Council of Institutional Investors

Majority Voting for Directors

CII's corporate governance policies state that in uncontested elections, directors should be elected by majority vote; directors who fail to receive a majority support should step down from the board and not be reappointed.

The board of directors is the first line of defense for shareholders. As agents for investors, directors have a responsibility to make decisions in the company's best interest. That's why CII pays close attention to how directors are elected and removed. CII advocates for director elections that carry real consequences. For many decades, nearly all directors who stood for election unopposed won their seat upon receiving a single favorable vote, and thousands of companies continue to operate under this standard.  

Companies with majority voting require uncontested board nominees to receive more "for" votes than "against" votes in order to be elected or re-elected. The alternative method for electing directors is plurality voting, under which the nominees receiving the most "for" votes are elected to the board. Although nine in 10 S&P 500 companies use the majority vote standard for uncontested director elections, thousands of U.S. companies still use the old method. Across the Russell 3000, a slight majority (53 percent according to EY Center for Board Matters) now have a majority vote standard for uncontested elections. While it is closing, the gap remainig between large cap and smaller cap practices is due in no small measure to the greater attention large companies receive from filers of shareholder resolutions.  

Majority voting listing standards
CII petitioned NYSE Euronext and the Nasdaq Stock Market to require listed companies to (1) elect directors by majority vote when there is not a contest for board seats and (2) not reappoint directors who fall short. Many CII members and other market participants endorsed CII's petitions, including: members of the CII Advisory Council (NYSE, Nasdaq), the California State Teachers' Retirement System (NYSE, Nasdaq), the Florida State Board of Administration (NYSE, Nasdaq), Hermes Equity Ownership Services (NYSE, Nasdaq) and the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust (NYSE, Nasdaq).

Resources & Advocacy
CII FAQ on majority voting
CII corporate governance policy on majority voting for directors
CII annual letter-writing campaign urging boards not to reappoint "zombie" directors (members only)
CII campaign to make majority voting an exchange listing standard (see above and June 20, 2013, letters below)

Download CII's Majority Voting FAQ's which explains in fuller detail the range of approaches to electing directors, why it matters and how market participants can support progress toward real accountability