2019 Global Proxy Voting and Engagement Principles
State Street Global Advisors, 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, State Street Global Advisors has discretionary proxy voting authority over most of its client accounts, and State Street Global Advisors 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 document.1
State Street Global Advisors maintains Proxy Voting and Engagement Guidelines for select markets, including: Australia, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand , North America (Canada and the US), the UK and Ireland, and emerging markets. International markets not covered by our market-specific guidelines are reviewed and voted in a manner that is consistent with our Global Proxy Voting and Engagement Principles; however, State Street Global Advisors 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 State Street Global Advisors, 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. The underlying goal is to maximize shareholder value.
Our Global Proxy Voting and Engagement Principles (the “Principles”) may take different perspectives on common governance issues that vary from one market to another. Similarly, 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 for shareholders to exercise their ownership rights. Thiscomprehensive toolkit is 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. We maximize our voting power and engagement by maintaining a centralized proxy voting and active ownership process covering all holdings, regardless of strategy. Despite the vast investment strategies and objectives across State Street Global Advisors, the fiduciary responsibilities of share ownership and voting for which State Street Global Advisors 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, for the companies held in our clients’ portfolios. We conduct issuer specific engagements with companies to discuss our principles, including sustainability related risks. In addition we encourage issuers to find ways to increase the amount of direct communication board members have with shareholders. Direct communication with executive board members and independent non-executive directors is critical to helping companies understand shareholder concerns. Conversely, we conduct collaborative engagement activities with multiple shareholders and communicate with company representatives about common concerns where appropriate.
In conducting our engagements, we also evaluate the various factors that influence the corporate governance framework of a country, including the macroeconomic conditionsand broader political system, the quality of regulatory oversight, the enforcement of property and shareholder rights, and the independence of the judiciary. We understand that regulatory requirements and investor expectations relating to governance practices and engagement activities differ from country-to-country. As a result, we engage with issuers, regulators, or a combination of the twodepending upon the market. We are also 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.
The State Street Global Advisors Asset Stewardship Team may collaborate with members of the Active Fundamental and various other investment teams to engage with companies on corporate governance issues and to address any specific concerns. This facilitates our comprehensive approachto information gathering as it relates to shareholder items that are to be voted upon at upcoming shareholder meetings. We also conduct issuerspecific engagements with companies covering various corporate governance and sustainability related topics outside of proxy season.
The Asset Stewardship Team employs a blend of quantitative and qualitative research, analysis, anddata in order to support screens that 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 more broad industry-related trends. We also give 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, we believe issuer engagement can take many forms and be triggered by numerous circumstances. The following approaches represent how we define engagement methods:
We use 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.
We will actively seek direct dialogue with the board and management of companies that we have identified through our screening processes. Such engagements may lead to further monitoring to ensure that the company improves its governance or sustainability practices. In these cases, the engagement process represents the most meaningful opportunity for us to protect long-term shareholder value from excessive risk due to poor governance and sustainability practices.
Reactive engagement is initiated by the issuers. We routinely discuss 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.
We have established an engagement protocol that further describes our approach to issuer engagement.
Assessing the effectiveness of our issuer engagement process is often difficult. In order to limit the subjectivity of effectiveness measurement, we actively seek issuer feedback and monitor the actions issuers take post-engagement in order to identify tangible changes. Thus 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 upon the relevant facts and circumstances. Engagements can last as briefly as a single meeting or span multiple years.
Depending upon 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 in-person meetings. We believe 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 us as requiring active engagement. An example of such a forum is ashareholder conference call.
Proxy Voting Procedure
The 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 State Street Global Advisors 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 State Street Global Advisors 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 our proxy voting process, we retain Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”), a firm with expertise in proxy voting and corporate governance. We utilize ISS’s services in three ways: (1) as our proxy voting agent (providing State Street Global Advisors 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 Asset Stewardship Team reviews the Guidelines with ISS on an annual basis or on a case-by-case basis. 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 upon facts, circumstances consistency with our Principles and accompanying Guidelines. 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 State Street Global Advisors or its affiliates (as explained in greater detail in our Conflict Mitigation Guidelines).
We vote in all markets where it is feasible; however, we 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. We are 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 our standalone Conflict Mitigation Guidelines.
Proxy Voting and Engagement Principles
Directors and Boards
The election of directors is one of the most important fiduciary duties we perform as a shareholder. We believe that well-governed companies can protect and pursue shareholder interests better and withstand the challenges of an uncertain economic environment. As such we seek to vote director elections in a way that we 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. In order to achieve this fundamental principle, the role of the boardis 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 our engagement process, we routinely discuss the importance of these responsibilities with the boards of issuers. We believe 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, we consider many factors.
We believe independent directors are crucial to good corporate governance; they 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. We also believe the right mix of skills, independence, diversity, and qualifications among directors provides boards with the knowledge and direct experience to manage risks and operating structures that are often complex and industry-specific.
