Apr 22, 2010

Proxy advisers need to draw the lean, er line, somewhere

The attacks on proxy advisers stepped up once more last week after two corporate partners from law-firm Mallesons penned an op-ed piece in the Financial Review.

Adam Schwab — Business director and commentator

Adam Schwab

Business director and commentator

There were plenty of people who could fill the role of the villain if a movie were ever made about the recent global financial crisis and its preceding two-decade long bubble. From greedy executives, to dim-witted company directors, investment bankers, auditors, independent experts and sometimes even corporate lawyers — there were few people who investors could really trust to act on their behalf. It seemed that despite being paid by them, everyone was financially motivated to act against the best interests of shareholders.

There were only a couple of exceptions — largely financial journalists (in Australia, these included Stephen Mayne, Michael West, Michael Pascoe, Trevor Sykes, Alan Kohler and John Durie) and proxy advisers (specifically RiskMetrics and CGI Glass Lewis). These people and firms used raw intellect and an un-conflicted business model to finally hold poorly performing directors and executives to account. Those chosen few company directors, highly paid by shareholders to represent their interests appeared too pre-occupied ensuring their friends in the executive suite were remunerated to be concerned with pesky issues such as solvency or competence.

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4 thoughts on “Proxy advisers need to draw the lean, er line, somewhere

  1. bjb

    Another great article Adam. Bought your book too – great read, although the egregiousness of the players is/was rather depressing. Keep up the good work !

  2. MichaelT

    I’m a fan of Mallesons in general, but on this occasion they are out of line, and clearly have a conflict of interest.

    RiskMetrics have done us all a great service by exposing some of the ways corporate managers seek to feather their own nest at the expense of shareholders.

    Keep it up, I say!

  3. Punter

    Adam Schwab is a master of journalistic hyperbole but as a former employee of both a competitor law firm and Risk Metrics, he has plenty of conflicts baggage of his own. I suspect his thundering critique of Mallesons needs to be taken with a big grain of salt.

  4. Gary Johnson

    There’s some common denominators here that are just staggering, I just wish I had license to spell it out.

    The Adam Schwabs of this world are thin on the ground….so Adam!…to prevent you from becoming an endangered species, please check under your car every morning, and please only get out of your car inside your security gate and always double check your house security system.

    Theres a corporate underbelly out there with tentacles all the way to those “high places” that hates having it’s feathers ruffled.

    Excellent article!!!..keep ruffling mate, you got few a friends in “low” places.

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