What it is:
How it works (Example):
Shareholders can vote by mailing their ballots; they don't have to attend the company's annual meeting or vote in person. In many cases, shareholders don't actually receive a proxy statement in the mail if they own shares indirectly, as is the case with mutual funds (in that situation, shareholders own shares of the mutual fund rather than shares of the underlying assets).
#-ad_banner-#Investors who hold shares in street name (that is, the shares are registered to the investor's brokerage firm rather than in his or her own name) might also not receive proxies. In these cases, the fund manager or brokerage firm is the actual shareholder in the eyes of the company, and they receive the proxy statement and can vote the shares. These representatives are responsible for voting the shares in the best interest of their investors, and in many cases, a mutual fund is a sizeable shareholder--its vote may have a significant impact on the company.
Why it Matters:
One type of information that is often of particular interest is management compensation data. Companies must disclose how much particular executives are making and how those executives are compensated. For example, a proxy may disclose that a CEO is bonused a certain amount when the company achieves a certain percentage of customer growth; this is helpful to shareholders because it might explain why the CEO is focused on advertising campaigns rather than infrastructure or product development.