Coca-Cola, Best Buy Shareholder Votes Get Social Twist
David F. Carr | November 23, 2011
When investors go to vote online on shareholder issues, they now can ask
questions, almost as if attending the annual meeting in person, using a
When investors in Coca-Cola and Best Buy go to vote online on shareholder
issues, they now have an opportunity to ask questions, almost as if they
were attending the annual meeting in person, using an application built on
social software from Telligent.
The financial data services company
Broadridge, which operates the
proxyvote.com website for online shareholder voting, created the shareholder
forums product initially for Intel. Intel has not continued to use the
product, but Coca-Cola and Best Buy are among the companies who have picked
"Coca-Cola and Best Buy see this as a better corporate governance process,
and a way to be more engaged with the retail shareholder," said Michael
Mostransky, product manager for the Broadridge shareholder forums.
Telligent is one of the few
enterprise social network vendors to address both internal and external
audiences, and Broadridge is using the Telligent Community version for
public communities on the Web.
Telligent Enterprise is the
corresponding version of the platform for internal corporate communication
Since the Securities and Exchange Commission began allowing proxy shares to
be cast online, participation has declined, Mostransky said. "Voting dropped
off as soon as the physical paper went away." That can be a concern for
companies trying to ensure they muster the minimum number of votes required
to do business.
Though adoption of the shareholder forums is not widespread yet, the theory
is that shareholders might be more likely to vote if they can get their
questions answered about what they are voting on, Mostransky said.
"Hopefully, more engagement equals more voting." Broadridge integrates the
forums into the workflow of the voting process, so that shareholders access
the forums using the same control number code they use to sign in and vote.
This means the company can be assured that the participants really are
shareholders, as opposed to stock-bashing trolls who lurk in public stock
Still, companies "are not sure how far they want to go--is this Pandora's
box?" Mostransky said. As a result, this social software experience isn't
all that social. Investor relations officers operating with the SEC looking
over their shoulders aren't necessarily eager to invite free-wheeling
discussion. Broadridge used the Telligent discussion forum software as a
starting point, but modified it to be a tightly moderated system where
shareholders can post questions, but they can't see the questions that
others are entering. Rather than responding to the questions individually,
the investment relations officer will compile the questions and a list of
thoroughly vetted answers to present in the form of a frequently asked
questions document, Mostransky said. As part of that process, however, the
investment relations officer is able to sign into the system as an
administrator and see all of the questions displayed in a message board
interface, with a green bar next to each individual's name showing the
weighting of that person's ownership in the company. This gives an
at-a-glance view of the big shots in the crowd.
For Broadridge, the beauty of the Telligent software was that it could be
modified to fit the purpose, Mostransky said. "The customization comes in
when we have to create a new widget that's not off-the-shelf," he said, but
most of the work can be done starting from a base template and adding a bit
of Cascading Style Sheets code, or using a REST-style web services
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