Handelsbanken becomes the first Swedish company to follow institutional investors’ call for individual board elections

In a letter to the Swedish Corporate Governance Board, various institutional investors have recently addressed their concerns about the bundled form in which the election of a company’s board of directors is put to shareholders vote in Sweden. The letter ended with encouraging the Swedish Corporate Governance Board to introduce a rule for Swedish listed companies to enable shareholders to submit their votes on the individual election of the members of the board of directors at the earliest opportunity.

In a response to the aforementioned letter, the Swedish Corporate Governance Board issued a statement that in its view Swedish company law and the Swedish Corporate Governance Code provide sufficient opportunities for individual elections. Consequently, the Swedish Corporate Governance Board is currently not in favour of introducing such rule and has decided to leave it to each company and its shareholders to decide upon how to conduct board elections at the AGM.

Svenska Handelsbanken AB (“Handelsbanken”) is the first Swedish company that follows institutional investors call since the Company’s Nomination Committee (consisting of Ms. Helena Stjernholm, Mr. Jan-Erik Höög, Mr. Mats Guldbrand, Mr. Bo Selling and Mr. Pär Boman) has established an individual election procedure for the election of its Board of Directors. At the upcoming AGM (March 16, 2016), to be held at the Grand Hôtel’s Winter Garden in Stockholm (Sweden), the election of the Board of Directors is on the agenda under items 17.1 - 17.11. In succession, it is proposed to (re-)elect Mr. J.F. Baksaas, Mr. P. Boman, Mr. T. Bylund, Mr. O. Johansson, Ms. L. Kaae, Mr. F. Lundberg, Ms. B. Rathe, Ms. C. Skog, Mr. F. Vang-Jensen, Ms. K. Apelman and Ms. K. Hessius.

ECGS strongly welcomes the establishment of an individual election procedure for the Board of Directors at Handelsbanken and furthermore praises its Nomination Committee to have had the courage to depart from a long Swedish tradition of bundled elections! It remains to be seen however, whether this best practice example will be followed by other Swedish companies.

Published by Shareholder Support on February 26, 2016