2018 Global Proxy Voting and Engagement Guidelines
State Street Global Advisors ("SSGA"), one of the industry’s largest institutional asset managers, is the investment management arm of State Street Corporation, a leading provider of financial services to institutional investors. As an investment manager, SSGA has discretionary proxy voting authority over most of its client accounts, and SSGA votes these proxies in the manner that we believe will most likely protect and promote the long-term economic value of client investments as described in this documenti.
State Street Global Advisors ("SSGA") maintains Proxy Voting and Engagement Guidelines for select markets, including: Australia, the EU, Japan, New Zealand , North America (Canada and the US), the UK, and emerging markets. International markets that do not have specific guidelines are reviewed and voted consistent with our Global Proxy Voting and Engagement Principles; however, SSGA also endeavors to show sensitivity to local market practices when voting in these various markets.
SSGA's Approach to Proxy Voting and Issuer Engagement
At SSGA, we take our fiduciary duties as an asset manager very seriously. We have a dedicated team of corporate governance professionals who help us carry out our duties as a responsible investor. These duties include engaging with companies, developing and enhancing in-house corporate governance guidelines, analyzing corporate governance issues on a case-by-case basis at the company level, and exercising our voting rights—all to maximize shareholder value.
SSGA's Global Proxy Voting and Engagement Principles (the "Principles") may take different perspectives on common governance issues that vary from one market to another and, likewise, engagement activity may take different forms in order to best achieve long-term engagement goals. We believe that proxy voting and engagement with portfolio companies is often the most direct and productive way shareholders can exercise their ownership rights, and taken together, we view these tools to be an integral part of the overall investment process.
We believe engagement and voting activity have a direct relationship. As a result, the integration of our engagement activities, while leveraging the exercise of our voting rights, provides a meaningful shareholder tool that we believe protects and enhances the long-term economic value of the holdings in our client accounts. SSGA maximizes its voting power and engagement by maintaining a centralized proxy voting and active ownership process covering all holdings, regardless of strategy. Despite the different investment views and objectives across SSGA, depending on the product or strategy, the fiduciary responsibilities of share ownership and voting for which SSGA has voting discretion are carried out with a single voice and objective.
The Principles support governance structures that we believe add to, or maximize shareholder value at the companies held in our clients' portfolios. SSGA conducts issuer specific engagements with companies to discuss our principles, including sustainability related risks. In addition, we encourage issuers to find ways of increasing the amount of direct communication board members have with shareholders. We believe direct communication with executive board members and independent non-executive directors is critical to helping companies understand shareholder concerns. Conversely, where appropriate, we conduct collaborative engagement activities with multiple shareholders and communicate with company representatives about common concerns.
In conducting our engagements, SSGA also evaluates the various factors that play into the corporate governance framework of a country, including but not limited to, the macroeconomic conditions and broader political system, the quality of regulatory oversight, the enforcement of property and shareholder rights and the independence of the judiciary. SSGA understands that regulatory requirements and investor expectations relating to governance practices and engagement activities differ from country-to-country. As a result, SSGA engages with issuers, regulators, or both, depending on the market. SSGA also is a member of various investor associations that seek to address broader corporate governance related policy at the country level as well as issuer specific concerns at a company level.
To help mitigate company specific risk, the SSGA Asset Stewardship Team may collaborate with members of the active investment teams to engage with companies on corporate governance issues and address any specific concerns, or to get more information regarding shareholder items that are to be voted on at upcoming shareholder meetings. Outside of proxy voting season, SSGA conducts issuer specific engagements with companies covering various corporate governance and sustainability related topics.
The SSGA Asset Stewardship Team uses a blend of quantitative and qualitative research and data to support screens to help identify issuers where active engagement may be necessary to protect and promote shareholder value. Issuer engagement may also be event driven, focusing on issuer specific corporate governance, sustainability concerns or wider industry related trends. SSGA also gives consideration to the size of our total position of the issuer in question and/or the potential negative governance, performance profile, and circumstance at hand. As a result, SSGA believes issuer engagement can take many forms and be triggered under numerous circumstances. The following methods represent how SSGA defines engagement methods:
SSGA uses screening tools designed to capture a mix of company specific data including governance and sustainability profiles to help us focus our voting and engagement activity.
