SHAREHOLDER RIGHTS

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“MAPping the Future” Column in the INQUIRER – 25 June 2012
SHAREHOLDER RIGHTS
By Chit U. Juan
After FACEBOOK’s celebrated IPO last 18 May 2012 in NASDAQ and its epic slide
the following days, we are warned that IPOs should not be all spectacle and sorely lacking
in transparency and good governance. Besides IPOs, some investors try to diversify their
portfolio by also getting into “blue chips” since foreign currency deposits are not as attractive
of late.
But what do shareholders really need to know besides average yields of the famous
issues like telcos, property companies and food and beverage stocks? What are shareholder
rights? Is a P100 investment for one or two shares enough for someone to attend a
Stockholders’ meeting?
A few good men (and women) decided to form an association to spread the word
about shareholders’ rights. The group, called SharePHIL for short, is the Shareholders
Association of the Philippines. The founding chair is Evelyn Singson, former Management
Association of the Philippines (MAP) President (and only the second woman in MAP’s
history who became President), the President is Atty. Cherry Bernaldo and there also is Atty.
Francis Lim (former President of Philippine Stock Exchange or PSE) and Rex Drilon
(President of the Institute of Corporate Directors or ICD), among a few others who wish to
share what they know about Corporate Good Governance and Transparency, brought to
practical terms. It is like Investment 101, if you will.
In a few meetings I have attended since its inception, I gathered that the Trustees of
SharePHIL wish to share their knowledge about investments and the rights of minority
shareholders through seminars, fora and other methods to teach the ordinary Joe or Jane
about capital markets and also about investments in private companies.
Private companies are not exempt from SharePHIL’s eyes. Though they are private
and not subject to public test of governance, SharePHIL has the advocacy of teaching
minority shareholders (anyone with no control or some control ) what their rights are and as
simple as what to ask during Board meetings or Stockholders’ meetings.
To start off the series of seminars it envisions to hold regularly, SharePHIL will bring
an expert in the person of Mr. DAVID GERALD, President of the Securities Investors
Association Singapore (SIAS) on 27 June 2012 at the Dusit Thani Manila. The group will
have a panel of reactors in the persons of UP School of Economics Professor Winnie
Monsod, Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations
Chair Cesar Villanueva, and PSE Corporate Governance Office Head Argel Astudillo.
Former De La Salle University System Chair Francis Estrada has been invited to be the
moderator of the panel discussion.
Minority shareholders, fund managers, endowment finance advisers and everyone
who wishes to invest in another company, be it public or private, are welcome to attend.
Further, the group also wishes to invite spouses of CEOs, spouses of corporate officers,
children of corporate founders who may not be aware of the rights of a minority shareholder
in a private company or of small holders in a public issue.
SharePHIL is the first of its kind in the country. Together with the ICD, the Institute
of Solidarity in Asia (ISA) and other business organizations, we hope to gather many
investors to this forum with Mr. Gerald and the future seminars we will be running.
I am often asked by minority shareholders very basic questions which they have in
their minds but were afraid to ask lest they be thought of as ignorant or ‘wet behind the ears’
when it comes to shareholder rights. This is the forum to go to. Ask and you shall receive the
answer. Further, besides private companies, SharePHIL will attend Stockholders’ meetings of
as many publicly-listed companies as possible so we can share the collected knowledge with
our members and their families.
No one is too small not to be concerned about shareholder rights. Every peso of
investment is hard-earned money that we should steward and care for, specially if it is to be
co-mingled with other people’s monies and put in investments we have no knowledge about.
Think Warren Buffett. He never invests in a business that is not sustainable or in a business
he does not understand. And look what he has earned for many decades now.
Not everyone can be a Mark Zuckerberg or a Bill Gates and just wake up one day as a
billionaire. Most of us have to work hard and long before we can even save up enough for our
nest egg or for a “retirement kitty”. Or some of us are just lucky to have inherited much
without the knowledge of sustaining such wealth or fortune.
Everyone must be concerned about investments and where these investments are
brought, here and abroad. Whether it’s a million pesos, or a million dollars , the questions are
all important and need answers.
We hope SharePHIL will provide the answers to many questions from innocent
investors. And only then can we say that our capital markets will grow because investors
would be more informed and will make wise and guided decisions.
(The author is the Vice President of the MAP and a Regular Member of SharePHIL. She also
is the Governor-in-Charge for MAP’s Programs Committee, National Branding Committee
and Communications Committee. She is founder and co-owner of ECHOStore sustainable
lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms in Serendra and Podium malls. Feedback at
[email protected] For previous articles, please visit map.org.ph.)
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