Issue: March 2012 / May 2012


A random scan of asset managers’ websites shows that, since the beginning of February when the Code for Responsible Investment became effective, there’s been a marked improvement in disclosure of their stewardship policies and proxy votes. But some are easier to find than others, and some are less comprehensive than others.

There are also different approaches. For instance, setting out its policy, Stanlib “takes a less public but very active role when dealing with companies as the representative of beneficial shareholders”. The votes it casts are recorded but only “reported back to clients on request”.

By contrast, there’s Investec. Its stuff couldn’t be easier to find – merely google ‘Investec proxy’ – and up come reams of policy and voting disclosures. The latter are made the simpler in that one merely clicks onto the name of the fund (e.g. a unit trust) or enter the name of a specific company to find how Investec voted on each resolution at the company’s meeting of shareholders. Reasons can de deduced from the policy statement.

Fiddling with the site, it hit me between the eyes that Investec had voted against approval of Sasol’s remuneration policy. That must have taken some doing, given the amount of fees for corporate-finance work that Sasol dishes out.

My guess is that, over time, other websites will follow similarly.

Since the new Companies Act allows shareholders non-binding votes on companies’ remuneration policies, there’s been a string of them. Like 20% against at J D Group, 29% at Reunert, 35% at Sappi and 35% at Barloworld.

But financial institutions including pension funds, which pay the levies from which the Financial Services Board is funded, have no vote on its remuneration policies. If they had, one wonders how they would have voted on these packages (the respective columns reflecting the executive’s name, 2011 total including bonus and percentage increase over 2010):

D Tshidi R3,6m 14,6%
G Anderson R2,4m 21,5%
J Boyd R2,2m 11,6%
C Chanetsa R2,1m 11,8%
M du Toit R2,2m 9,4%
J Dixon R2,2m 11,0%
D Seedat R2,1m 29,7%

Suffice to say that these packages (all figures rounded) are way above the packages for commensurate officials of National Treasury, represented only recently on the FSB board. The increases are also way above inflation. Some sort of example is being set, for better or worse.

Annual reports of the FSB and National Prosecuting Authority reflect a cash donation of R406 000 by the FSB to the NPA. The FSB and NPA explain that the payment was made “in respect of the criminal prosecution of people charged with offences relating to the unlawful stripping of various pension funds for the funding of outside counsel to conduct the prosecution”.

So far just one person has been brought to trial. Were it only that the FSB was as proactive on Trilinear.

Rumour has it that Peter Ghavalas, putative architect of the surplusstripping schemes, recently returned to SA from Australia. But is he still here?

Some people are anxious to know. Comparing the affadavits he’d made in his defence, and later in a plea bargain, they’re keen to lay perjury charges against him.

Captain Francesco Schettino has started a new job

Having retired as British prime minister, Winston Churchill took a cruise on an Italian liner. Asked why he hadn’t chosen a British ship, Churchill gave three reasons:

“The food’s better. The service is better. And if there’s an emergency, there’s none of this nonsense about women and children first.”