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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Hewlett-Packard shareholders deliver sharp rebuke to directors

Category : Business

Board scrapes through investor rebellion over missteps including disastrous acquisitions and ousting of chief executives

Hewlett-Packard’s board is fighting to retain its authority after narrowly surviving a shareholder rebellion which saw big protest votes against the re-election of five directors at its annual meeting.

Investors rounded on HP, which is under pressure after a series of disastrous acquisitions, including an $8.8bn writedown on its takeover of the British software firm Autonomy.

The two longest-serving directors, John Hammergren and Kennedy Thompson, were rebuked for a series of missteps including the ousting of two chief executives in as many years, with 46% and 45% of votes cast against their re-election.

Chairman Raymond Lane attracted the third largest tally of no votes, with 41% against his return, while 20% voted against the lead independent director, Ralph Gupta, and 30% against Silicon Valley high-flyer Marc Andreessen.

A spokesman for one of the largest North American pension funds, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers), took the floor at the meeting in Mountain View to express “extreme concern with HP’s path in recent years”.

The fund, which owns more than 8m HP shares, voted against five directors and joined 14.7% of investors in protesting at the reappointment of Ernst & Young as HP’s auditor – the firm has performed the role for 14 years and over $20m of its $50m in fees for 2012 were for non-audit work.

A proposal put forward by investors that all directors retain until reaching retirement age a significant proportion of shares acquired through company equity schemes was supported by a large minority of over 27% of votes.

All 11 members of the board were re-elected with the required majorities. However, shareholders supported a proposal allowing them to nominate candidates for the board in future years.

Shareholder activist Bill Patterson of the CtW Investment Group said the change would be “of little value unless this company can demonstrate it has active independent directors on the job protecting shareholder rights”.

The shareholder rebellion, one of the largest faced by the board of a major US listed company in recent years, was compounded by the latest salvo from Autonomy founder Mike Lynch.

The British entrepreneur is battling to clear his name after being accused of manipulating Autonomy’s accounts in order to inflate its value. Lynch is worth an estimated £480m following HP’s $11bn acquisition of his software firm in 2011.

In an open letter published Wednesday morning, Lynch, who rejects HP’s accusations of false accounting, said the company had acted in an “aggressive and unusual manner” over recent months. He called again for HP to produce any evidence it had to back up the claims against him.

HP’s chief executive, Meg Whitman, defended her board, which has overseen a halving of the company’s share price in two years. “Our objective is to build back your shareholdings,” she said. “My view about the board of directors is the lineup we have right now is helping us turn around the company.”

Activist investor Ralph Whitworth, who joined the HP board in 2011, said work was ongoing to find new directors: “Last fall wasn’t the most opportune moment to reach out and invite directors on the board, but things are changing and you can expect some evolution of the board over the coming years months maybe.”

Year of investor revolt: are shareholders showing their teeth at last?

Category : Business

Rebellions over pay and performance at company’s annual meetings are becoming more and more widespread. Is the concept of responsible capitalism beginning to take root?

A sudden burst of shareholder activism appears to been unleashed at a wide range of underperforming companies.

AstraZeneca’s boardroom coup is the latest illustration of shareholders exerting their influence to demand change. Chief executive David Brennan announced his retirement and chairman Louis Schweitzer bowed out three months early after investor pressure, even though Brennan insisted the decision to go was his own.

In the midst of the annual meeting season, a number of FTSE 100 companies have already seen rebellions against their pay policies – and more are expected in the weeks ahead. In the US, investors are proving to be unusually hostile towards big pay deals and even Germany’s biggest bank, Deutsche, is in the firing line of some shareholders.

Barclays annual meeting on Friday will provide the latest test of shareholders’ willingness to confront issues at companies they believe are not providing them with large enough returns.

Investors cite a number of reasons for what appears to be behind a surge in protests, including weak economic growth and poor performance by companies – as well as political pressure on investors, particularly in the UK, to demand more in turn from companies.

“In a world where returns to investors are hard to come by, investors are now ensuring they are working their portfolios harder than they might have done historically,” said Robert Talbut, chief investment officer at Royal London Asset Management.

Investor advisory group Pirc reckons that the rebellion at US bank Citi, and the revolt expected at Barclays on Friday, would have been unthinkable five years ago. “When companies were making a lot of money, investors weren’t so fussed about executive pay,” Pirc said.

But, five years on from the banking crisis, executive pay has continued to rise while returns to investors have fallen. Among the companies feeling the heat have been:

Citigroup, whose shareholders rejected a plan to pay chief executive Vikram Pandit almost $10m. Pandit had been taking a $1-a-year salary since the banking crisis.

Smith & Nephew, where about 30% of investors at the FTSE 100 medical devices company failed to endorse the company’s remuneration report.

Capital Shopping Centres, where nearly 30% voted against the remuneration report at this week’s annual meeting. CSC holds big stakes in malls including Manchester’s Trafford Centre and the Metrocentre in Gateshead.

GE in the US, where protesters were escorted out of the annual meeting in Detroit this week shouting “pay your fair share” in reference to reports that the company had paid no corporation tax.

Deutsche Bank, which is facing a protest from an investor group led by Hermes Equity Ownership Services over the supervisory board’s performance over the past year.

Louise Rouse, head of engagement at the investment campaign group Fair Pensions, was at AstraZeneca’s annual meeting on Thursday and expects to attend around 20 annual meetings a year. She believes shareholders could still do more. “I think we are seeing some momentum on some issues but I wouldn’t say that shareholders are dealing with all the issues,” she said.

Rouse said there may be signs that investors are becoming more strident. Many used to merely abstain from voting when wishing to indicate their displeasure with underperforming companies or overpaid boards, whereas now they simply vote “no”.

However, Sarah Wilson, chief executive of the corporate governance consultancy Manifest, produces data that shows that the level of protest, while on the rise, is still relatively low. In the year that shareholders were first handed an advisory vote on pay a decade ago, the average level of dissent for remuneration across the FTSE 100 was 17%. But this had fallen back to 6% by 2005, rising again after the 2008 banking crisis. Dissent then slipped back again, before starting its latest rise.

With protests still on such a small scale, there is also the question of whether companies take much notice of their shareholders at all. At Capital Shopping Centres, for instance, this was the third year in a row that investors had staged a protest.

Regional bloc rejects Mali coup leader appeal

Category : World News

President of ECOWAS rejects appeal for military aid against Tuareg rebellion made by Captain Amadou Sanogo.

Read more here: Regional bloc rejects Mali coup leader appeal

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Celebrity chef serves up squirrel, beaver recipes

Category : World News

The wild-haired leader of a culinary rebellion in Canada has produced a back-to-the-land cookbook in which squirrel becomes sushi and the beloved beaver gets butchered.

Originally posted here: Celebrity chef serves up squirrel, beaver recipes

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