Protocols designed to help mitigate potential conflicts of interest include:
- Providing sole voting discretion to members of State Street Global Advisors’ Asset Stewardship team. Members of the Asset Stewardship team may from time to time discuss views on proxy voting matters, company performance, strategy etc. with other State Street Corporation or State Street Global Advisors employees including portfolio managers, senior executives and relationship managers. However, final voting decisions are made solely by the Asset Stewardship team, in a manner that is consistent with the best interests of all clients, taking into account various perspectives on risks and opportunities with a view of maximizing the value of client assets;
- Exercising a singular vote decision for each ballot item regardless of our investment strategy;
- Prohibiting members of State Street Global Advisors’ Asset Stewardship team from disclosing State Street Global Advisors’ voting decision to any individual not affiliated with the proxy voting process prior to the meeting or date of written consent, as the case may be;
- Mandatory disclosure by members of the State Street Global Advisors’ Asset Stewardship team, Global Proxy Review Committee (“PRC”) and Investment Committee (“IC”) of any personal conflict of interest (e.g., familial relationship with company management, serves as a director on the board of a listed company) to the Head of the Asset Stewardship team. Members are required to recuse themselves from any engagement or proxy voting activities related to the conflict;
- In certain instances, client accounts and/or State Street Global Advisors pooled funds, where State Street Global Advisors acts as trustee, may hold shares in State Street Corporation or other State Street Global Advisors affiliated entities, such as mutual funds affiliated with State Street Global Advisors Funds Management, Inc. In general, State Street Global Advisors will outsource any voting decision relating to a shareholder meeting of State Street Corporation or other State Street Global Advisors affiliated entities to independent outside third parties. Delegated third parties exercise vote decisions based upon State Street Global Advisors’ Proxy Voting and Engagement Guidelines (“Guidelines”); and
- Reporting of voting guideline overrides, if any, to the PRC on a quarterly basis.
In general, we do not believe matters that fall within the Guidelines and are voted consistently with the Guidelines present any potential conflicts, since the vote on the matter has effectively been determined without reference to the soliciting entity. However, where matters do not fall within the Guidelines or where we believe that voting in accordance with the Guidelines is unwarranted, we conduct an additional review to determine whether there is a conflict of interest. In circumstances where a conflict has been identified and either: (i) the matter does not fall clearly within the Guidelines; or (ii) State Street Global Advisors determines that voting in accordance with such guidance is not in the best interests of its clients, the Head of the Asset Stewardship team will determine whether a material relationship exists. If so, the matter is referred to the PRC. The PRC then reviews the matter and determines whether a conflict of interest exists, and if so, how to best resolve such conflict. For example, the PRC may (i) determine that the proxy vote does not give rise to a conflict due to the issues presented, (ii) refer the matter to the IC for further evaluation or (iii) retain an independent fiduciary to determine the appropriate vote.