No investors raised their hands to grill the top brass during this year’s annual meeting at Herman Miller Inc., nor buttonholed board members after it ended.
That’s because the Oct. 10 session occurred solely in cyberspace—for the fifth straight year. The furniture maker stopped holding its annual meetings at pricey hotels in order to “reach a broader shareholder base” and save money, says Jeff Stutz, treasurer and vice president of investor relations at Herman Miller.
Since December 2009, 25 public companies have conducted at least one annual meeting only online, reportsBroadridge Financial Solutions Inc., a major provider of such services.
Those with annual “e-meetings” included Warner Music Group Corp., Applied Minerals Inc. and Nutrisystem Inc.
But some critics challenge the value of sacrificing face-to-face accountability just to gain occasional increased participation, and lament the loss of personal interaction with executives and directors.
During the meetings, investors—who log into a website through a 12-digit control number linked to their brokerage accounts—vote and pose questions electronically. Some e-meetings are audio only; others include a video component where investors can see executives seated at a conference table. But few companies post investor queries online so other shareholders see what gets asked. Instead, officials running virtual meetings view posted questions and decide which to answer.
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