Were unhappy Yahoo shareholder votes lost in the shuffle?

A major Yahoo investor is raising the possibility that votes for Friday's shareholder weren't right. Was there more disapproval of CEO Jerry Yang after all?

Maybe Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang didn't escape criticism from Friday's shareholder meeting so easily after all.

Yahoo headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Yahoo headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. Stephen Shankland/CNET News.com

The percentage of Yahoo shareholders who withheld votes for Yang and Chairman Roy Bostock dropped from 2007 to 2008 , Yahoo said after the meeting, apparently signifying a lesser level of disapproval. But Capital Research Global Investors, which at last count owns 6.2 percent of Yahoo stock, has requested that the company that transmitted its votes to Yahoo, Broadridge Financial Solutions, check its work.

"We asked Broadridge Financial to doublecheck the votes it transmitted to Yahoo on our behalf," said Capital Research Global Investors spokesman Chuck Freadhoff.

That indicates the possibility that some "withhold" votes may not in fact have been withheld. In Yahoo's official tally, 14.6 percent of votes for Yang and 20.5 percent for Bostock were withheld.

Capital Research Global Investors employs Gordon Crawford, a portfolio manager who has been critical of Yahoo . It's one of two parts of Capital Research and Management; the other part, Capital World Investors, owns 9.85 percent of Yahoo shares.

Yahoo believes nothing is amiss with the vote. "The independent inspector of elections certified the results of the election and Yahoo accurately announced those results," the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company said in a statement.

But Yahoo left the door open for the possibility that something might have gone wrong before the votes were received. "Yahoo did not participate in the execution of the votes and was not a party to any errors which may have been made either by a voting institution or a proxy processing intermediary acting on behalf of banks, brokers and institutions."

A representative for Broadridge wasn't immediately available for comment.

It's not clear what happens if there was a disconnect between investment firms' voting wishes and the way the votes were actually recorded. Because the withhold vote is largely a symbolic act of communication, it's not likely that any change in the withhold would, for example, force Yang or Bostock to step down.

But it could change Yahoo's estimation of how satisfied its shareholders are with the company's turnaround plan.

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About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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