As part of the SBA’s mission to invest, manage, and safeguard the assets of its various mandates, the SBA plays a vital role in supporting initiatives to ensure that public companies meet high standards of independent and ethical corporate governance. The SBA acts as a strong advocate on behalf of FRS members and beneficiaries, retirees, and other clients to strengthen shareowner rights and promote leading corporate governance practices at U.S. and international companies in which the SBA holds stock.
The SBA’s governance philosophy encourages companies to adhere to responsible, transparent practices that correspond with increasing shareowner value and to appropriately consider the input of their shareowners. The SBA’s corporate governance activities are focused on enhancing share value and ensuring that public companies are accountable to their shareowners with independent boards of directors, transparent disclosures, accurate financial reporting, and ethical business practices designed to protect the SBA’s investments.
During fiscal year 2022-23, staff cast votes at 12,203 companies worldwide, an all-time high for the SBA, voting on ballot items including director elections, audit firm ratification, executive compensation plans, mergers & acquisitions, and a variety of other management and shareowner proposals. These votes involved 116,460 distinct voting items—voting 81% “For’’ and 15.7% “Against”, with the remaining 3.3% involving abstentions. Of all votes cast, 15.8 percent were “Against” the management-recommended-vote. SBA proxy voting was conducted across 70 countries, with the top five countries comprised of the United States (2,837 votes), China (2,192), Japan (1,320), India (865), and South Korea (559). The SBA actively engages portfolio companies throughout the year, addressing corporate governance concerns and seeking opportunities to improve alignment with the interests of our beneficiaries. Highlights from the 2023 U.S. proxy season included the continued focus and critical voting on the level and form of executive compensation, “over-boarded” directors continued to receive investor opposition, and further declines in shareowner support for some types of environmental and social topic proposals.
In addition to proxy voting, the SBA actively engages companies it invests in throughout the year, at times maintaining a year-round dialogue and analysis of corporate governance issues and other reforms. Engagement by investors can be a very effective way to advocate for positive changes and improve reporting by the companies in which the SBA invests. Improved corporate disclosures are a key objective of SBA engagement, as transparent and improved comparability can help all shareowners make better investment decisions. The SBA’s corporate engagement activity addresses corporate governance concerns and seeks opportunities to improve alignment with the interests of our beneficiaries. The SBA’s Corporate Governance unit prepares a separate annual report detailing its activities and additional reports on corporate governance topics covering a wide range of shareowner issues. Historical information, including prior reports, can be found within the governance section of the SBA’s website, available at www.sbafla.com.