Every year, Warren Buffet hosts the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting. This meeting is an Annual General Meeting (AGM), widely viewed with many people in attendance. The reason for this is that it is often more than the typical AGM, which we will detail below, as Buffet often talks about more than just Berkshire Hathaway. This year, on Saturday, May 1st in Los Angeles, Buffet was joined by, as Yahoo Finance reported, “Vice Chairman Charlie Munger and both shared their unscripted views on Berkshire Hathaway, the markets, the economy, corporate governance, and a lot more.”
This example is only one of what an AGM can be. First, these meetings are required by regulations imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). An AGM, as the name suggests, is a meeting held every year for shareholders. This is the time for a company’s board of directors to present information to the shareholders and a chance for shareholders to exercise their right to vote, given to them by owning a share, after hearing the vision and direction of the company.
Some specific requirements are defined by each state in which a public or private company is incorporated, however, they follow a general set of what should happen at each. This variance comes from the company’s articles of incorporation, bylaws, and state requirements. The typical AGM breaks down as follows:
- Reading and approval of the minutes of the previous meeting
- Financial statements
- Ratification of the director’s actions
- Election of the board of directors
- Concerns and questions from Shareholders
While shareholders are the focus of this meeting, they are not always available for the meeting. For this reason, they can vote by proxy via an online avenue or by mail. In addition, the SEC requires public companies to make meeting information available online for shareholders, so that they can be informed of their votes. Meeting information is also submitted to the SEC for regulatory compliance and sets the specific date and time for the meeting. These reporting requirements are a means to provide transparency for shareholders and the accountability of company management.
The question of how often to hold an annual general meeting is every year. More specifically, from Cornell Law:
“An annual meeting of the shareholders of the subsidiary holding company for the election of directors and for the transaction of any other business of the subsidiary holding company shall be held annually within 150 days after the end of the subsidiary holding company’s fiscal year.”
Shareholders will also need to be notified a minimum of 20 days and a maximum of 50 days before the event. Outside of this yearly meeting for shareholders, if there is an action that the company needs shareholder votes for and cannot wait for the next annual meeting, they can call an Extraordinary General Meeting. EGMs are meant for urgent matters that cannot wait.