THE board of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) will hold face-to-face meetings with an invited list of shareholders to hear their views on corporate governance issues, including executive pay.
The first summit will happen later this year. The company said it plans to invite shareholder representatives who together own about 35% of Pfizer’s shares.
Pfizer’s board is believed to be the first in the U.S. to launch such a forum for dialog with shareholders. The company is something of a governance trailblazer and deserves a lot of credit for its online governance communications.
And the rest of us?
There’s no word yet on what format the summit will take, so some of what I have to say next might be jumping the gun. But I figure they would have said something in their news release if they were planning these things…
My first concern is whether the company’s other shareholders will be allowed to observe the proceedings. For instance, will the company live webcast the event?
Better yet, instead of only hearing from 35% of the shareholder base (what makes them so special?) I hope Pfizer will broaden the outreach effort by giving anyone (yes, anyone) who has something to contribute an opportunity to participate.
Pfizer could do so by allowing interested parties to submit comment letters on defined topics or questions and then post these in a special section of the company’s website in advance of, and for a reasonable period following, each summit. You know, similar to how the SEC and other regulators invite comments on their proposed rules.
Make the whole process open and transparent, while still maintaining a level of decorum that won’t make anyone blush.
Governance needs to be seen to be done. Meeting in private with one group of shareholders while locking the rest out of the process just doesn’t seem all that… well, open.
Hey! But good try.