On November 17, 2011, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) issued updates to its proxy voting policies applicable to shareholder meetings held on or after February 1, 2012. This Alert summarizes and discusses implications of those updates for US companies. The ISS proxy voting guidelines and the updates are available at http://www.issgovernance.com/policy.
ISS is generally considered the most influential proxy advisor in the US. Recent studies have found that ISS is able to influence shareholder votes by 6% to 20%.  In preparing for 2012 annual meetings, corporate counsel, corporate secretaries, and directors (particularly those serving on compensation or nominating and governance committees) should review the ISS policy updates and consider how the changes may affect ISS’ evaluation of director re-elections, executive compensation matters, and other matters for shareholder vote. Note that for the 2012 proxy season, ISS has identified over 50 circumstances that may support a negative vote recommendation (either “against” or “withhold”) in uncontested director elections.