600-Plus Companies Adopt NYC Pensions’ ‘Proxy Access’ Agenda

Comptroller Stringer’s push for major shareholders to change board structure, climate change views, is paying off.

More than 600 companies have adopted the “proxy access” policy of New York City’s “boardroom accountability” initiative since its 2014 launch, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.

The targeted companies, which include more than 71% of the S&P 500, gives large, long-term investors like the city’s pension funds, the ability to nominate directors to company boards. It’s also a bid to increase so-called corporate responsibility.

By Stringer’s reckoning, the companies have seen changes in board diversity, their climate change actions, and how they treat their workers since complying with New York City’s guidelines.

The proxy access campaign gives new clout to big public pension funds such as the city’s five pension funds (Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System, Fire Pension Fund, Police Pension Fund, and the Board of Education Retirement System.

More than 35 companies that Comptroller Stringer’s office specifically targeted have adopted the measure in the past year. One of which was streaming giant Netflix, which Stringer’s office labeled as one of its “persistent hold-outs.” Proxy access had been getting a majority vote for four consecutive years in annual shareholder meetings before the company buckled.

“Corporations have been in the business of raising barriers, shutting blinds, and avoiding accountability for far too long,” Stringer said. “Proxy access gives us the leverage to flip that script, and break open the insular systems which have enabled excessive CEO pay, dismal levels of boardroom diversity, and inaction on climate change.”

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