© Reuters. Shareholders gather to hear from billionaire investor Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s annual shareholders meeting in Omaha
By Ross Kerber (Reuters) – Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE 🙂 Inc changed course on Friday, telling a group of activists that it could submit a shareholder proposal remotely for the company’s annual meeting on May 1, in In line with new guidance from the US securities regulator Warren Buffett’s insurance and investment company traditionally draws thousands to its flamboyant annual meeting in Omaha but, like many of the major US corporations during the coronavirus pandemic , had asked investors to log into the meeting remotely rather than attending in person. However, the shift to the internet has blocked many activist investor groups whose shareholder resolutions often animate meetings. Some have been silenced through technology or told that they can only file resolutions in person despite the health risks. That was the case in Berkshire for As You Sow of Berkeley, California, which filed a measure asking the company’s subsidiaries to report on diversity and inclusion efforts, and was told it would have to send a representative to Los Angeles, where some directors and staff would gather for the live webcast. When asked about the situation on Friday, Berkshire CFO Marc Hamburg told Reuters via email: “We would have preferred As You Sow to present its proposal at the location of the shareholders meeting in Los Angeles. However , we will provide As You Siembra with the opportunity to provide a recording to play at the meeting as a means of presenting its shareholder proposal. ” As You Sow welcomed the decision. The organization “is not willing to risk the health of other people, so we are relieved that the company has changed course,” President Danielle Fugere told Reuters. When Berkshire Hathaway contacted the group, it cited new instructions from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, as You Sow put it. As You Sow was among a group of activists and investors who on April 5 asked the SEC to expand last year’s guidance to allow virtual filing of proposals, which several companies appeared to be banning this year, in time for the spring of 2021. meeting season. “From a pandemic security standpoint, this is not yet the time to require proponents to come forward in person,” the letter said. In a statement posted on its website on Friday, the SEC said that in light of COVID concerns, corporations were encouraged to “provide proposing shareholders or their representatives the ability to present their proposals through alternative means. , as by phone “during the 2021. season. The agency also said that proponents who were unable to travel to the meetings would have good reason to resubmit their proposals later. Hamburg did not respond to questions about how it would handle other stakeholder groups.