SSGA will actively seek direct dialogue with the board and management of companies we have identified through our screening processes. Such engagements may lead to further monitoring to ensure the company improves its governance or sustainability practices. In these cases, the engagement process represents the most meaningful opportunity for SSGA to protect long-term shareholder value from excessive risk due to poor governance and sustainability practices.
Reactive engagement is initiated by the issuers. SSGA routinely discusses specific voting issues and items with the issuer community. Reactive engagement is an opportunity to address not only voting items, but also a wide range of governance and sustainability issues.
SSGA has established an engagement protocol that further describes our approach to issuer engagement.
Assessing the effectiveness of our issuer engagement process is often difficult. To limit the subjectivity of measuring our success we actively seek issuer feedback and monitor the actions issuers take post-engagement to identify tangible changes. By doing so, we are able to establish indicators to gauge how issuers respond to our concerns and to what degree these responses satisfy our requests. It is also important to note that successful engagement activity can be measured over differing time periods depending on the facts and circumstances involved. Engagements can last as short as a single meeting or span multiple years.
Depending on the issue and whether the engagement activity is reactive, recurring, or active, engagement with issuers can take the form of written communication, conference calls, or face-to-face meetings. SSGA believes active engagement is best conducted directly with company management or board members. Collaborative engagement, where multiple shareholders communicate with company representatives, can serve as a potential forum for issues that are not identified by SSGA as requiring active engagement, such as shareholder conference calls.
Proxy Voting Procedure
The SSGA Asset Stewardship Team is responsible for developing and implementing the Proxy Voting and Engagement Guidelines (the “Guidelines”), case-by-case voting items, issuer engagement activities, and research and analysis of governance-related issues. The implementation of the Guidelines is overseen by the SSGA Global Proxy Review Committee (“PRC”), a committee of investment, compliance and legal professionals, who provide guidance on proxy issues as described in greater detail below. Oversight of the proxy voting process is ultimately the responsibility of the SSGA Investment Committee (“IC”). The IC reviews and approves amendments to the Guidelines. The PRC reports to the IC, and may refer certain significant proxy items to that committee.
Proxy Voting Process
In order to facilitate SSGA’s proxy voting process, SSGA retains Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”), a firm with expertise in proxy voting and corporate governance. SSGA utilizes ISS’s services in three ways: (1) as SSGA’s proxy voting agent (providing SSGA with vote execution and administration services); (2) for applying the Guidelines; and (3) as providers of research and analysis relating to general corporate governance issues and specific proxy items.
The SSGA Asset Stewardship Team reviews the Guidelines with ISS on an annual basis or on a case-by-case basis as needed. On most routine proxy voting items (e.g., ratification of auditors), ISS will affect the proxy votes in accordance with the Guidelines.
In other cases, the Asset Stewardship Team will evaluate the proxy solicitation to determine how to vote based on facts and circumstances, consistent with the Principles, and the accompanying Guidelines, that seek to maximize the value of our client accounts.
In some instances, the Asset Stewardship Team may refer significant issues to the PRC for a determination of the proxy vote. In addition, in determining whether to refer a proxy vote to the PRC, the Asset Stewardship Team will consider whether a material conflict of interest exists between the interests of our client and those of SSGA or its affiliates (as explained in greater detail in our Conflict Mitigation Guidelines).
SSGA votes in all markets where it is feasible; however, SSGA may refrain from voting meetings when power of attorney documentation is required, where voting will have a material impact on our ability to trade the security, where issuer-specific special documentation is required, or where various market or issuer certifications are required. SSGA is unable to vote proxies when certain custodians, used by our clients, do not offer proxy voting in a jurisdiction, or when they charge a meeting specific fee in excess of the typical custody service agreement.
Conflict of Interest
See SSGA’s standalone Conflict Mitigation Guidelines.
Proxy Voting and Engagement Principles
Directors and Boards
The election of directors is one of the most important fiduciary duties SSGA performs as a shareholder. SSGA believes that well-governed companies can protect and pursue shareholder interests better and withstand the challenges of an uncertain economic environment. As such, SSGA seeks to vote director elections in a way which we, as a fiduciary, believe will maximize the long-term value of each portfolio’s holdings.
