Hysan’s Irene Lee faces trouble at HSBC shareholders’ meeting

Almost 30 per cent of votes cast against reappointment of Hysan Development executive chairman to the banking giant’s board

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 April, 2017, 12:13am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 April, 2017, 12:13am

HSBC Holdings managed to shrug off a mild shareholders’ revolt at its annual general meeting over the reappointment of Irene Lee Yun-lien, executive chairman of Hysan Development, to its board.

At the meeting in London on Friday, 2.6 billion votes, or 28.8 per cent of the total, were cast against Lee’s reappointment as a director. All other directors received more than 99 per cent of the votes for their election or re-election.

The dispute was over Lee holding positions on a number of other companies’ boards, or so-called overboarding.

Apart from her roles at Hysan and HSBC, Lee serves as a non-executive director on the boards of Cathay Pacific Airways, CLP Holdings and Hang Seng Bank as well.

At the meeting, two proxy shareholder advisers, ISS and Glass Lewis, also advised against the reappointment of Paul Walsh, another non-executive director seeking re-election to HSBC’s board.

In its guidance, ISS said it voted against Lee and Walsh because “both individuals hold a significant number of board roles at other publicly listed companies in addition to their positions at HSBC”.

HSBC withdrew Walsh’s name from consideration following the reports, but kept Lee’s, given that she was nonetheless elected with more than 70 per cent of the votes.

A third proxy shareholder adviser, PIRC, supported Lee’s re-election.

“The board notes that [2.6 billion] shares were voted against the re-election of Irene Lee,” HSBC said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange accompanying the results of the meeting. “The board seeks to ensure that each director is able to make the necessary commitment to the delivery of their role. The board is satisfied that all directors have sufficient capacity to meet their commitments to HSBC.”