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HSBC felt the impact of a recent crackdown by proxy shareholder advisers on the issue of “over-boarding” – having too many directorships – at its annual meeting in London on Friday.
More than a quarter of investors voted against the re-election of Irene Lee to the HSBC board, following the recommendation of proxy adviser ISS, which objected to the high number of directorships she holds.
Ms Lee is executive chairman of Hysan Development Company, a Hong Kong property developer. She also sits on the boards of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Hang Seng Bank, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Light & Power Holdings and Noble Group.
HSBC withdrew its resolution for Paul Walsh to be re-elected to its board after the former boss of drinks group Diageo, who is now chairman of catering group Compass and satellite operator Avanti Communications, fell foul of the over-boarding rules at ISS and its rival Glass Lewis. He is also a director at RM2, a UK supply chain specialist, and FedEx, the US logistics group.
The recommendations of the proxy advisers caused annoyance among several HSBC board members. Douglas Flint, chairman, said Mr Walsh had stepped down to avoid embarrassing the bank, even though he had fulfilled all his duties as a director, and described Ms Lee as “an exceptional director”.