25 July 2022
The 2022 AGM season has seen a significant return to physical in-person AGMs, lower attendance figures, a rise in shareholder activism and innovative tactics used by protestors to seek to disrupt meetings. In this AGM review we explore the latest trends and set out some initial thoughts on what companies should be considering for next year.
At a glance
- We saw a strong return to physical, in-person meetings. Whilst some companies included webcasts for shareholders to view proceedings remotely, fully hybrid meetings are still seen as more complex and expensive than in-person meetings which make them unattractive for many companies.
- Shareholder attendance (physical and hybrid, where available) has generally been lower than anticipated. With the lifting of Covid-related restrictions on public meetings, companies prepared to welcome back shareholders in person, in many cases for the first time in two years. In person attendance was generally underwhelming with many retail shareholders not returning for the annual tea and biscuits. Online attendance was much lower than anticipated.
- Activism is increasing. We saw more shareholder requisitioned resolutions and shareholder agitation than in previous years. Activists are no longer focusing just on climate change, but on other social and workplace issues too.
- Significant shareholder dissent. There has been increased targeting of individual director reappointments, to show dissatisfaction both with the individual and with the wider board and its strategic direction. Remuneration issues have also once again been a focus for shareholder opposition.
- There was large-scale disruption at the AGMs of a handful of large financial institutions and oil and gas companies. As the AGM season progressed, activists became more innovative in their disruption tactics.
- New FRC AGM Guidance published. This encourages companies to disclose more openly how they have taken account of stakeholder issues and to engage with all types of shareholders, using technology where appropriate. The new guidance may ratchet up expectations for smaller listed companies.