Pro-labor nominee loses big in KB meeting

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Pro-labor nominee loses big in KB meeting

KB Financial Group’s general meeting on Friday was a major disappointment for the labor union of one of the country’s biggest banks.

Two of Korea’s leading financial groups, KB and Hana, held their annual general meetings on Friday.

The KB union’s independent director nominee, Kwon Soon-won, failed to get through, as only 4.23 percent of shareholders voted to appoint the Sookmyung Women’s University business professor to the board of directors.

Union members hoped that Kwon’s experience advocating for labor rights would benefit them.

Many shareholders, including the National Pension Service, which holds the largest stake in the group at 9.68 percent, opposed Kwon’s appointment, citing his lack of banking experience.

The union’s failure follows their unsuccessful attempt last November to appoint an activist lawyer as KB’s independent director.

The union’s proposal to revise KB’s articles of association was also shot down.

Not enough shareholders sympathized with their proposal to limit the appointment of directors with political backgrounds and grant independent directors the sole power to recommend other independent directors.

Foreigners, who hold around 70 percent of KB’s shares, voted in line with recommendations from the International Shareholder Services (ISS) to oppose all of the union’s proposals. The ISS is the world’s largest proxy advisory firm.

Hana Financial Group also had an eventful meeting on Friday. Shareholders approved incumbent Chairman Kim Jung-tai’s bid for a third term.

The 66-year-old chairman and CEO will stay in the position until March 2021. Some 84.6 percent of the shareholders in attendance voted for Kim to stay.

The ISS recommended that foreign shareholders reappoint Kim, citing his success in helping to bring Hana stock prices to over 47,000 won as of Friday ($43.37).

The bank’s shares have almost doubled in value since early 2016. Kim, whose ties to Hana date back to 1992, has led the bank since 2012.

One of the first tasks on Kim’s agenda is helping Hana gain the trust of Korea’s financial watchdog.

The Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) is currently keeping a close eye on Hana executives after allegations surfaced that Choe Heung-sik, the FSS’s former governor, was involved in unfair hiring practices while he served as president of Hana between 2012 and 2014.

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