Acting for You, August 2017

Governance Institute is supportive of methods which increase the use and popularity of electronic communication between companies and their shareholders. However, we don’t consider placing shareholder email details on the company’s public share register as the best method to achieve this outcome.

Proposed amendment to section 169 of the Corporations Act

Senator Nick Xenophon has introduced a private members bill into the Senate seeking to amend the Corporations Act 2001 (Corporations Act) to require companies to include a member’s email address on their share register.

In the second reading speech to the Corporations Amendment (Modernisation of Members Registration) Bill 2017, Senator Xenophon argued that the rationale and public policy imperative for the bill could be encapsulated by the efforts of the disgruntled members of the CPA in agitating for greater transparency and openness in the way CPA Australia is run. In particular, one member, Brett Stevenson, attempted to communicate with CPA’s 155,000 members to press for details of the governance, remuneration and strategic direction of CPA Australia and made an application under the Corporations Act to access the member register for that purpose. As the law currently stands, a company must provide a copy of its register to anyone who makes an application fora copy of the register and pays the appropriate inspection fee. Restrictions apply to the use of the information contained on the register however. Charities cannot use the information to ask for donations or gather information about people’s wealth. Stockbrokers can’t use it to solicit business from shareholders and companies can’t use it to create mailing lists for advertising. Mr Stevenson was provided with the list of members of the CPA together with their addresses but their email addresses had been removed. CPA was not legally obliged to provide Mr Stevenson with its members' email addresses. The Corporations Act only obliges a company’s share register to contain the members’ name, address and date of joining. With over 155,000 members, contacting each member by mail was prohibitively expensive for Mr Stevenson. Postage alone would be $155,000 plus paper and printing costs, whereas communicating to members via email would be free.

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