My Proxy Wars

Michael Flack

I JUST RECEIVED an email from TD Ameritrade Clearing, Inc., imploring me to “Vote now! KYNDRYL HOLDINGS, INC. Annual Meeting.”

For the few who haven’t read my fascinating earlier article, I will share my heuristic for voting proxies: “yes” to independent chairmen, “no” to classified boards, “no” to options, and then “yes” or “no” to whatever piques my interest.

I’ll usually spend 10 minutes max thoroughly reviewing the issues for the first proxy I receive in the new year. I’ll spend about one minute for the last one I receive—with a logarithmic decrease in between.

Well, after voting my Equity Residential (symbol: EQR) proxy back on May 3, I thought my yearly work was done. That meant I could begin a well-deserved rest until next year’s onslaught begins. I could use my newfound free time to work on a miniaturized model of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor.

Unfortunately, the TD email interrupted my reverie. I was quite tempted to delete it. But then I just had to find the answer to the same three questions that you must be asking yourself right now: What the hell is Kyndryl (KD)? What the hell does it do? And what’s with the name?

I also wanted to know how I came to own a stock with such a ridiculous-sounding name. Years ago, I bought shares in a company with an equally ridiculous-sounding name—Enron—and there’s no way I would make that mistake again. That said, Enron did sound better than its next name: Enron Creditors Recovery Corp.

I was hoping that after clicking on the annual report and reading “A Message from Our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer”—so much for the independent chairman—I could quickly get answers to my questions. No such luck.

All I learned was “Kyndryl has solidified its place in a broader market… delivering on our overarching mission to modernize and manage the world’s mission-critical systems and services―the ‘hearts and lungs’―of the most important enterprises around the world.” It also said all this was “leaning into Kyndryl’s advanced delivery advantage.”

The “hearts and lungs” talk made me think Kyndryl might be a medical company. The “mission-critical” and “delivery advantage” might mean some sort of defense company. The “services” part… well, that might mean just about anything.

I then did what I should have done in the first place, and went to Wikipedia. It was there that I discovered that “Kyndryl Holdings, Inc. is an American multinational information technology infrastructure services provider that designs, builds, manages and develops large-scale information systems.”

Okay, I thought, that’s more than I knew before. But I still wasn’t sure what that all meant. I could have researched it further, but I was beginning to lose interest—and coming up on the 10-minute deadline.

I did summon enough resolve to continue reading and I’m glad I did. It was then I learned the company was created from the spinoff of IBM‘s infrastructure services business. It was given the name Kyndryl in April 2021, with “Kyn” referencing “kinship” and “Dryl” referencing “tendril.”

So, I thought, “the name is a… pun? And not just one, but two?” Did they append the word “Holdings” to make it all sound more like a real company and less like a pharmaceutical used to treat hair loss in extended families?

It all seemed so absurd that I immediately decided to sell my shares. I thought better of it when I realized this would require me to log onto my online brokerage account, with the distinct possibility of glimpsing the total value of all my holdings.

Instead, I went ahead and voted my proxy. I voted against all the board members as the board is classified. I voted against the compensation plan because it includes options. Finally, I voted against the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers as auditor because, well, by then I was just feeling obstinate.

Kyndryl Schmyndryl.

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