Occupy the shareholder meetings!

Washington Post

By , Published: April 24

Even though their tents were cleared out of the parks this winter, the Occupy spirit has re-emerged with a vengeance this spring.

Across the country, and in some pockets overseas, there’s been growing pushback against excessive CEO pay, lending practices, and other major executive decisions at big banks’ annual shareholders meetings. Investors have spearheaded a lot of the revolt, alongside the anti-bank populists who’ve supported them.

Citigroup_Pay_Protest_0f830.jpg

Vikram Pandit, CEO of CitiGroup, (Mark Lennihan, AP)

Much of the major action is happening from the inside. UK fund manager Hermes–which represents a group of pensions and other investment funds–has launched a protest against Deutsche Bank’s executive compensation policies, lobbying other shareholders in the German bank to reject a resolution approving the board’s performance, the Financial Times reports.

This comes on the heels of a major shareholder revolt at Citigroup, where they voted down a $15 million pay package for CEO Vikram Pandit this month–with strong, surprising support with Citi’s employee-stockholders as well. Similar sentiments are bubbling to the surface at Wal-Mart and Verizon, where employee-shareholders also want more say on pay, as Gretchen Morgenson pointed out over the weekend.

Some of the action is also happening from the outside: Today in San Francisco, for example, a group of shareholders, together with other progressive activists, are scheduled to protest Wells Fargo’s annual shareholder meeting under the Occupy banner of “the 99 percent.” They’re uniting under a hodgepodge of demands that include everything from halting foreclosure proceedings and protesting predatory lending practices to divesting from private prisons.

Still, it may be a while yet before banks and other publicly held corporations embrace major reforms. Hermes, for instance, is lobbying to change a vote that’s non-binding. But it’s a reminder that the anti-bank populism that inspired the Occupy movement hasn’t dissipated; it was simply lying in wait for the next opportunity to surface.

© The Washington Post Company

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