(Reuters) -Berkshire Hathaway Inc reversed course on Friday and advised an activist group it might current a shareholder proposal remotely for the corporate’s Could 1 annual assembly, consistent with renewed steerage from the U.S. securities regulator.
Warren Buffett’s insurance coverage and funding firm historically attracts hundreds to its extravagant annual assembly in Omaha however, like many high U.S. firms through the coronavirus pandemic, had requested traders to log in to the assembly remotely as an alternative of attending in individual.
The shift to on-line has stymied many activist investor teams whose shareholder resolutions typically animate the conferences, nonetheless. Some have been muted by way of the expertise or advised they may solely current resolutions in individual regardless of the well being dangers.
That was the case at Berkshire for As You Sow of Berkeley, California, which filed a measure calling for the corporate’s subsidiaries to report on variety and inclusion efforts, and was advised it must ship a consultant to Los Angeles the place some administrators and employees would collect for the livestreamed webcast.
Requested concerning the state of affairs on Friday, Berkshire Chief Monetary Officer Marc Hamburg advised Reuters by way of e-mail:
“We might have most well-liked that As You Sow current their proposal on the location of the shareholders assembly in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, we are going to present As You Sow a possibility to supply a recording to be performed on the assembly as a method of presenting their shareholder proposal.”
As You Sow welcomed the choice. The group is “unwilling to danger different folks’s well being, so we’re relieved that the corporate modified course,” President Danielle Fugere advised Reuters.
When Berkshire Hathaway contacted the group, it cited new directions from the U.S. Securities and Alternate Fee, As You Sow mentioned.
As You Sow was amongst a gaggle of activists and traders that on April 5 requested the SEC to increase final 12 months’s steerage to permit the digital presentation of proposals, which a lot of firms gave the impression to be prohibiting this 12 months, in time for the 2021 springtime shareholder assembly season.
“From the standpoint of pandemic security, it’s not but time to require proponents to seem personally,” the letter acknowledged.
In a press release posted on its web site on Friday, the SEC mentioned that in mild of COVID considerations, firms had been inspired to “present shareholder proponents or their representatives with the power to current their proposals by way of various means, equivalent to by telephone” through the 2021 season.
The company additionally mentioned proponents who couldn’t journey to conferences would have good trigger to refile their proposals later.
Hamburg didn’t reply to questions on how it will be dealing with different shareholder teams.
Reporting by Ross KerberEditing by Sonya Hepinstall