston-based Walden Asset Management who worked with shareholders of ConocoPhillips and Comcast Corp. opposed to virtual-only meetings.
The article points out that some investors prefer the hybrid meeting approach – where shareholders can attend in-person or online. However, according to Broadridge, only 1-in-5 virtual meetings last year adopted the hybrid approach.