July 20, 2024

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Investor Support for Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda Tumbles

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Investor support for Toyota Motor’s longtime leader, Akio Toyoda, sank to its lowest level since he took the helm as shareholders challenged the extent of control he exerts over the company.

According to a filing released on Wednesday, 71.9 percent of shareholders supported renominating Mr. Toyoda as chairman of Toyota’s board. That met the threshold required for re-election, but it was the lowest level of support for him since at least 2010, after Mr. Toyoda’s first full year as chief executive.

“In the context of corporate Japan, it’s a surprising figure,” Hirotaka Uchida, partner at the consultancy Arthur D. Little, said of Mr. Toyoda’s renomination vote result. Shareholders want to see changes made to Toyota’s governance and the level of influence Mr. Toyoda holds within the company, he said: “That has been made quite obvious.”

Traditionally in Japan, board members receive nearly unanimous support from shareholders, and Mr. Toyoda, whose grandfather founded the company, has gotten an average approval of more than 96 percent over the past decade. But that national trend has started to change in recent years, with more investors using their votes to pressure companies to enhance profitability and corporate governance.

Ahead of Toyota’s shareholder meeting on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that several big investors planned to vote against Mr. Toyoda’s reappointment. They questioned whether recent problems with mishandled vehicle tests might indicate broader governance issues within Toyota, including inadequate checks and balances on management.

“Toyota’s shareholders have now sent a strong signal that better governance is needed at the very top of the company,” said Anders Schelde, chief investment officer at AkademikerPension, a Danish fund. “We share the concerns expressed and expect the chairman to reflect on the best interest of the company when deciding his next move.”

Mr. Uchida of Arthur D. Little said there is very…

River Akira Davis

2024-06-19 06:09:59

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