Principally, a board acts on behalf of shareholders by protecting their interests and preserving their rights. This concept establishes the standard by which board and director performance is measured. To achieve this fundamental principle, the role of the board, in SSGA’s view, is to carry out its responsibilities in the best long-term interest of the company and its shareholders. An independent and effective board oversees management, provides guidance on strategic matters, selects the CEO and other senior executives, creates a succession plan for the board and management, provides risk oversight and assesses the performance of the CEO and management. In contrast, management implements the business and capital allocation strategies and runs the company’s day-to-day operations. As part of SSGA’s engagement process, SSGA routinely discusses the importance of these responsibilities with the boards of issuers.
SSGA believes the quality of a board is a measure of director independence, director succession planning, board diversity, evaluations and refreshment and company governance practices. In voting to elect nominees, SSGA considers many factors. SSGA believes independent directors are crucial to good corporate governance and help management establish sound corporate governance policies and practices. A sufficiently independent board will effectively monitor management, maintain appropriate governance practices and perform oversight functions necessary to protect shareholder interests. SSGA also believes the right mix of skills, independence, diversity and qualifications among directors provides boards with the knowledge and direct experience to deal with risks and operating structures that are often unique and complex from one industry to another.
Accounting and Audit Related Issues
SSGA believes audit committees are critical and necessary as part of the board’s risk oversight role. The audit committee is responsible for setting out an internal audit function to provide robust audit and internal control systems designed to effectively manage potential and emerging risks to the company’s operations and strategy. SSGA believes audit committees should have independent directors as members, and SSGA will hold the members of the audit committee responsible for overseeing the management of the audit function.
The disclosure and availability of reliable financial statements in a timely manner is imperative for the investment process. As a result, board oversight of the internal controls and the independence of the audit process are essential if investors are to rely on financial statements. Also, it is important for the audit committee to appoint external auditors who are independent from management as we expect auditors to provide assurance as of a company’s financial condition.
Capital Structure, Reorganization and Mergers
The ability to raise capital is critical for companies to carry out strategy, grow and achieve returns above their cost of capital. The approval of capital raising activities is fundamental to a shareholder’s ability to monitor the amounts of proceeds and to ensure capital is deployed efficiently. Altering the capital structure of a company is a critical decision for boards and in making such a critical decision, SSGA believes the company should have a well explained business rationale that is consistent with corporate strategy and not overly dilutive to its shareholders.
Mergers or reorganizing the structure of a company often involve proposals relating to reincorporation, restructurings, liquidations, and other major changes to the corporation.
Proposals that are in the best interests of shareholders, demonstrated by enhancing share value or improving the effectiveness of the company’s operations, will be supported. In evaluating mergers and acquisitions, SSGA considers the adequacy of the consideration and the impact of the corporate governance provisions to shareholders. In all cases, SSGA uses its discretion in order to maximize shareholder value.
Occasionally, companies add anti-takeover provisions that reduce the chances of a potential acquirer making an offer, or reducing the likelihood of a successful offer. SSGA does not support proposals that reduce shareholders’ rights, entrench management or reduce the likelihood of shareholders’ right to vote on reasonable offers.
SSGA considers the board’s responsibility to include setting the appropriate level of executive compensation. Despite the differences among the types of plans and the awards possible, there is a simple underlying philosophy that guides SSGA’s analysis of executive compensation; SSGA believes that there should be a direct relationship between executive compensation and company performance over the long-term.
Shareholders should have the opportunity to assess whether pay structures and levels are aligned with business performance. When assessing remuneration reports, SSGA considers factors such as adequate disclosure of different remuneration elements, absolute and relative pay levels, peer selection and benchmarking, the mix of long-term and short-term incentives, alignment of pay structures with shareholder interests, as well as with corporate strategy and performance. SSGA may oppose remuneration reports where pay seems misaligned with shareholders’ interests. SSGA may also consider executive compensation practices when re-electing members of the remuneration committee.
SSGA recognizes that compensation policies and practices are unique from market to market; often with significant differences between the level of disclosures, the amount and forms of compensation paid, and the ability of shareholders to approve executive compensation practices. As a result, our ability to assess the appropriateness of executive compensation is often dependent on market practices and laws.
