Campaign: Nominee shareholders win extra voting rights

More than four million UK investors hold their shares via nominee accounts (under a broker's name). Traditionally, however, this meant shareholders having no say in the running of the companies in which they invest. For example, they could not vote at AGMs or automatically get annual reports. Read on...

Campaign Equal Rights for all Shareholders
Client The Share Centre
PR team Lansons PR and Lansons Public Affairs
Timescale April-May 2006
Budget Undisclosed

The Share Centre wanted nominee account holders to have the same rights as normal shareholders, so launched a lobbying campaign.

Objectives
To urge government to amend legislation requiring companies listed on the London Stock Exchange to extend corporate governance rights to nominee shareholders.

Strategy and Plan
Last year’s Company Law Reform Bill – the most extensive of its kind in 20 years – provided the PR team with an opportunity to table an amendment. It placed new duties on directors and gave extended rights for shareholders – such as being able to sue for negligence. Disappointingly, government sources suggested they were not willing to back the amendment.

However, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were keen to emphasise that they stood up for ‘ordinary shareholders’. Lansons then formed an umbrella group called The Shareholders’ Alliance so stockbrokers could add their weight to the campaign. It briefed journalists and sought opp­ortunities for Share Centre comment.

Before the final vote on the amendment, the PR team briefed The Observer and The Mail on Sunday.
Resulting articles promoted an online petition that shareholders could sign, which was presented to MPs and Number 10 by Share Centre CEO Gavin Oldham and Lansons PA manager Martin Koder.

Lansons also organised a protest group to meet outside the House of Commons during the Standing Committee stage of the bill, and success­fully invited MPs such as shadow work and pensions secretary Alan Duncan to address the protesters.

Measurement and Evaluation
The Daily Mail and BBC Online featured opinion pieces by Oldham. The Financial Times ran four articles, quoting Oldham in three of them.

On the day of the Report Stage debate in the House of Lords, the issue was covered by Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Scotland and the BBC’s Working Lunch, as well as the FT and Daily Express.

The Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph supported the vote in their editorials, as did political and PR bloggers, such as Ellee Seymour (http://elleeseymour.blogspot.com ).

Results
The amendment was voted in by 153 votes to 146, a notable achievement for an Opposition-led amendment.

The debate was well attended by political heavyweights, and even former prime minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher turned out to vote in its favour. The bill received Royal Assent last November.

William Kay, a Sunday Times columnist, says: ‘The campaign always played well with journalists because it was taking the small investor’s side against the big battalions of the City – people who typically regard the ordinary individual as a nuisance. Lansons also made good use of Oldham’s cuddly image to breathe life into the issue.’

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