May 20, 2013 Comments

We’ve just pretty much ended the annual season for voting our shares. I used to vote my shares years ago. Then I gave up because really it is usually a waste of time since the recommended slate usually gets in with 99% of the votes or something. Also, in Canada, we only get to withhold our vote; we don’t get to vote against a director. And rarely is there ever a competing slate of directors.

But it is easy to vote online once they send you the ballot. So sometimes I would go in and withhold my votes on someone if I had a reason to. But I was never sure if anyone really saw or cared that my few votes were withheld.

But this year there seems to be a new development. All the companies now issue press releases showing the results of the vote including the number of votes withheld for each director. Well, let’s face it you or me withholding our votes is not going to change the result. But in most cases there are few votes withheld and so even a few hundred votes withheld may add noticeably to the withheld number. It might be 14,600,000 votes for and 14376 votes withheld but that means you can almost see your contribution to that 14376 or whatever. And it seems to me that it is embarrassing for a director to get too many withheld votes. And especially when it is selective. I am seeing cases where most directors had 1% or less withheld but one or more directors are singled out and have 5% or more withheld. Everyone sees that. It sends a message.

So the bottom line is that withholding your votes (especially selectively on a few directors you don’t want) is now a bit of an interesting spectator sport. So, hopefully more people will get involved with voting.

The Canadian markets were closed today. New York was open. Wells Fargo climbed a little and is now over $40. But generally it was a quiet day in the U.S. markets.

Yahoo is paying  one billion for Tumblr which is apparently exceedingly popular but apparently has little revenue let alone profits. Well, a quick glance at the balance sheet of Yahoo suggests they can afford to throw away a billion if they wish. They have a couple billion cash and essentially no debt. But meanwhile I have used Yahoo Finance for over 15 years and these days I often have to hit refresh multiple times just to get the web page with my portfolio to load. Years ago their web pages used to load at least. I am certainly not impressed. But it seems they are profitable so perhaps they do know what they are doing.