Environmental and Social Issues
As a fiduciary, SSGA considers the financial and economic implications of environmental and social issues first and foremost. Environmental and social factors may not only have an impact on the reputation of companies but may also represent significant operational risks and costs to business. Well-developed environmental and social management systems can generate efficiencies and enhance productivity, both of which impact shareholder value in the long-term.
SSGA encourages companies to be transparent about the environmental and social risks and opportunities they face and adopt robust policies and processes to manage such issues. In our view, companies that manage all risks and consider opportunities related to environmental and social issues are able to adapt faster to changes and appear to be better placed to achieve sustainable competitive advantage in the long-term. Similarly, companies with good risk management systems, which include environmental and social policies, have a stronger position relative to their peers to manage risk and change, which could be the result of anything from regulation and litigation, physical threats (severe weather, climate change), economic trends to shifts in consumer behavior.
In their public reporting, we expect companies to disclose information on relevant management tools and material environmental and social performance metrics. We support efforts by companies to demonstrate how sustainability fits into operations and business activities. SSGA’s team of analysts evaluates these risks and shareholder proposals relating to them on an issuer by issuer basis; understanding that environmental and social risks can vary widely depending on a company, its industry, operations, and geographic footprint. SSGA may also take action against the re-election of board members if we have serious concerns over ESG practices and the company has not been responsive to shareholder requests to amend them.
Although SSGA does not seek involvement in the day-to-day operations of an organization, SSGA recognizes the need for conscientious oversight and input into management decisions that may affect a company’s value. SSGA supports proposals that encourage economically advantageous corporate practices and governance, while leaving decisions that are deemed to be routine or constitute ordinary business to management and the board of directors.
Fixed Income Stewardship
The two elements of SSGA’s fixed income stewardship program are:
While matters that come up for a vote at bondholder meetings vary by jurisdiction, examples of common proxy voting resolutions at bondholder meetings include:
- Approving amendments to debt covenants and/or terms of issuance;
- Authorizing procedural matters such as filing of required documents/other formalities;
- Approving debt restructuring plans;
- Abstaining from challenging the bankruptcy trustees;
- Authorizing repurchase of issued debt security;
- Approving the placement of unissued debt securities under the control of directors; and,
- Approve spin-off/absorption proposals.
Given the nature of the items that come up for vote at bondholder meetings, SSGA takes a case-by-case approach to voting bondholder resolutions. Where necessary, SSGA will engage with issuers on voting matters prior to arriving at voting decisions. All voting decisions will be made in the best interest of our clients.
SSGA recognizes that debt holders have limited leverage with companies on a day-to-day basis. However, we believe that given the size of our holdings in corporate debt, SSGA can meaningfully influence ESG practices of companies through issuer engagement. Our guidelines for engagement with fixed income issuers broadly follow the engagement guidelines for our equity holidings as described above.
Securities on Loan
For funds where SSGA acts as trustee, SSGA may recall securities in instances where SSGA believes that a particular vote will have a material impact on the fund(s). Several factors shape this process. First, SSGA must receive notice of the vote in sufficient time to recall the shares on or before the record date. In many cases, SSGA does not receive timely notice, and is unable to recall the shares on or before the record date. Second, SSGA, exercising its discretion may recall shares if it believes the benefit of voting shares will outweigh the foregone lending income. This determination requires SSGA, with the information available at the time, to form judgments about events or outcomes that are difficult to quantify. Given past experience in this area, however, we believe that the recall of securities will rarely provide an economic benefit that outweighs the cost of the foregone lending income.
Any client who wishes to receive information on how its proxies were voted should contact its SSGA relationship manager.
