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David A. Katz and Laura McIntosh. Courtesy photos David A. Katz and Laura McIntosh. Courtesy photos

While the 2019 proxy season did not feature any dramatic developments, an interesting element was the slight but noticeable growth of the nascent movement against the use of environmental, social, and political factors in corporate decision-making. Led by groups such as the Free Enterprise Project and Main Street Investors Coalition, shareholder proposals against progressive initiatives increased in both number and visibility. As the number of politically-oriented shareholder proposals has grown in recent years, and as progressive stances have dominated, it is not surprising that conservative-minded investors have attempted to mount a resistance. This small but potentially significant aspect of the 2019 proxy season is an early warning signal to CEOs and directors that a challenge in coming years will be to manage divisive political issues without alienating large groups of stakeholders. While companies must engage with investors and carefully consider issues raised in dialogue or through successful proxy proposals, they must do so in a manner that does not compromise corporate strategic success. This is likely to be an increasingly difficult task.

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