A corporation will send information to shareholders throughout the year, including annual reports, prospectuses and proxy materials. These proxy materials contain information regarding items to be considered at an upcoming shareholder meeting generally 35 to 40 days prior to the meeting. They can be distributed in several different ways:
- Hard Copy: Traditionally, shareholders have received printed proxy materials in the mail. They contain a meeting notice, agenda of proposals to be considered and a physical card to cast your proxy vote (either a Proxy Card or Voting Instruction Form).
- E-Mail: Shareholders can consent to electronic delivery to receive proxy materials over e-mail. The e-mail will contain links to electronic versions of the proxy materials and offer options to cast your vote.
- Notice of Internet Availability of Proxy Materials: To save costs (and trees), corporations can send a notice to shareholders that full proxy materials are available online – also known as “Notice and Access.” Links are provided where you can review the proxy materials and cast your vote.
The proxy statement holds a wealth of information relevant to you as a part-owner of the corporation. It provides details about the annual meeting, share ownership, board structure, executive compensation and management and shareholder proposals to be voted on at the meeting. It also provides background information to help you make an informed voting decision.
Casting Your Vote
You and every shareholder are identified with a unique control number; however, your vote is anonymous. Shareholders are eligible to vote if they are considered a shareholder as of the Record Date, an official date set by the company. Typically, a company will allow you to vote in one of the following ways:
- In Person: If you are able, you can attend the annual shareholder meeting and vote there. Your proxy materials will detail specific directions, including the date, time and location of the meeting. You may need to obtain an admittance ticket and / or a legal proxy to attend and cast your vote at the meeting.
- By Mail: You can vote by filling out and mailing a paper proxy card if you are a registered owner. You are a registered owner if your shares are registered in your name directly with the company (also referred to as holding in Customer Name). If you are a beneficial owner, you will be provided with a similar Voting Instruction Form (VIF). You are a beneficial owner if your shares are held in a stock brokerage account or by a bank (-also referred to as holding in Street Name). In either case, you will be provided with a return envelope to send your vote back to the company.
- By Phone: Many companies allow you to vote over the phone by providing a telephone number. This is generally a self-prompted phone service that requires you to provide the unique control number given to you in your proxy materials.
- By Internet: More and more companies are providing the option to vote over the Internet. Your proxy materials will provide a website address and the unique control number for you to use to vote.