Computershare AGM, Seven wash-up, audio highlights and ABC Learning chair under pump at Lend Lease

February 2, 2010

Dear Mayne Reporters,

The Computershare AGM created history today with the first fully electronic voting process in an Australian corporate election.

Founder and executive chairman Chris Morris was keen to trumpet the achievement and it was quite impressive when shareholders were given hand held devices through which they registered to ask questions and also used as a microphone and to vote in the polls.

This means there were no antiquated card board boxes to drop ballot papers into and no half hour delay either.

The great leap forward to direct and electronic voting, provided an appropriate entry point to the debate about whether Computershare is doing a good enough job handling corporate voting in Australia.

Dean Paatsch from proxy advisory giant Risk Metrics has certainly been rocking the boat on this issue, so I simply repeated his most colourful quote and asked Chris Morris to defend a system which does not offer a proper electronic audit trail.

I met Computershare CEO Stuart Crosby for an hour privately to discuss all this a month ago, but it was still good to get him on the record, whilst injecting a bit of colour into proceedings as follows:

Responding to the Dean Paatsch "brothel" attack

Was it Risk Metrics that delivered protest against founder Tony Wales?

It was also good to hit the three founders with the usual margin loan question: Are your personal financial positions sound?

Audio highlights from past few AGMs

We've been crunching through the audio from recent AGMs and have selected the following highlights:

Speaking against Neil Chatfield's re-election at Seek given the $55m Toll Holdings rort

Credit Corp director Richard Thomas rips into litigation funder IMF

Wash-up from Kerry Stokes showdown

The media completed ignored the use of security by Kerry Stokes to shut down debate at the Seven Network AGM yesterday. This extraordinary situation deserved wider dissemination so check out this story in Crikey today, which followed an earlier scene setter yesterday.

There was also some radio discussion as follows:

Tuesday: listen to regular spot on 702 ABC Sydney with Deborah Cameron, plus regular spot on 774 ABC Melbourne with Lindy Burns on Drive.

interview with Mike Smith on 4BC in Brisbane.

Computershare executive chairman and founder Chris Morris raised the drama at the start of today's AGM and was clearly aware there hasn't been a chairman's performance like it before at a major Australian public company meeting.

Paul Bendat launches

The Woolworths AGM in Melbourne on November 27 will be a very interesting affair as the wagons circle around the company over its appalling 11,000-strong pokies division, which openly targets children to keep their addicted parents coming through the door.

Paul Bendat today launched a national campaign to "keep children out of pokie venues", complete with a powerful 30 second video that features a very cute little girl called Alice.

Please have a look at, check out the video, sign the petition and then pass the message on through your networks to all people who might support the cause.

Will ABC Learning chairman be voted off Lend Lease board

Lend Lease chairman David Crawford is a former liquidator, so he should appreciate better than most the outrageous governance practices at ABC Learning which contributed to its dramatic collapse.

The shareholders of Australia have a chance to let the ABC Learning chairman and former audit committee boss David Ryan know what they think by voting him off the Lend Lease board at Thursday's AGM in Sydney.

Ryan is also chairman of Transurban and suffered a record-breaking 34% against vote at the recent AGM, as was explained in this Mayne Report edition.

He joined the Lend Lease board in 2004 and chairs the risk and audit committee which reckons the business is worth $3.44 billion when the market capitalisation tumbled below $3 billion today. Lend Lease is audited by KPMG and Crawford is a former national chairman of the accounting giant.

The big Lend Lease shareholders who will decide Ryan's fate are as follows:

Balanced Equity Management: 8.5%

Axa Asia Pacific: 6.5%

Bank of New York Mellon: 5.12%

However, where this issue gets really interesting is with the Lend Lease employee share scheme because it sits on the share register as the largest shareholder with 9.75% or 39 million shares.

If Ryan is saved by the board voting this stock or undirected proxies held by the chairman then he really should bow out now.

The proxies closed at 10am today and the protest vote is believed to be substantial so the honourable thing would be for Ryan to resign on the day of the meeting. The Lend Lease board can be forgiven for not forcing Ryan off the board before ABC Learning collapsed. But things are very different now and given the absolute scandal that is the childcare behemoth, none of its directors should sit on any major public company boards.

Ryan will be tied up in the aftermath of ABC Learning for many months into the future and simply won't have the time to remain on other public company boards, let alone the reputation.

That's all for now.

Do ya best, Stephen Mayne

* The Mayne Report is a multi-media governance website published by Stephen Mayne with occasional email editions. To unsubscribe from the emails click here.