This week came the news that the sub-scale industry superannuation fund, First Super (what a misnomer), was selling its News Corp shares, having made a real killing by holding them.
AUSTRALIAN industry fund First Super is to sell down its holdings in News Corporation in protest at the “defeat of proposals for a more independent board” at the company’s annual general meeting. The fund for 72,000 members in the timber, pulp & paper and furniture and joinery industries has asked its fund managers to dispose of shares in News Corp, publisher of The Australian, over the next few months.
The holding is worth approximately $7 million, and First Super is not listed in the top 20 shareholders on the News register.
A proposal for an independent chairman was unanimously voted down at the News AGM in October, after the board recommended against the proposal.
First Super co-chair and investment committee chair Michael O’Connor said the fund was withdrawing its investment due to the failure of proposals for an “independent News Corp chairperson and more independent directors”.”Open, transparent, representative governance is not only overdue but essential for improved risk management within the company,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Further, the interests of minority shareholders have too often been compromised. But these issues are apparently of no concern to Rupert Murdoch, so our board decided to take his advice and sell down our shareholding.”
Here are a few points to note:
- Michael O’Connor, former boyfriend of Julia Gillard, is the brother of Labor politician, Brendan. There is another brother hanging around the union movement (recently elected to HSU). Quite the dynasty – a bit like the Murdochs, really.
- Where was the employer co-chair in this announcement? Why did he not speak?
- I just love the notion that the independent trustee of this fund is Bob Smith, former AWU official. Que? Independent?
- The annualised return to News Corp shareholders in the past twelve months is close to 45 per cent, which sits rather strangely with the proposition that poor corporate governance and poor shareholder returns go hand in hand.
- How does the trade union movement stack up when it comes to standards of corporate governance, transparency and disclosure?