Calpers Chokes on Apple

Shareholders override the big institutional investor's positions at two major corporations.

During the current proxy season, Calpers may be making a fuss about withholding director votes. But so far, the campaign by the nation’s largest pension fund’s has amounted to little more than background noise.

Last week, many shareholders voted against Calpers’ wishes at the annual meetings of at least two high-profile companies. By a margin of 82 percent, for instance, Apple Computer shareholders reelected the company’s entire six-member board despite Calpers’s recommendation against doing so, according to Reuters. The pension fund opposed the Apple slate because the company failed to implement a shareholder-approved proposal to expense stock options. Shareholders also voted to retain Apple’s auditor, KPMG, over Calpers’ opposition. Calpers had criticized the company’s relationship with its auditor, KPMG, since the accounting firm also performed consulting services for Apple.

At the same time, shareholders jibed with both Calpers and the Apple board in opposing a measure requesting that the board cap the chief executive’s salary at $1 million, set bonuses below annual salary levels, and curb severance payments. The opponents contended that the measure, sponsored by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, was too restrictive.

Meanwhile, at Citigroup’s annual meeting, shareholders reelected the entire board and no director received less than 94 percent of the votes, according to Reuters. Calpers had planned to withhold votes on eight directors. Over the opposition of the pension fund, about 97 percent of shareholders approved KPMG as Citigroup’s auditor. Calpers opposed that decision on the grounds that KPMG, Citi’s auditor since 1969, has performed non-audit services.

Just over 11 percent of the bank’s shareholders supported a resolution sponsored by The Service Employees International labor union mandating a detailed report on Citigroup’s political contributions. Calpers had supported the measure, noting that it “believes the proposal does not pose long-term harm to the company.”

Only 19 percent of shareholders favored of a resolution which would have split the chairman and CEO roles.

Yes, Calpers supported that one, too.

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