NutriSystem will be 1st locally to hold virtual annual meeting

Many shareholders never bother to attend an annual shareholders meeting, and usually they’re not missing much.

There are few fireworks. The little interaction that occurs between management and the audience is strictly managed, and often the meeting is over in a matter of minutes.

This will be the second year where companies can opt to hold a virtual annual shareholders meeting rather than the more familiar terrestrial one. But the live webcast version isn’t exactly supplanting the traditional event held in hotel conference rooms everywhere.

You can see the attraction for cost-conscious companies: Don’t need to rent the hall or provide bottled water. (Quite a few companies hold their annual meetings at their corporate headquarters, so the savings would come from less disruption by visitors.)

Still, only a handful of companies have gone digital. Warner Music Group Corp., the New York recorded music company, hosted its second virtual shareholders meeting on Feb. 22. Illumina Inc., a San Diego maker of genetic analysis tools, has booked the Internet for its second such meeting on May 10.

I was not surprised that discount brokerage Charles Schwab Corp., of San Francisco, would go the virtual route with its May 17th annual meeting. Perhaps more unlikely was seeing a dirt-under-the-nails company like Orion Marine Group Inc., a Houston contractor that specializes in bridges and other marine construction, plan to do so on May 19.

I would’ve picked American Water Works Co. Inc. as the Philadelphia region’s early adopter of virtual corporate governance. After all, the Voorhees-based water utility is into its third year of providing a video version of its annual report on its website.

But no, American Water shareholders will gather for its annual meeting at the Wyndham Hotel in Mount Laurel May 6 at 10 a.m.

The local company that will be the first to shed the baggage of an in-person shareholder meeting is NutriSystem Inc. The Fort Washington-based weight-loss company will gather its shareholders electronically May 12 at 10 a.m.

Corporate Polls

Thirty-one companies either based in the region or having significant operations here will be holding shareholders meetings in April.

Just seven of them will be held at corporate headquarters, while the rest will be presented at hotels, country clubs, college campuses, law offices, and even, in one case, a church.

Roma Financial Corp., a bank holding company with $1.8 billion in assets and 26 offices in Burlington, Camden, Mercer and Ocean counties, will gather its shareholder faithful at the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Route 33 in Robbinsville on April 27 at 10 a.m.

It seems appropriate that DuPont Co. will conduct its annual meeting at the DuPont Theatre in the DuPont Building in Wilmington, the city synonyms with the chemical giant, on April 27 at 10:30 a.m.

Cigna Corp. returns to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Van Pelt Auditorium, for the second straight year for its shareholders meeting on April 27 at 3:30 p.m. The health insurer patronized the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts on North Broad Street with the event in 2008 and 2009.

Less artfully, Pfizer Inc. will head to Texas and the Renaissance Dallas Hotel for its April 28 shareholders meeting. Like many companies with lots of shareholders and large market capitalization, the New York-based pharmaceutical company moves its meeting around the country. It went to Cleveland in 2010, Atlanta in 2009 and Memphis, Tenn. in 2008.

Of course, April is just the warm-up for May Madness when the number of corporate annual meetings being held each day resembles the early rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.