AGM is not an 'annual general makan'

AGM is not an 'annual general makan'
8. The Line at Shangri-La Hotel Singapore
The restaurant features a modern dining concept with 16 theatre kitchens and a extensive bar offering a variety of wines, juices and smoothies.

SINGAPORE - Most firms provide refreshments and snacks when shareholders make the effort to turn up for meetings but the lavish spreads some companies lay on are starting to spark bunfights of epic proportions.

Apart from the cost to investors of pushing the boat out, the get-togethers some companies stage at five-star hotels have raised claims that they inadvertently bring out anti-social behaviour among the many investors who attend.

A reader wrote to The Straits Times noting that the adjournment of an annual general meeting (AGM) he attended served as a starting gun, prompting shareholders to bolt out of their seats and make a beeline for the buffet spread in the adjoining room.

A mad scramble for plates and food ensued with some people even whipping out plastic containers and bags to pack the food to take home.

There is a further gripe: To cut down AGM costs, some companies restrict any meals to direct investors only. That means people turning up as observers because they are Central Provident Fund (CPF) or Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) investors are reduced to a Cinderella-like state of watching everyone else happily tucking in.

This sort of discrimination is extremely upsetting for CPF or SRS investors because it implies they belong to an inferior class of shareholder, one who is there only for a free meal.

Reader Vincent Khoo wrote: "The irony... is that these CPF or SRS investors are actually using their own monies to invest in these listed companies. Because the law says that their shares have to be custodised with investment banks, the investment banks end up being the legal owners of these shares."

So whether a person attends as a direct shareholder or an observer because he is a CPF or SRS investor, he should get the same rights and benefits, including the meal, he added.

The Government is now putting in place changes to the Companies Act that would enable CPF investors to attend AGMs, ask questions and vote on resolutions. Banks will also be allowed to appoint more than two proxies to AGMs, thus giving SRS investors whose shares are kept with them the same rights.

A Ministry of Finance (MOF) spokesman said: "MOF is currently evaluating the feedback on the Companies (Amendment) Bill. The Bill will be tabled in Parliament in the second half of 2014."

The proposed reforms will put CPF and SRS investors essentially on the same footing as direct investors whose shares are kept in the Central Depository.

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