One of my responsibilities when I was head of corporate communications at Cigna was to help ensure that the company’s annual meeting of shareholders ran smoothly and, if at all possible, attracted no negative publicity.
I always dreaded the annual meeting because you really never knew if one or more disgruntled shareholders might show up and ask rude questions of the CEO. But during all of my years of helping plan those meetings, we had an unblemished string of non-events. We considered the meetings marathons if they lasted more than 15 minutes. Most of them were over long before then. Over the course of 10 years, I only recall two reporters who felt compelled to attend, and one of them got stuck in traffic and missed the whole thing.
Some of my peers at other health insurers were not that lucky, but relatively few of the big-profit insurers have had to cope with contentious shareholder meetings.
It is clear those days are over.
Some investors are now beginning to question how those companies make the billions of dollars in profits they report every year, especially with the ranks of the uninsured continuing to swell, how they spend policyholders’ money to influence public policy and whether their CEOs are truly worth all they are being paid.
Of the five biggest for-profit insurers, Cigna will lead off the annual meeting season this coming Wednesday in Hartford and it will not likely be the sleeper previous meetings have been.
That’s because earlier this month, one big shareholder — the Change to Win (CtW) Investment Group — sent a letter to other shareholders urging them to “send our board a clear message: Cigna’s executive pay structure is broken and open engagement needs to begin with concerned shareholders, immediately.”