Institutional investors’ growing sensitivity to corporate governance issues has turned Australia’s proxy voting advisers into ‘kingmakers’, activist Stephen Mayne told the Australian Super Investment conference in Cairns yesterday.

A negative recommendation from proxy voting adviser ISS was enough to attract a 46.9 per cent ‘no vote’ against, Oxiana’s CEO, Owen Hegarty, remuneration package at its last AGM after he was discovered trying to shift the goal posts. The most recent remuneration resolutions at Coca Cola and Minara would have actually been overturned were it not for controlling interests stepping in. The increasingly high ‘no votes’ at AGMs showed corporate governance activism in Australia was stronger than ever, Mayne said, citing as a further example Rio Tinto’s withdrawal of a motion limiting its exposure to investor class actions, following an ISS recommendation against it. However he criticized individual trustee boards for never submitting resolutions at AGMs and also of being too supportive of underperforming directors.

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