Vital Healthcare Property Trust’s manager appears to be overstepping the mark in trying to sway investors into supporting the manager’s resolutions and voting against those proposed by rebel investors, according to the New Zealand Shareholders’ Association.

NZSA “has heard from some unitholders in Vital who have had phone calls from representatives of the trust or its manager, not just asking whether they have voted but also how and why,” it said in a statement.

“At least one unitholder was told to vote against the resolutions proposed by the unitholders, another was asked if they would like advice on how to vote and one said they were told they had made a poor choice,” it said.

“This behaviour goes beyond the norm for proxy solicitation and NZSA thinks it goes too far – such conduct is unacceptable.”

ANZ Investment Funds, Mint Asset Management and ACC, which own 10 percent of Vital’s units between them, have proposed five resolutions aimed at reducing the fees of the manager, Canada-based NorthWest Healthcare Properties Management, and giving investors more say.

The three institutions have also proposed that Paul Mead be appointed as an independent director – investors are being forced to choose between Mead and NorthWest’s nominee, Graham Stuart, and the NZSA has decried the manager’s decision not to allow independent votes for both nominees, arguing both are well qualified and that the trust deed allows the current number of five directors to be increased.

NorthWest has confirmed that it hired a proxy solicitation service but wouldn’t say which company.

NZSA is now reminding all investors that they can change how they have voted – completed proxy forms must be received by Vital’s registry service, Computershare Investor Services, by 2pm on Tuesday or investors can vote in person at the annual meeting on Thursday – and that only their last vote will be counted.

BusinessDesk has also heard of a number of investors complaining about how they have been lobbied by the manager for their vote and that their questions have gone unanswered.

One investor said he was called by a woman on behalf of Vital about the annual meeting and strongly urging him to vote against the rebel investors’ proposals.

When he said he had already voted, the woman wanted to know how he had voted but he refused to tell her.

Vital units fell 1.9 percent to $2.05. 

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