INTEL Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) will become the first U.S. company to enable all of its shareholders to attend, ask questions and cast their votes live on the web at its next annual meeting.
Although advance Internet voting and annual meeting webcasts have been common for several years, shareholders were not previously able to vote live at company meetings via the web.
Typically, they also were not able to ask questions unless they attended the meeting in person or companies made arrangements for them to submit questions before hand or via a webcast. Intel has previously allowed questions via the web, but had no way to limit online questions to validated stockowners only.
However, in a preliminary proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Intel said its shareholders will be able “to vote electronically and submit questions during the meeting,” which will be webcast live on May 20, 2009.
The mechanics of validating all shareholders to attend, vote and pose questions via the web is complicated by the different ways that investors hold their shares.
- Stockholders of record, those with shares held in their own names, will be on a list held by the inspector of elections.
- Beneficial holders, those whose shares are held in the name of their brokerage firm, must obtain a proxy from their brokerage firm, bank, or other stockholder of record before they can cast their ballots.
Full details of how the electronic validation process will work have not yet been posted on Intel’s website because the proxy materials are only scheduled to be mailed April 3. However, Broadridge Financial Solutions (NYSE: BR) will play a central role in implementing the systems that validate brokerage clients.
On the morning of the meeting, validated shareholders who are physically present and those on the web will be able to vote their shares for an hour until polls close at 9:30am Pacific Time. All validated shareholders will have an opportunity to ask questions.
Investors who are not shareholders will be able to access the proceedings via a webcast but they will not be able to participate.
Intel will also be using the SEC’s notice-and-access default electronic delivery method to distribute annual reports and proxy statements to shareholders for the second year.
Last year, the company estimated that the move saved Intel more than $2 million in printing and postage costs avoided the generation of about 4 million pounds of CO2 equivalent and over 13 million gallons of wastewater.
Last year, Intel was the only company I pointed to that made a strong effort to present its online materials in effective online formats. This year, they are going the extra mile to engage their shareholders online.
Peter Schuman in Intel’s investor relations department told me via email late last night that the company will also be introducing a shareholder forum where shareholders can discuss issues and ask questions of management outside the annual meeting process.
Once more details are available about how Intel will be validating shareholders, I’ll post more information. Kudos to Intel for bringing annual meeting voting into the digital age.