Submitted by: Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc.
Categories: Corporate Governance
Posted: Nov 18, 2002 – 11:00 PM EST
NEW YORK--Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), a leading investment management firm serving the Catholic institutional market, today announced that it has begun publishing its proxy votes for all the companies in its investment portfolios on its web site (www.cbisonline.com
CBIS was one of the first investment advisers in the nation to voluntarily disclose its proxy-voting policies and voting record. It has been disclosing its proxy votes to investment clients since 1989. For the past decade, it has also provided its clients with detailed, comprehensive proxy-voting guidelines disclosing how it intends to vote their shares on a variety of issues involving corporate governance and corporate social responsibility. The proxy-voting guidelines are posted on the CBIS web site, where its actual proxy votes will now be posted as well.
"Disclosing our proxy votes on our web site is the next logical step," says Francis Coleman, Executive Vice President and Director of Socially Responsible Investing at CBIS. "Our client participants now will be able to determine, on a real time basis, what corporate annual meetings are coming up, what issues are on the table, and how we intend to vote their shares. We think this will encourage more shareholder engagement and participation in our 'active ownership' agenda - improving corporate accountability on the part of CBIS portfolio companies."
The new web site proxy disclosure feature will include each and every company in CBIS' investment portfolios, and will allow users to search companies by company name or by the date of each company's annual meeting. It will also include a continuously updated list of all corporate annual meetings - and proxy ballot issues - upcoming within the next two weeks.
CBIS votes client proxies for over 1,000 companies each year, including international as well as domestic companies. It also files shareholder resolutions and engages in dialogues with corporations on a range of issues - including diversity, environmental standards, sweatshop labor issues and corporate governance issues like executive compensation and auditor independence.
"We have always taken seriously the fiduciary duty we owe our client participants to vote their proxies in a manner consistent with their best interests," says Mr. Coleman. "In fact, we have always thought it an anomaly that the policies and practices of investment advisers in voting their clients' securities did not have to be disclosed to those clients. That's why we long ago decided to voluntarily disclose our own proxy voting policies and record. With web site disclosure, we are endeavoring to make that process even more transparent, with increased utility and benefits to our participants."
In its recent comment letter supporting the SEC's newly proposed rules on proxy voting disclosure, CBIS recommended that reporting and record-keeping requirements for investment advisers and mutual funds be uniform. Under the proposed rules, however, mutual funds that maintain web sites would be required to disclose their proxy votes on their web sites while investment advisers would not. CBIS' decision to voluntarily publish its proxy votes on its web site is a direct challenge to this aspect of the proposed rule.
"We believe investment advisers maintaining web sites should disclose their proxy votes on their sites," says Coleman. "We have chosen to voluntarily post our own proxy votes in order to promote greater transparency in the discharge of our fiduciary obligations, and to encourage our clients to get more involved in corporate governance and corporate social responsibility issues."
"We have also found that the financial impact of web-based disclosure is not only manageable but in fact negligible," says Coleman. "Available technology and resources mean that web site posting can be a very cost-effective communication and disclosure tool for investment advisers."
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