Accounting and Audit Related Issues
We believe 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 thatprovides robust audit and internal control systems designed to effectively manage potential and emerging risks to the company’s operations and strategy. We believe audit committees should have independent directors as members, and we 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 upon financial statements. It is important for the audit committee to appoint external auditors who are independent from management; we expect auditors to provide assurance of a company’s financial condition.
Capital Structure, Reorganization and Mergers
The ability to raise capital is critical for companies to carry out strategy, to grow, and to 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. When making such a decision we believe the company should disclose a comprehensive business rationale that is consistent with corporate strategy and not overly dilutive to its shareholders.
Mergers or reorganization of 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, we consider the adequacy of the consideration and the impact of the corporate governance provisions to shareholders. In all cases, we use our discretion in order to maximize shareholder value.
Occasionally, companies add anti-takeover provisions that reduce the chances of a potential acquirer to make an offer, or to reduce the likelihood of a successful offer. We do not support proposals that reduce shareholders’ rights, entrench management, or reduce the likelihood of shareholders’ right to vote on reasonable offers.
We consider the board’s responsibility to include identifying 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 our analysis of executive compensation; we believe 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, we consider factors such as adequate disclosure of various 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. We may oppose remuneration reports where pay seems misaligned with shareholders’ interests. We may also consider executive compensation practices when re-electing members of the remuneration committee.
We recognize that compensation policies and practices are unique from market to market; often there are 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, State Street Global Advisors takes a comprehensive approach to engaging with our portfolio companies about material environmental and social (sustainability) issues. We use our voice and our vote through engagement, proxy voting, and thought leadership in order to communicate with issuers and educate market participants about our perspective on important sustainability topics. Our Asset Stewardship program prioritization process allows us to proactively identify companies for engagement and voting in order to mitigate sustainability risks in our portfolio. Through engagement, we address a broad range of topics that align with our thematic priorities and build long-term relationships with issuers. When voting, we fundamentally consider whether the adoption of a shareholder proposal addressing a material sustainability issue would promote long-term shareholder value in the context of the company’s existing practices and disclosures as well as existing market practice.
For more information on our approach to environmental and social issues, please see our Global Proxy Voting and Engagement Guidelines for Environmental and Social Issues available at ssga.com/about-us/asset-stewardship.html.
Although we do not seek involvement in the day-to-day operations of an organization, we recognize the need for conscientious oversight and input into management decisions that may affect a company’s value. We support 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 arise 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
- Approving spin-off/absorption proposals
Given the nature of the items that arise for vote at bondholder meetings, we take a case-by-case approach to voting bondholder resolutions. Where necessary, we 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.
We recognize 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, we 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 holdings as described above.
Securities on Loan
For funds in which we act as trustee, we may recall securities in instances where we believe that a particular vote will have a material impact on the fund(s). Several factors shape this process. First, we must receive notice of the vote in sufficient time to recall the shares on or before the record date. In many cases, we do not receive timely notice, and we are unable to recall the shares on or before the record date. Second, State Street Global Advisors may exercise its discretion and recall shares if it believes that the benefit of voting shares will outweigh the foregone lending income. This determination requires State Street Global Advisors, with the information available at the time, to form judgments about events or outcomes that are difficult to quantify. Given our expertise and vast experience, 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 State Street Global Advisors relationship manager.
1 These Global Proxy Voting and Engagement Guidelines are also applicable to State Street Global Advisors Funds Management, Inc. State Street Global Advisors Funds Management, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. State Street Global Advisors Funds Management, Inc., State Street Global Advisors Trust Company, and other advisory affiliates of State Street make up State Street Global Advisors, the investment management arm of State Street Corporation.
For public use.
State Street Global Advisors Worldwide Entities
Abu Dhabi: State Street Global Advisors Limited, Middle East Branch, 42801, 28, Al Khatem Tower, Abu Dhabi Global Market Square, Al Mayah Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Regulated by ADGM Financial Services Regulatory Authority. T: +971 2 245 9000.
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 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.
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 Global Advisors Limited, DIFC Branch, Central Park Towers, Suite 15-38 (15th floor), P.O Box 26838, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA). 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 Ireland Limited, Milan Branch (Sede Secondaria di Milano) 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, Milan Branch (Sede Secondaria di Milano), is registered in Italy with company number 10495250960 - R.E.A. 2535585 and VAT number 10495250960and 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. Telephone: 31 20 7181701. SSGA Netherlands is a branch office 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.
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). Telephone: +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. Facsimile 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 Iron Street, Boston MA 02210. T: +1 617 786 3000.
The whole or any part of this work may not be reproduced, copied or transmitted or any of its contents disclosed to third parties without SSGA’s express written consent
© 2019 State Street Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Exp. Date: 03/31/2020