This excerpt taken from the EQR DEF 14A filed Apr 16, 2009.
Director Election Majority Vote Standard Proposal
Resolved: That the shareholders of Equity Residential (Company) hereby request that the Board of Directors initiate the appropriate process to amend the Companys governance documents (charter or bylaws) to provide that director nominees shall be elected by the affirmative vote of the majority of votes cast at an annual meeting of shareholders, with a plurality vote standard retained for contested director elections, that is, when the number of director nominees exceeds the number of board seats.
Supporting Statement: In order to provide shareholders a meaningful role in director elections, our Companys director election vote standard should be changed to a majority vote standard. A majority vote standard would require that a nominee receive a majority of the vote cast in order to be elected. The standard is particularly well-suited for the vast majority of director elections in which only board nominated candidates are on the ballot. We believe that a majority vote standard in board elections would establish a challenging vote standard for board nominees and improve the performance of individual directors and entire boards. Our Company presently uses a plurality vote standard in all director elections. Under the plurality vote standard, a nominee for the board can be elected with as little as a single affirmative vote, even if a substantial majority of the votes cast are withheld from the nominee.
In response to strong shareholder support for a majority vote standard in director elections, a strong majority of the nations leading companies, including Intel, General Electric, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Morgan Stanley, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Gannett, Marathon Oil, and Safeway have adopted a majority vote standard in company bylaws or articles of incorporation. Additionally, these companies have adopted director resignation policies in their bylaws or corporate governance policies to address post-election issues related to the status of director nominees that fail to win election. However, our Company has responded only partially to the call for change, simply adopting a post-election director resignation policy that sets procedures for addressing the status of director nominees that receive more withhold votes than for votes. The plurality vote standard remains in place.
We believe that a post-election director resignation policy without a majority vote standard in Company bylaws or articles is an inadequate reform. The critical first step in establishing a meaningful majority vote policy is the adoption of a majority vote standard. With a majority vote standard in place, the Board can then consider action on developing post-election procedures to address the status of directors that fail to win election. A majority vote standard combined with a post-election director resignation policy would establish a meaningful right for shareholders to elect directors, and reserve for the Board an important post-election role in determining the continued status of an unelected director. We feel that this combination of the majority vote standard with a post-election policy represents a true majority vote standard.