73% of the shareholders at large-cap companies and 77% of those at mid-cap companies are institutional investors, according to the latest edition of ProxyPulse, a joint publication by Broadridge and PwC that examined 4,200 annual meetings held between January 1 and June 30, 2016. But retail investors play an important role in contested issues, and they tend to side with the company. During the 2016 proxy season, only 15% of retail shareholders supported proxy access shareholder proposals compared to 60% of the institutions that voted.
An analysis of retail shareholders found some interesting differences relative to the U.S. population. Only 20% are less than 40 years of age compared to 31% of the overall population, and 22% have graduate degrees, 11% more than U.S. residents as a whole. Not surprisingly, retail shareholders are better off economically, with 8% having income greater than $250,000 and 91% being homeowners, compared to 3% and 75% of the general public, respectively. Notably, given the election year, retail shareholders are more likely to be registered as independents than the U.S. population (18% compared to 12%). About 14% are not registered, compared to 32% of the public; 38% of retail shareholders are registered as Republicans vs. 31% as registered Democrats.
The report also studied the results of director elections this past season. One reason that directors have come to expect high marks is because 82% of directors obtain more than 90% of favorable votes. As is always the case, very few directors receive less than majority support, with only 1.7% of the more than 22,000 directors being voted on, which equates to 382 individual directors at 173 different companies. However, an additional 8% saw low support levels of between 50% and 70%.
As 2017 approaches the six-year anniversary of the say-on-pay vote, large-cap and mid-cap companies continue to average about 90% of votes in favor, although 11% of companies did not meet 70% approval thresholds. Say-on-pay challenges may strike repeatedly, as 42% of the companies with less than 70% support last season had the same results this year.