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State Street Global Advisors Worldwide Entities
Australia: State Street Global Advisors, Australia, Limited (ABN 42 003 914 225) is the holder of an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL Number 238276). Registered office: Level 17, 420 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia. T: +612 9240 7600. F: +612 9240 7611. Belgium: State Street Global Advisors Belgium, Chaussée de La Hulpe 120, 1000 Brussels, Belgium. T: 32 2 663 2036. F: 32 2 672 2077. SSGA Belgium is a branch office of State Street Global Advisors Limited. State Street Global Advisors Limited is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom. Canada: State Street Global Advisors, Ltd., 770 Sherbrooke Street West, Suite 1200 Montreal, Quebec, H3A 1G1, T: +514 282 2400 and 30 Adelaide Street East Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario M5C 3G6. T: +647 775 5900. Dubai: State Street Bank and Trust Company (Representative Office), Boulevard Plaza 1, 17th Floor, Office 1703 Near Dubai Mall & Burj Khalifa, P.O Box 26838, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. T: +971 (0)4 4372800. F: +971 (0)4 4372818. France: State Street Global Advisors Ireland Limited, Paris branch is a branch of State Street Global Advisors Ireland Limited, registered in Ireland with company number 145221, authorized and regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland, and whose registered office is at 78 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2. State Street Global Advisors Ireland Limited, Paris Branch, is registered in France with company number RCS Nanterre 832 734 602 and whose office is at Immeuble Défense Plaza, 23-25 rue Delarivière-Lefoullon, 92064 Paris La Défense Cedex, France. T: (+33) 1 44 45 40 00. F: (+33) 1 44 45 41 92. Germany: State Street Global Advisors GmbH, Brienner Strasse 59, D-80333 Munich. Authorized and regulated by the Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (“BaFin”). Registered with the Register of Commerce Munich HRB 121381. T: +49 (0)89 55878 400. F: +49 (0)89 55878 440. Hong Kong: State Street Global Advisors Asia Limited, 68/F, Two International Finance Centre, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong. T: +852 2103 0288. F: +852 2103 0200. Ireland: State Street Global Advisors Ireland Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Registered office address 78 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2. Registered number 145221. T: +353 (0)1 776 3000. F: +353 (0)1 776 3300. Italy: State Street Global Advisors Limited, Milan Branch (Sede Secondaria di Milano) is a branch of State Street Global Advisors Limited, a company registered in the UK, authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA ), with a capital of GBP 62,350,000, and whose registered office is at 20 Churchill Place, London E14 5HJ. State Street Global Advisors Limited, Milan Branch (Sede Secondaria di Milano), is registered in Italy with company number 06353340968 - R.E.A. 1887090 and VAT number 06353340968 and whose office is at Via dei Bossi, 4 - 20121 Milano, Italy. T: 39 02 32066 100. F: 39 02 32066 155. Japan: State Street Global Advisors (Japan) Co., Ltd., Toranomon Hills Mori Tower 25F 1-23-1 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-6325 Japan, T: +81-3-4530-7380 Financial Instruments Business Operator, Kanto Local Financial Bureau (Kinsho #345) , Membership: Japan Investment Advisers Association, The Investment Trust Association, Japan, Japan Securities Dealers’ Association. Netherlands: State Street Global Advisors Netherlands, Apollo Building, 7th floor Herikerbergweg 29 1101 CN Amsterdam, Netherlands. T: 31 20 7181701. SSGA Netherlands is a branch office of State Street Global Advisors Limited. State Street Global Advisors Limited is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom. Singapore: State Street Global Advisors Singapore Limited, 168, Robinson Road, #33-01 Capital Tower, Singapore 068912 (Company Reg. No: 200002719D, regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore). T: +65 6826 7555. F: +65 6826 7501. Switzerland: State Street Global Advisors AG, Beethovenstr. 19, CH-8027 Zurich. Authorized and regulated by the Eidgenössische Finanzmarktaufsicht (“FINMA”). Registered with the Register of Commerce Zurich CHE-105.078.458. T: +41 (0)44 245 70 00. F: +41 (0)44 245 70 16. United Kingdom: State Street Global Advisors Limited. Authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England. Registered No. 2509928. VAT No. 5776591 81. Registered office: 20 Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5HJ. T: 020 3395 6000. F: 020 3395 6350. United States: State Street Global Advisors, One Lincoln Street, Boston, MA 02111-2900. T: +1 617 786 3000.
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© 2018 State Street Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Exp. Date: 03/31/2019
i These Proxy Voting and Engagement Guidelines are also applicable to SSGA Funds Management, Inc. (“SSGA FM”). SSGA FM is an SEC‐registered investment adviser. SSGA FM, State Street Global Advisors Trust Company, and other advisory affiliates of State Street make up State Street Global Advisors (“SSGA”), the investment management arm of State Street Corporation.