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Urging No Vote on Willbros Group Board of Directors Re-election at Council of Institutional Investors Conference
Washington, D.C. (May 9, 2014) – At this year’s Council of Institutional Investors (CII) Conference, a vocal group of shareholders expressed their frustration with the poor performance and corporate governance of Willbros Group, a major energy infrastructure company.
During the packed meeting, pension fund representatives of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) presented information calling for trustees, pension fund managers and investor service providers to vote “NO” on two directors on the company’s board who are up for re-election at Willbros’ annual meeting later this month. Trustees and directors from public pension funds CalPERS and NYCERS were among those also expressing concern.
Pension funds with over $1 Trillion under management and money managers with over $4.5 Trillion attended the meeting to get an update on energy investment and how the Willbros Group is addressing many ongoing problems. A number of trustees and proxy voting firms pledged to have their funds vote their shares against the Willbros directors.
Greg Kinczewski, of the Marco Consulting Group, described how they had contacted Willbros earlier regarding performance, board composition and governance issues. “In our view, their response was not reassuring. We intend to vote against the two directors,” Mr. Kinczewski said.
Craig Rosenberg of Proxy Vote Plus also stated that based on their analysis, they intended to vote against the two directors on behalf of their clients.
In addition to calling for a no vote on the two directors, LIUNA is among those pushing for the company to divest in underperforming regional offices and for a restructuring of the oil and gas division. As analysts pointed out to those in attendance, losses in the oil and gas division were dragging down the entire company. Despite the 71.7% median growth in stock price of their competitors, Willbros Group lagged far behind at just 3.9% over five years (stock price date April 30, 2014).
“Shareholders are sending a message they want leadership that can help improve the stock’s performance, improve corporate governance and help the company become an industry leader on safety and business practices,” said Richard Metcalf, Director Corporate Affairs for LIUNA. “We are hopeful that changes can be made, actions accelerated, and that directors will do a better job of listening to and communicating with their shareholders.”
The Willbros Group annual meeting will be held on May 20, 2014. Since the company has a classified board of directors, only two directors are up for election in 2014 – Edward DiPaolo and Daniel Lonergan.