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October 04, 2005
ICCR Online Database Eases Access to Information on Shareowner Resolutions
    by William Baue

EthVest, the new web-based tool from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, provides access to 2,000-plus shareowner resolutions and 12-plus years of shareowner action.


When the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) first started coordinating shareowner activism more than thirty years ago, shareowner resolutions addressing social, environmental, and corporate governance issues were an obscurity on the corporate proxy ballot. Shareowner activism has gained a much higher profile in the intervening three decades, especially since the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently started requiring all mutual funds to disclose their proxy voting records every August. With resolutions in the spotlight, what better time to facilitate the process of tracking resolutions, which until now has been extremely arduous?

ICCR is doing so with the launch of EthVest, a subscription-based online database containing the full text of 2,000-plus shareowner resolutions filed by ICCR members in the last dozen years, as well as related information.

"From my experience, there is an increasing interest in the so-called 'social resolutions' and what is happening in the SRI field in general," said Pat Wolf, executive director of ICCR, a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors and socially responsible investing (SRI) firms with $110 billion in assets managed. "I think EthVest can inform decisions on proxy voting and encourage subscribers to ask their mutual funds about how they voted on different issues."

While SRI mutual funds tend to sponsor and vote in support of social, environmental, and corporate governance resolutions, recent studies of mainstream mutual fund voting records reveal much rubber-stamping of corporate management recommendations to oppose resolutions. One goal of EthVest is to provide the information necessary to counteract such complacency. The inspiration for EthVest also grew out of the convergence of in-house technological developments and external demand for information.

"In June 2004, ICCR completed the development of an online interactive database for shareholder activity and housed it within the member section of our website," Sister Pat told SocialFunds.com. "Our members can sign up to file shareholder resolutions, enter pertinent data regarding any challenges to resolutions at the SEC, and so forth--for our members it creates timely and accurate information about their work."

"At the same time ICCR was receiving many phone calls regarding the history of shareholder activism; the role of the faith community in it--for example, requests from reporters regarding the number of resolutions filed in a given year and how that compared to previous years and who was filing the resolutions," said Sr Pat. "It occurred to us that much information was available on our database but not available to the public."

Those who have tried to find accurate, timely, and comprehensive information on shareowner resolutions know how difficult the task can be. Currently, ICCR's website posts information on resolutions filed by its members dating back to the 2000-2001 proxy season, while EthVest extends back to 1993-1994. Furthermore, when similar resolutions are filed at multiple companies, ICCR's website links to a generic version of the resolution, whereas EthVest contains the exact resolution as filed with each company.

In addition to enhancing accuracy, EthVest also enhances timeliness.

"Whereas ICCR posts resolutions on the website just prior to the proxy voting season, EthVest makes the resolution text available once the resolution is actually filed and received by the company," said Sr. Pat.

After shareowners vote on resolutions at corporate annual meetings, EthVest tracks vote tallies.

"We post the unofficial vote tally on EthVest as soon as we get it from the filer, usually the day of the meeting," said Sr. Pat. "Then we go through a definitive process to make sure that the final vote we post is accurate."

EthVest subscribers can also opt to receive email alerts of developments in shareowner action based on selection criteria, such as the issues addressed by resolutions, resolution filers, or target companies. Subscription rates vary from $2,500 for corporations, financial analysts, university endowments, and other like organizations to $1,000 for nonprofits.

"We recognize that the needs of students and media are unique and we are prepared to address their needs as well," Sr. Pat added.

 

 
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