Over 20% of Toshiba investors against activist fund execs, dissident director

TOKYO (Reuters) – More than 20% of Toshiba Corp shareholders voted against a dissident external director and two board directors from activist hedge fund investors, final voting results showed on Thursday.

Such a level of opposition to company-backed candidates remains rare in Japan, although cases of rejection are on the rise as shareholder activism has begun to take root. Last year, Toshiba shareholders voted out the then-board chairman in a rebuke of the company after it was found to have colluded with the government in suppressing foreign investor interests.

External director Mariko Watahiki, who opposed the candidacy of directors from Elliott Management and Farallon Capital Management, saw 23% of shareholders vote against her. She had the lowest support rate, of 64%, among 13 director nominees.

Watahiki tendered her resignation soon after the vote at the annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday. The former high court judge had argued the appointments of the two could skew the board too much towards the input of activist investors.

Nabeel Bhanji, a senior portfolio manager at Elliott, and Eijiro Imai, managing director at Farallon, both had opposition rates of about 22%, while about 78% supported them.

Chief Executive Taro Shimada got 86% of votes, with more than 12% abstaining.

Seven new board directors were appointed and six including Watahiki were re-appointed on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)