Does your vote really count?

If you own shares in individual stocks, chances are you’ve getting inundated with reminders to vote at the company’s upcoming annual meeting. For the 20-odd individual stocks that I own, the reminders to vote tell me in capital letters that “My Vote Counts”.

But as I recently wrote about for Bloomberg Opinion, that’s largely a nice sentiment, rather than a fact-based statement. That’s because companies routinely reject the outcome in a shareholder vote.

Ten years after the SEC put rules in place that require shareholders to cast an “advisory vote” on executive compensation, shareholders vote and, in some cases, reject the compensation. Take Starbucks, for example, which held its annual meeting on March 17. Shareholders overwhelmingly rejected the company’s executive compensation by a vote of 421.7 million to 381.4 million. Will anything change as a result? Starbucks has yet to address the matter publicly.

I’m usually a big fan of voting and have rarely missed a local election, even when living on the other side of the country. But until my proxy vote actually counts for something, it’s hard to get too excited about having my vote ignored.