We are witnessing a change in sentiment about independent director involvement in engagement meetings with shareholders. These interactions help to:
- Establish respect and understanding;
- Create a culture of no surprises; and
- Assess the quality and independence of directors by permitting shareholders the opportunity to learn how key board functions are managed and overseen.
To facilitate these interactions, we call on the independent directors of U.S. companies to develop suitable strategies that address their responsibility to communicate with shareholders.
Companies with significant governance concerns are increasingly recognizing the value of their independent directors engaging with shareholders. We are encouraged that some independent directors are actively seeking input from their shareholders to pre-emptively manage situations, while others are interested in understanding shareholder views on certain matters. However, such practices are by no means universal, with communication often occurring unilaterally through press statements and proxy disclosures rather than in face-to-face exchanges with shareholders. We advocate for independent director meetings with shareholders to become a routine part of a board’s approach to outreach with its shareholders, rather than only in exceptional circumstances or in times of crisis.