Symantec cites technical flaws in online-only meeting

* Gives new details on controversial shareholder event

* Vendor Broadridge says no glitch in its technology

* Broadridge major seller of online-meeting software

By Ross Kerber

BOSTON, Nov 2 (BestGrowthStock) – Symantec Corp (SYMC.O: ) said
technical problems led the security software company to overlook
questions from shareholders at its controversial online-only
annual meeting in September.

Several shareholders complained at the time their questions
were not accepted or were softened by Symantec in what they said
looked like an effort to shield executives.[ID:nN22256935]

Symantec has said it did not mean to quiet its critics and
promised next year it will add back a “live” portion of the
event.[ID:nN05219345]

In an Oct 27 letter, the company’s Chairman John Thompson
went further and blamed some overlooked questions on technical
issues. Asked for more details, a Symantec spokeswoman referred
questions to Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc (BR.N: ), the
vendor providing the service that hosted the online event and
that lately has made a major push in the area.

In response to questions, a Broadridge spokesman sent a
statement that read, “There was no glitch in Broadridge’s
technology.” The statement said further that “(I)f there had
been a problem with our technology for Symantec’s meeting, we’d
have addressed it then.”

Neither company would make executives available to be
interviewed. Symantec is the largest company to date to scrap its
live annual shareholder meeting. Instead, it had shareholders log
in to a website to listen to a presentation by executives and to
send in questions remotely.

The focus on the September 20 meeting comes as companies
adopt more online communications with their shareholders, a
shift some governance experts worry could shut off dissenting
voices.

In his letter, Symantec’s Thompson said that during the
meeting the company was aware of just two questions asked by
shareholders and only learned later that more had been asked.

“To our surprise, after the meeting ended, we discovered
that there was a time lag that occurred that caused a delay in
Symantec seeing additional questions submitted due to vendor
network and technology reasons,” Thompson wrote in his letter to
the Shareholder Forum, a investor communications organization
that followed the controversy.

Broadridge has hosted a number of online-only gatherings
since last year, including its own annual meeting. The online
format can save companies thousands of dollars in staging and
travel costs for events that often draw just a handful of
shareholders.

Still some governance experts and shareholder activists say
the meetings serve a valuable role as the rare moment when
executives must accept questions from shareholders. They have
pressed for companies to hold “hybrid” events, as Symantec has
said it plans to do.

In the letter Thompson mentioned the company may also
provide a phone-in option to allow shareholders to ask
questions verbally.

The technical problems at the Symantec meeting were not the
first glitch involving Broadridge, which among other things
counts votes in corporate elections. In 2008, a Broadridge
counting error meant that a vote tally had to be revised in a
contest at Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O: ).

Executives have said the snag was unique to Yahoo’s complex
election, and insignificant in the context of its overall
operations. These including printing and mailing out more than
6 million paper documents a day like proxy voting cards and
corporate annual reports.
(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Derek Caney)

Symantec cites technical flaws in online-only meeting