• Under proposal, large investors could put up 25% of board
  • Money manager would join trend granting so-called proxy access

BlackRock Inc., the world’s biggest money manager, is proposing changes that would enable large, longtime shareholders in the company to nominate their own directors.

The firm is proposing bylaw changes that would let any qualifying shareholder, or a group of as many as 20 stock owners, nominate up to 25 percent of the board of directors for 2016, according to a statement Wednesday from New York-based BlackRock. Investors must have owned at least 3 percent of the company’s outstanding shares for at least three consecutive years to qualify.

BlackRock is moving in the same direction as the likes of Microsoft Corp., General Electric Co. and Coca-Cola, which changed their bylaws this year to give major shareholders so-called proxy access, making it easier for them to nominate directors. BlackRock, which has stepped up its corporate governance campaigning in recent years, has encouraged companies it invests with to give long-term shareholders this right.

“In our view, securing a right of shareholders to nominate directors without engaging in a control contest can enhance shareholders’ ability to participate meaningfully in the director election process, stimulate board attention to shareholder interests, and provide shareholders an effective means of directing that attention where it is lacking,” according to the company’s corporate governance guidelines.

“The board and senior management of BlackRock operate with a long-term focus and our strong corporate governance framework supports that strategy,” Laurence D. Fink, chairman and chief executive officer, said in Wednesday’s statement.

Shareholders will vote on the proposal at the firm’s annual meeting in May.

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