Risk & Compliance

Teachers’ Fund Joins Calpers Effort

The nation's third-largest pension fund closes ranks with the biggest one to fight for auditor independence.
Stephen TaubApril 29, 2004

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (Calstrs) will join the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) and withhold votes from a number of directors up for election, according to Reuters.

The proxy-vote positions of the two institutional investors are sure to overlap, said Jack Ehnes, chief executive of Calstrs, the nation’s third-largest pension fund. “Some of the underlying issues on auditor independence, use of non-audit fees for accounting — those are things that our staff looks at just like their staff” he told reporters at a conference held by the Milken Institute in Beverly Hills, California, the news service reported.

The fund will not mindlessly follow Calpers’ votes, however, said Ehnes. “It would be wrong to say we both vote the same way all the time,” he reportedly said. Added Ehnes: “It is likely we have the same concerns. We would still look at directors independently.”

Meanwhile, Calpers reversed Monday’s decision to withhold proxy votes against the entire board of Alcoa. The world’s largest aluminum company was 1 of 11 businesses where Calpers had announced it would withhold votes for directors because of their failure to implement shareholder-approved proposals on golden parachutes.

Alcoa informed the pension fund that last September it did install a program to limit severance packages for top executives to 2.99 times salary and bonus, according to Reuters. Shareholders must vote on any severance packages that exceed that limit.

“Alcoa made Calpers aware of the implementation Tuesday morning and they changed their position,” a company spokesman told the wire service.

Nevertheless, Calpers said on its Website that it would still withhold its vote from Henry Schacht, who chairs Alcoa’s audit committee, since the committee failed to submit the auditor to shareholder ratification.