Biggest protest votes in 2015

December 17, 2015

This list tracks the biggest and most interesting protest votes at ASX-listed AGMs in calendar 2015.

News Corp: big protests across the board as advisory vote opposing gerrymander almost prevailed. Only two directors would have survived without Murdoch family's gerrymandered support. See Crikey wrap.

Bradken: Two directors, Peter Richards and Eileen Doyle, resigned to avoid formal defeat shortly before the AGM but then there was still a 42% protest vote against remuneration report, which was somehow passed on a show of hands despite the strike. See Crikey story.

Sedgeman: The Spanish chaps who control the old Leighton Holdings (now CIMIC) sure now how to fight, if not communicate. The board of the Brisbane-based miner had no inkling of any concerns in the proxy votes and then CIMIC demanded a poll and voted its 36.7% stake against 6 of the 7 resolutions. Directors Peter Richards, Bart Vogel and Philippe Etienne were all narrowly defeated. A remuneration strike was also triggered and two incentive grant resolutions defeated. Independent chairman Rob McDonald has defiantly written to shareholders this week vowing to plough on with the appointment of new independent directors, suggesting he may be targeted for removal in an EGM. Alternatively, CIMIC should perhaps launch a mop-up takeover bid, like it has just done at Devine.

Ansell: CEO options grant easily defeated and then 32% against remuneration report.

Mortgage Choice: 53% against remuneration report triggering spill vote which was easily defeated.

UGL: Almost 50% against the remuneration report and 19% against CEO's incentives.

Bega Cheese: the board wanted to retain a 15% shareholding cap but it was well behind on the proxies before sneaking home by a smidgeon in the poll.

Village Roadshow: a 31.54% protest vote and first strike against the remuneration report even though the Kirby family and Graham Burke voted their controlling 42.66% stake when they shouldn't have. Strip that out and it was 39.15 million votes against and just 16.34 million in favour, suggesting the neutral shareholders voted 70.5% against the remuneration report. No wonder when the two co-chairs, Graham Burke and Robert Kirby, shared $6.8m for the year. See Crikey story.

Saracen Minerals: as foreshadowed by Crikey, a ridiculously large 10 million share grant incentive for the CEO was opposed by 43.3% of voted shares and the remuneration report was also opposed by 15%.

Goodman Group: A hefty 40% against CEO's LTI grant and almost 10% against the remuneration report as well.

Prime Media: Kerry Stokes's Seven West Media lead the charge triggering a 34% remuneration strike and almost over-turning the incentive grant to CEO Ian Audsley. Chairman John Hartigan has toned down his media commentary since this warning shot.

McMahon Holdings: CIMIC lead a 40% protest vote against the remuneration report and one of the directors. Maybe they should bid for this company as well.

Pacific Brands: 40% strike against remuneration report and a further 11% against CEO's incentive grant.

Slater + Gordon: 28% against incentives for Andrew Grech and Ken Fowlie and 20% against director Rhonda O'Donnell. The stock then tumbled more than 70% in the days after the AGM.

Harvey Norman: even with almost 50% of the votes in friendly hands, there was a 23% vote against executive director David Slack-Smith and 20% against veteran legal adviser Chris Brown, who Gerry Harvey claimed was independent despite 28 years on the board and his role as executor of Ian Norman's estate. See Crikey preview story.

Premier Investments: Solomon Lew didn't vote his 42% stake so there was a remuneration strike with 32% against, but no concern about a big incentive grant to CEO Mark McInnes. Veteran director Gary Weiss also suffered a 13.7% protest.

Westpac: despite running a rear guard action against proxy advisory firm Ownership Matters, Westpac suffered a 16.5% protest vote against its rem report after taking $385m in IT write-offs below the line, inflating executive bonuses by 10.7 million.

ANZ: a larger than expected 10.5% of voted stock ignored the board's recommendation and voted for an ACCR resolution (see item 6a on p5 of meeting notice) to make it easier for shareholders to put ordinary resolutions at the AGM. There was also a 15.8% protest vote against the rem report after proxy firm Ownership Matters recommended against.

Ten Network Holdings: when considering that Foxtel and the 4 billionaire controlling shareholders supported all resolutions with their circa 45% combined stake, the 10% protest against Siobhan McKenna and up to 17% protest on various pay resolutions was significant. See Crikey story.

Seek: big protest votes against all three pay-related resolutions with 20% against the remuneration report and 16.5% and 21.4% against the two components of CEO Andrew Bassat's incentive grants.

Myer: 22% against remuneration report and 16% against remuneration committee chair Christine Froggatt over concerns about the generosity shown to former CEO Bernie Brookes.

Pact Group: 21% against Peter Margin due to workload concerns, despite the Pratt family still being the dominant shareholder.

21st Century Fox: stripping out the combined 411 million votes controlled by the three biggest shareholders (Rupert Murdoch, Saudi Prince and ValueAct) and these protest votes against three of the directors and the remuneration report were quite substantial, peaking at 26%.

Downer EDI: retention payment concerned triggered a 27% protest vote against remuneration report.

Fortescue Metals: 19% against remuneration report with founder Andrew Forrest unable to vote his 30% stake. Approved "unanimously" by show of hands when should have gone to a poll.

Crown Resorts: 19% against remuneration report with no Packer vote and 13.7% against non-independent director Michael Johnston. See Crikey story.

DUET Group: 14% against rem report, 8% against 3 of the directors and 15% against placement capacity refresh.

Cabcharge: despite all proxy advisers supporting all resolutions, there was still an 18% protest against the rem report and the CEO's LTI grant. See Crikey story.

Charter Hall Retail: just over 20% against director Alan Rattray-Wood, presumably over questions of independence.

PMP: 19.3% protest vote against overloaded director Peter Margin.

Cash Converters: avoided a second strike and disclosed strong vote against hypothetical spill motion. Still meaningful 12% against director Lachlan Given and 8% against remuneration items, especially when considering that supportive US parent EZCorp owns 31.5%.

Automotive Holdings: 15.7% proxy vote against remuneration report, may be competitor AP Eagars again.

Aurizon: almost 10% against Karen Field and similar protests against rem report and CEO's LTI grant.

Elders: someone was unhappy given 12-13% protest vote against several resolutions.