Domini Social Investments Releases Sixth Annual Proxy Voting Guidelines, Challenging Mutual Fund Industry to Publish Their Proxy VotesHandgun Violence, Affordable HIV/AIDS Drugs and Excessive Executive Compensation Are Added as Proxy Issues
New York, NY – Domini Social Investments, manager of the Domini Social Equity Fund (ticker symbol: DSEFX), announced today the publication of its sixth annual Proxy Voting Guidelines and Social Screening Criteria. Two years ago, the firm became the first mutual fund company to publish the actual proxy votes it casts for each company in its portfolio. Only a handful of the nation’s mutual funds disclose their proxy voting guidelines and nearly all mutual fund managers remain unwilling to disclose how they actually vote on particular issues at annual shareholder meetings. In releasing its annual Proxy Voting Guidelines, Domini re-issued its challenge to the mutual fund industry to follow its lead.
“Mutual fund shareholders deserve to know whether their fund managers are acting in their best interests,” said Amy Domini, the founder and a managing principal of Domini Social Investments. “In our view, mutual funds have an obligation to their shareholders to disclose how they intend to vote and how they actually do vote on important issues of corporate governance, including social and environmental policies. Proxy voting transparency should not simply be considered an aspect of socially responsible investing – it should be considered a fundamental indicator of responsible mutual fund governance.” Visitors to Domini Social Investments' web site (www.domini.com) can choose any of the 400 companies in the Domini Social Equity Fund's portfolio, see a brief description of the issue being voted on, and view Domini's vote.
“Two years ago, we became the first mutual fund manager in the country to publish our proxy voting decisions, putting them on our web site for all the world to see,” continued Ms. Domini. “We strongly encourage our colleagues in the mutual fund industry to follow our lead by making their proxy voting record public so that investors can properly assess the full implications of their investment decisions."
Ms. Domini disputed the view, taken by some of the nation’s largest mutual funds, that their investors “are not interested” in how mutual funds discharge their voting responsibilities. Referring to an April 8, 2001 article in the Washington Post, Ms. Domini noted that “the chief counsel of the SEC’s investment management division was quoted that this issue is ‘bubbling up’ and that there is demand from investors for this kind of information.”*
This year's edition of Domini’s Proxy Voting Guidelines and Social Screening Criteria describes the firm’s voting policy on more than 90 types of resolutions ranging from environmental reporting to executive compensation to labor relations at home and abroad. Each year, Domini updates the Guidelines to address important emerging issues. This year’s additions include handgun violence, affordable HIV/AIDS prescription drugs and excessive stock options granted to corporate executives. The booklet also includes an historical overview of the firm’s shareholder activism program, including a complete listing of the sixty-two shareholder resolutions the firm has filed since 1994 as well as a description of the firm's social screening criteria and how it evaluates the social and environmental records of publicly traded companies.
“Each year, shareholders of the world’s largest corporations have an opportunity to be heard on critical social and environmental issues,” said Adam Kanzer, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Domini Social Investments. “According to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, this year socially concerned investors are sponsoring 132 social-issue resolutions at 96 companies. By voting to support shareholder proposals on social and environmental issues, we are helping to make corporations more accountable to their stockholders, their employees, their communities and the environment. By publicly disclosing our votes, we are making ourselves more accountable to our shareholders.”
In addition to publicly disclosing its voting guidelines and how it voted its shares, Domini also files shareholder resolutions each year on important social and environmental issues. This year, Domini filed sixteen resolutions on a range of issues, including diversity, environmental reporting and sweatshops. Examples include a resolution filed with Nordstrom, Inc. (Ticker: JWN) on contract-supplier standards and a resolution filed with Emerson Electric (Ticker: EMR) asking the company to amend its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. Serving in a leadership capacity with other concerned investors, Domini has also been involved in extensive dialogues with Walt Disney Co.(Ticker: DIS) and McDonald’s (Ticker: MCD) regarding those companies’ global labor standards, and with Merrill Lynch (Ticker: MER) on environmental issues.
Domini Social Investments manages more than $1.6 billion dollars in assets for individual and institutional investors seeking to incorporate social and environmental criteria into their investment decisions. The firm's flagship product, the Domini Social Equity Fund, is a socially screened no-load index fund. The firm also offers the Domini Social Bond Fund (Ticker; DSBFX) and an FDIC-insuredMoney Market Account through its partnership with ShoreBank, each of which invest a portion of fund assets in community economic development.
Investors seeking additional information on the Fund, or a free copy of the firm's Proxy Voting Guidelines and Social Screening Criteria, may call (800) 762-6814, or visit www.domini.com. The 47-page booklet was jointly developed with Kinder, Lydenberg, Domini & Co., Inc. (KLD) of Boston, Massachusetts, Domini Social Investments’ social research provider, with assistance from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. The booklet is distributed free of charge every year by Domini as a public service, and is posted on the firm’s website.
*Source: The Washington Post, April 8, 2001, Page H01, “Prodding for Disclosure of Funds’ Proxy Votes: Most Portfolio Managers Don’t Reveal Policies or Results, but the SEC is taking a Closer Look.” The use of this quote does not warrant or imply any endorsement by the SEC of Domini Social Investments LLC, DSIL Investment Services LLC, the Domini Funds, or the positions stated in this press release.