Private investors are increasingly finding their voices at companies' Annual General Meetings.
We're getting firmly into Annual General Meeting, or AGM, season now, though few private investors ever give them much thought, and even fewer actually attend them.
But an AGM is your opportunity to have your say in the running of your company, and even if you only have a small investment, you have just the same right to turn up and ask awkward questions of the directors as do the big institutional investors. After all, the board of directors are your employees, and they are ultimately answerable to you.
How do you actually get yourself into an AGM? If you're like most of us, you'll be using an execution-only broker and holding your shares in a nominee account, which means you won't have any share certificates to show as evidence of your part-ownership of the company. But your broker should be able to help.
If you use the Motley Fool Share Dealing Service, for example, you can call and opt in to a proxy service, and you'll then be able to get a proxy form for AGMs you want to attend. Having said that, some will let you in if you just show a contract note for your share purchase, and some have been known to let people in with no checking at all -- but it's better to have the proper paperwork with you to be sure.
A chance to be heard
With the subject of board room pay increasingly raising blood pressures amongst investors these days, an AGM isn't always the calm, rubber stamping, kind of affair that a company's executives would generally prefer. Oh no, the days of the owners of a company remaining obediently silent while the directors do what they please are coming to an end.
Do you, for example, think it's fair for a chief executive to take home a pay package of £1.3m in cash, shares and pension, after their company reported a 40% fall in profits and the share price has lost more than 90% under their watch?
Well, that's what's been awarded to Sly Bailey, the CEO of Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI), and shareholders are outraged. The Trinity Mirror AGM, which will be held on May 10, is likely to be a lively one. If you're a shareholder and want to go, details are on the company's web site.
Trouble at AGM
Another company whose shareholders are a bit restless these days is Barclays (LSE: BARC), which is holding its AGM on April 27 at the Royal Festival Hall. The cause of the ire in this case is, you've guessed it, bankers' bonuses. Chief Bob Diamond has been awarded a pay package valued at £6.5m, but the effective value of it might be as high as £11.8m once all his share options are considered.
When the banking business has succeeded in losing massive amounts of money for ordinary shareholders, does this seem fair? Many, including some big investment firms, don't think so.
Over at pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN), some big investors have been calling for the head of chief executive David Brennan. AstraZeneca's big problem, which has led to a stagnating share price, is the drying up of its drug development pipeline, and shareholders are frustrated with Mr Brennan's apparent failure to rectify the problem. The AGM on April 26 should be an interesting one to attend.
There are no such problems at rival GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK), which hosts its AGM on May 3, which should be a less traumatic day.
What else is coming?
Another firm in the spotlight is investment and asset manager Man Group (LSE: EMG), which is notable for a rather unusual reason -- it is offering a dividend yield of over 10%, and insists it will carry on paying it, despite Fool writer Maynard Paton's analysis suggesting that it's just not sustainable unless it can seriously turn around its fund performance and start raking in higher fees. The AGM on May 1 should be another fun one.
For those invested in diggers and delvers, we have two major miners holding their AGMs this week, on Thursday April 19 -- Anglo American (LSE: AAL) and Rio Tinto (LSE: RIO). Both have suffered share price falls of late.
Chip designer ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM) will hold its AGM on May 3, with Unilever (LSE: ULVR) the following week on May 9.
The RSA Insurance (LSE: RSA) AGM will be on May 14, with Legal & General (LSE: LGEN) following later that week on May 16, and Prudential (LSE: PRU) and Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY) on May 17.
Check your own favourites
The AGM that many will be waiting for, Tesco (LSE: TSCO), comes on June 29, so there's a bit longer to wait for that one.
That's just a small snapshot of what's coming up over the next month, but there are many more. If you want to find out when your companies' AGMs are to take place, the first place to check is their web sites -- most companies these days publish an events calendar.
And if you have been to any, please do share your experiences of attending AGMs in the Comments section, below.
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> The Motley Fool owns shares in Tesco.