Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sundaram Finance AGM

This year's AGM of Sundaram Finance Ltd. was held on July 22nd. The meeting was unusually and even indecently vituperative.

The Chairman did not think it necessary to introduce the members of the Board despite a reminder from a shareholder. A shareholder, Mr. R.Sivakumar, was on the offensive from the word go. He took up cudgels on behalf of another shareholder, Mr.Padmanabhan, who was apparently not present. Sivakumar wanted to know from the Chairman why a legal notice was sent to Padmanabhan for making insinuation about insider trading in the last AGM. He refused to accept Company Secretary's intervention on behalf of the Chairman.

Are there limits to freedom of expression in an AGM? Is the company's reputation fragile enough to be adversely affected even if a shareholder suspects (perhaps without basis) insider trading by the company's associates? Is AGM a public forum or a private meeting?

The Chairman testily responded that Sivakumar was talking 'rubbish'. Sivakumar wanted withdrawal of this 'unparliamentary' word. The chair did not budge. After exchanging some more 'unpleasantries', Sivakumar set off for another AGM. On his way out, he was confronted by another shareholder who took exception to his behaviour. Sivakumar returned to the AGM to protest what he thought was company's practice of bullying the dissenters.

As I was coming out of the meeting another shareholder told me that Ashok Leyland which held its AGM the previous day was much more liberal in distribution of sweets to shareholders !

Added on July 27: In the Minutes of the Meeting submitted to Stock Exchanges, the company has totally ignored the allegations made by shareholders.

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