The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the US 2020 proxy season. Most companies were forced to shift from in-person annual meetings to virtual-only or hybrid meetings. Few meetings, if any, were postponed. Overall voting was the highest we've seen in 14 seasons.
The number of virtual shareholder meetings (VSMs) increased from 248 in 2019 to 1,494 in 2020, and accounted for 39% of all meetings held during the season. 1,301 of the VSMs were "routine;" they did not include shareholder proposals. The 193 VSMs that had a shareholder proposal had greater attendance and voting than did the routine meetings and shareholders asked more questions. These meetings also lasted nearly twice as long.
Institutional ownership of public company shares increased slightly from 70% in 2019 to 71% in 2020. Retail ownership of public company shares declined to 29% in 2020 from 30% in 2019.
The number of directors failing to receive majority support (at least 50% of the votes cast in favor) dipped slightly to 453 this season from 478 last season, as fewer directors stood for election.
The number of shareholder proposals submitted for a vote rose to 440 this season from 420 last season.
Shareholder support for environmental and social proposals increased by two percentage points to 27% on average this season from 25% last season.
Shareholder support for corporate political spending proposals increased by five percentage points to 36% on average this season from 31% last season. This is the largest increase since tracking started in 2013.