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Commentary: Mutual Fund Proxy Voting

A recent commentary by a Reuters contributor discusses the amount of power that mutual funds wield over corporate policies by voting the shares of their portfolio companies.  The author states that funds have an obligation to vote in the best interest of shareholders and that they generally consider a number of factors when deciding how to vote, including the specifics of the proposal, the company's performance and the quality and responsiveness of management.  She also notes that fund managers may influence corporate policy in other ways, including engaging in discussions with management or board members or selling a company stock.  However, she cites recent studies that show that funds tend to vote with management, especially in the area of corporate pay and climate-change resolutions.  She asserts that shareholders may be better off "having managers vote in ways that encourage corporate practices that add value beyond the next quarter's earnings."  However, as the author also notes, most people invest in mutual funds because they want strong performance, not because they want to influence corporate policy.