Business

AGMs of US corporations going virtual

NEW YORK: Big US corporations have identified a new strategy for managing irate investors at annual shareholder meetings: Going virtual.

This year, about 250 companies are expected to convene their yearly investor tete-a-tete via audio or video, up from 155 last year and just 26 in 2012, according to investors communications firm Broadridge.

The set of companies forgoing the face-to-face encounters includes No. 2 US automaker Ford and energy giants ConocoPhillips and Duke Energy.

"We take very seriously the trust that our shareholders place in our leadership team," said Mr Bill Ford, Ford's executive chairman.

"The virtual nature of this year's meeting will enable us to increase shareholder accessibility, while improving efficiency and reducing costs."

Not everyone is persuaded over the nobility of intent.

"What's really going on is that corporations are trying to hide - from shareholders, from protesters, from anyone trying to hold them accountable," said Ms Marni Halasa, founder of protest consulting firm Revolution is Sexy.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees investments under the city's US$170 billion (S$238 billion) public pension system, has declared war on virtual meetings, sending a letter to almost 20 companies demanding they go the traditional way. - AFP

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