Lord Myners has died at the age of 73. He had a big hand in the rescue of the banks in the financial crisis of 2008 as a Treasury Minister in the Labour Government after becoming the socialists’ favourite capitalist. He was also responsible for the Myners Report into institutional investment which had some influence on corporate governance and institutional stewardship in the UK.
I met him a few times and he had a very persuasive personality but as the comments from Lord Rose below indicate he was not always straightforward. That included evasive answers in Parliament. For example, this comment on the nationalisation of Northern Rock: “The essential intention in taking Northern Rock into temporary public ownership was to stabilise the banking system and to reassure people that a deposit placed with a British bank is a safe deposit”. His forceful actions during the banking crisis which resulted in the effective nationalisation of big UK banks were not appreciated by many.
Stuart Rose made extensive comments in an adulatory article in the FT on his work with Myners during the attempted takeover of M&S including this: “The climax of the takeover battle, following the shareholder presentations and the massively attended annual meeting at The Royal Festival Hall, was the final board meeting. Paul’s sure-handed chairing saved the day. Using a combination of wisdom, wit, guile, persuasion and patience we saw off Green’s opportunistic approach”.
I watched the General Meetings of BHP Plc (BHP) today where there was a vote for unification of the Australian and UK companies. BHP will retain a UK listing but it will only be a “standard” listing so will no longer be in the FSTE-100. AGMs will only be held in Australia although on-line access will be provided.
This prompted a question regarding future “engagement” with the board from a shareholder who expressed concerns that hybrid AGMs reduced interaction with the directors and made follow-up questions difficult. He was certainly right in that regard. On-line access is not nearly as good as being physically present and clearly most investors will not find it practical to fly to Australia to attend in person. This is one of the few downsides of the unification, but it otherwise makes sense. The result of the voting is still awaited at the time of writing.
Postscript: There was overwhelming support for the unification by both Ltd and Plc shareholders.
Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson )
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