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New Zealand stirs the pot with “Head nodders, smart arses & good, competent folk”

Strewth, our antipodean friends don’t mince their words. Or very specifically, New Zealand’s Business Day blogger, Bruce Sheppard doesn’t.

As the Southern proxy season comes to a close (for our research team that is), we’ve been reflecting on the direct and blunt approach the Australian and NZ market observers have been taking. After much deliberation, Bruce Sheppard takes the prize for most outspoken commentator of the year (although we are open for other nominations, Paul Myners aside). Bruce describes himself as: “a non-politically correct agent provocateur and founder of the New Zealand Shareholders’ Association. An accountant by profession, he is passionate about New Zealand but has no hesitation in exposing its shortcomings.”

Here are a just a few of his choice epithets:

On Boards:

“All board members fall into a bell curve. A small group of good competent people, a larger group of benign, head nodders, a slightly smaller group than the head nodders of habitually stupid and a very small, the smallest¬† of the lot, group of smart arsed greedy tricksters.”

On Custodians:

“the time lines are tight at best, so super imposing another layer of communication or miscommunication, simply exaggerates the potential for a screw up”

“Custodial shareholders should be look though structures so that the share registry reflects the underlying actual ownership of a company and notices should be sent directly to those shareholders, whether those shareholder like it or not. It is time for them to behave like owners, not punters”

“If you contact the custodial shareholder you at best get what Bob Jones would call a head nodder. This is someone who listens, agrees with you and does nothing and the shareholders who sit behind the custodial shareholder remain blissfully ignorant and the custodian has no obligation nor interest in sending another letter out to his beneficiaries as that would involve cost.”

On Fund Managers

“Doing something, either voting yes or no, involves the risk that you might get it wrong and thus be sued. Now that social pressure is forcing them to make decisions, they seek advice on how to vote to cover their collective arses.

I kid you not there is a business out there that many institutions pay money to – your money – to tell them how to vote on such benign issues as the reappointment of directors. So if you want to lobby an institution who has the power by numbers to make a difference and you eventually find the decision maker him/herself, a real feat of magic, the answer you will get is: “Sure, thanks for that. I will pass it on to Blah Blah, our voting advisor.”

Has the world gone completely nuts? Are we so catatonic that we can’t apply our mind to even quite basic issues? Yes, we have and for as long as we keep putting our heads up our arses, we will have our lives taken from us by others that are smarter than us.”






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