Proxy Voting Guidelines
Wespath endeavors to vote its proxies in alignment with the financial interests of plan participants and clients and in alignment with the values of The United Methodist Church (UMC) as expressed in the Social Principles (¶160-166 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012) and in The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 2012.
In order to maximize long-term value to investors and manage environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks, our proxy voting decisions promote internationally recognized corporate governance best practices. These include: board independence, performance-based executive compensation, robust audit and control practices, appropriate shareholder rights, transparent reporting and the incorporation of ESG issues into corporate strategy.
The proxy voting guidelines are organized in three main sections:
- Board of Directors
- Executive Compensation
- Shareholder Rights
- Environmental and Social Factors
- Securities Lending Program
Wespath retains the services of a proxy voting agent, who assists Wespath in the proxy voting process and helps to ensure that our votes are executed on time and in accordance with these guidelines. Wespath staff vote the ballots of our largest holdings on a case-by-case basis in addition to items where there is no clear guideline for a specific proxy issue. Wespath generally prefers to vote “for” or “against”, but may choose to “abstain” in certain circumstances: i) when insufficient information is available to cast an informed vote, or ii) where an abstention may tactically address a more nuanced position that may generally support but recognizes specific concerns about a particular voting matter.
The Social Principles state: “We claim all economic systems to be under the judgment of God no less than other facets of the created order. Therefore, we recognize the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies that provide for the economic life of individuals and corporate entities and that ensure full employment and adequate incomes with a minimum of inflation. We believe private and public economic enterprises are responsible for the social costs of doing business, such as employment and environmental pollution, and that they should be held accountable for these costs. (¶163).
Corporations are responsible not only to their stockholders, but also to other stakeholders: their workers, suppliers, vendors, customers, the communities in which they do business, and for the earth, which supports them. We support the public’s right to know what impact corporations have in these various arenas, so that people can make informed choices about which corporations to support. We applaud corporations that voluntarily comply with standards that promote human well-being and protect the environment. (¶163I).”