Banks misusing virtual shareholder meetings

Moving bank shareholder’s meeting online during U.S. stay-at-home guidelines, kept those events not only short and uneventful but also calm and quiet so far which in the past used to be a bit noisy and offensive at times.

For the senior executives of the banks, the online shift also bring a welcoming relief as they remained facing disrupting protests and confrontational questioning from shareholders and investors over their business strategies and decisions they have made.

After facing such situations in bank’s shareholders meeting in 2018, Chief Executive Officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co, Jamie Dimon described the demonstrations as “complete waste of time” for that meeting.

The shift also raised concerned among retail investors and advocacy groups for whom these events were the only chance of meeting and discussing key corporate governance issues like diversity, sustainability and pay with the decision makers.

Those meetings are once-a-year opportunity for investors not only to engage with the leadership but to confront them in a public forum where those directors must answer to questions being raised, said Mike Mayo, a banking analyst Wells Fargo and who owns a single share of Citigroup since 2013 making him eligible to attend group’s annual meeting.

However, some outspoken investors are in agreement of holding those meetings online for protection of public health, but they are also concerned about  the rules of those meetings which are effectively being used to keep the voices low or even making them silent.

Mayo stood more than a dozen of times in line for the microphone at Citi’s last year meeting to question its management, but this year he skipped the event as bank’s decision of accepting only written questions during webcast meeting came disappointing him.

Going online has given the management a chance of not only to cherry-pick questions but also made them able to edit them, as say some investors.