Proxy Votes for Social Action

Millions or billions of stock proxies go un-voted every year. Or if people bother to vote them, they just vote with the board, or their votes are somewhat random, cancelling each other out. People just don't have enough information (or time to comprehend, let along gather, all the information needed) to make their vote meaningful.

What if there were a website you could go to, that specialized in voting your proxies for you - in a meaningful way, consistent with your personal beliefs? They might also "recommend" stocks - not based on potential profits, but based on companies they think it would be strategically important and possible to influence - with email updates on how and why they're voting particular ways, to keep people visiting and involved in the site.

And as several organizations set up these services (probably sharing a single service that handles the technological side for them, but with their own labeled/URL front-end), they should be able (with the proxy-holder's explicit and informed permission) to *trade* proxies to other organizations. The EFF might want Telecom stock proxies, while Greenpeace wants oil company proxies. Both maintain proxy-voting sites for their memberships, and have proxies the other wants to use. So they swap. (Possibly a trading market of sorts could evolve - though more likely it'll be simple bulk swaps - "All our Telecoms for all your oil companies.")

I believe it'd be legal - in essence the donors would be giving power of attorney - but that's obviously a big point that needs to be verified.

It would be largely automated and web-based - go to your preferred website, enter the URL provided for voting your proxy (or select from some of the common ones - e.g., along with the code on your proxy form. On the same screen there'd be your user permissions - boxes that are checked to show other groups you are willing to allow your proxies to be traded to, along with links to descriptions of them. If you don't want to let your votes be used to help immigrant support groups or something, you un-check that box. You can also see how your proxies were voted or traded in the past. And of course, there's the big green "Authorize" button you have to click as indication of giving your power of attorney.

Privacy would be very important - i.e. people would be effectively telling the organizations how much wealth they have - one of the primary rules should be that that information MUST kept fire-walled - i.e. not used for targeting (or even appearing to target) the organization's fund-raising efforts or any other purposes beyond the voting of proxies, and deleted as soon as possible.

Perhaps initially it'd only have "moral impact" - letting people do a bit more for causes they like. But there'd be some cases where the big share-holders in a corporation are split over some issue, and the organization might tilt that decision one way or the other, perhaps even negotiating directly with board members for an un-related but desired concession.

If it managed to take off and have some impact, you could expect to see attempts to suppress it, likely requiring some adaptation, and eventually perhaps some court cases to settle the matter.

And you could also expect to see groups of which you might not personally approve, picking up on the idea. So there might be a fundamentalist Christian group, using proxy votes to punish board members for corporate policies benefiting gays. But it's all part of leveraging the web to coordinate people's efforts for greater impact.


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