A NYTimes article reviews problems with funds voting company proxies:conflicts of interest (companies may pay fund firms to manage their lucrative pension plans); and increasing concentration of voting power in the hands of a few large fund families. It includes a link to a new study
of proxy fund voting that shows how the conflicts of interest do in fact influence votes.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/21/business/stock-funds-shareholder-democracy.html
The article also mentions a fund that since late 2020 has provided investors in the fund a say in how that fund votes its proxies. The fund is INDEX, an equal-weighted S&P 500 fund.
This is an interesting idea that IMHO has promise. But as I read what's on the fund's pages, or more accurately, what isn't on those pages, I wonder (for this particular fund) how much is hype and how much is real.
Even without any new laws, mutual funds could fully honor investor wishes. Like donor-advised funds, they would be under no legal obligation to respect investors' directives. But pragmatically they could do as investors requested in virtually all cases. This fund however says only that it considers investor's wishes along with "other factors" in deciding how to vote the fund's proxies. It doesn't say what those other factors are or how they are weighted.
Also, it keeps emphasizing that proxy voting is a problem in index
funds. Proxy voting is a problem in all funds. It's just that index funds have the additional constraint that they can't "vote with their feet". This framing of the problem as an index fund problem, and that they just happen to have an index fund here that deals with it, is another part of the reason I get a sense of hype.
Neither MFO nor M* seem to rate the fund highly. So while I like the idea of giving fund investors a say in how funds vote their proxies, this fund doesn't do it for me.