Yes, this year’s Well Fargo’s annual meeting was chaotic. There was, however, a valuable lesson or two to be learned from what the scandal-weakened bank did right.

We start with the “bad,” as reported by darn near everyone, this publication included. As the meeting convened on April 25, there was little doubt that a contingent of shareholders would be out for blood. The only question was whether they had enough sway to remove directors and impose new managerial demands.

Earlier this year, state and federal regulators announced that Wells Fargo Bank was fined $185 million for creating phony accounts its customers never authorized. Spurred by aggressive cross-selling targets, employees opened more than two million unwanted deposit and credit card accounts.

Needless to say, shareholders were angered by the news. Not only was the scandal bad business for a bank once lauded for its high ethical standards, the fake accounts helped artificially inflate the stock price, leaving share values to plummet once the cat was out of the bag.

“The Wells Fargo board has suffered from mushroom management. In other words, like mushrooms, the board has been kept in the dark and fed horse manure,” said Brandon Rees, deputy director of the Office of Investment for the AFL-CIO, voting 1.6 million shares. “In my opinion, the board needs to refresh itself with new directors, new blood.”

His complaint is hard to argue with, even for the staunchest supporter of the bank: Separate investigations by the Wells Fargo board and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency revealed that the bank ignored red flags and what seems to be a summarial dismissal of more than 700 whistleblower complaints.

Ultimately, despite the steady airing of grievances, all 15 directors were re-elected with a majority of votes cast, ranging from 53 to 99 percent in favor. A loss for shareholders? Hardly. Directors may have garnered the majority of votes, but dissident shareholders are much closer now to seeing board refreshment.

Governance experts say that anything below 80 percent support is a bad idea. Wells Fargo’s governance practices stipulate that directors should offer to resign if they fall short of a majority of the votes cast. Those factors, and the nearing retirement ages for half of the board, all but assure that turnover will come sooner, not later.

There is another, less dramatic, story to tell, however: Wells Fargo did many things right in terms of shareholder relations, at least when it came to the annual meeting.

True, at least one shareholder protestor was forcefully ejected. It made for good, but unnecessary, drama.

Organizers made an obvious effort to allow dissenting voices their turn addressing the crowd. Sponsors of shareholder proposals were given the full opportunity to make their pitch. A Q&A session later in the meeting ensured that a full range of voices could be heard.

The real misstep, definitely a doozy, was failing to grasp the terrible optics of seating directors with their backs to shareholders. To show true contrition, they should have been on stage and under the spotlight.

It may sound strange to say this of an annual meeting that was notable for its raucous outbursts, but this was a grand example of good corporate governance in action.

We recently wrote an opinion piece that emphasized the importance of board members, arguing that directors may be the most important cops on the regulatory beat.

In a political environment that swings from over-regulation to ham-fisted deregulation, shareholders who demand effective governance and an ethical company need to maintain a steady focus on board composition and independence.

Directors have the ability to shape a company’s character if they so choose. They have the ability to do all that is necessary to establish tone at the top and an ethical face to the world. With independence and objectivity, directors can be as effective as any government regulator, if not more powerful as agents of change.

In a political environment that swings from over-regulation to ham-fisted deregulation, shareholders who demand effective governance and an ethical company need to maintain a steady focus on board composition and independence.

It bears repeating that boards are the great mediator between management and shareholders. Philosophically, boards are intended to be fully committed agents of stock owners. Realistically, at best, they serve all parties in Solomonic fashion.

A good shareholder with activist tendencies must understand and appreciate the Venn diagram intersection of good corporate governance and profits. Change in corporate America is rarely speedy, but shareholder demands have created better boards that, in turn, oversee better, stronger companies.

Progress is slow, but steady. Concepts like “sustainability” were widely ignored until shareholders made sure that directors paid attention.

Lurking in the background is a threat to the evolving relationship between shareholders and directors.

We will undoubtedly hear plenty in the days ahead about the Financial CHOICE Act, a legislative package chock full of Dodd-Frank rollbacks and demands for de-regulation.

The legislation “would weaken critical shareholder rights that investors need to hold management and boards of public companies directors accountable and that foster trust in the integrity of the U.S. capital markets,” the Council of Institutional Investors Executive Director Ken Bertsch said in written testimony for an April 28 hearing before the House Financial Services Committee.

We aren’t in the business of taking political stands, but there are good reasons to very carefully consider sweeping changes to the shareholder/director/company paradigm.

Provisions of the bill would require a shareholder wishing to put a proposal on a company’s annual meeting ballot to own at least 1 percent of the stock for three years, compared to the current requirement of $2,000 worth of stock for one year.

That change would, for example, raise the ownership threshold to file a single shareholder proposal to $7.5 billion at Apple, $3.4 billion at Exxon Mobil, and $2.6 billion at Wells Fargo.

“While 1% may sound like a small amount, even a large investor like the $200 billion CalSTRS fund does not own 1% of publicly traded companies,” Bertsch wrote. “It would shut down the shareholder proposal process.”

Consider this. In a post-Financial CHOICE Act world, based on holdings, as of Dec. 30, the only shareholders with eligibility to propose resolutions at Apple would be BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street, FMR, Northern Trust, Bank of New York Mellon, Berkshire Hathaway, and T. Rowe Price.

If enacted, shareholders would get an advisory vote on executive compensation only when there is an undefined “material” change in CEO pay. Most U.S. public companies currently offer investors say-on-pay votes annually. The bill also seeks to limit clawbacks of unearned executive compensation (typically, following a material restatement).

The Financial CHOICE Act would also restrict the right of shareholders to vote for directors in contested elections for board seats. It would bar the use of “universal proxy” cards that give investors freedom of choice to vote for the specific combination of director nominees they believe best serves their interests.

Bertsch noted that: “many positive advances in U.S. corporate governance practices simply would not have occurred without a robust shareowner proposal process in place.”

Shareholder proposals, for example, were the impetus behind the now standard practice—currently mandated by major U.S. stock exchanges’ listing standards—that independent directors constitute at least a majority of the board, and that all the members of the following board committees are independent: audit, compensation, nominating, and corporate governance.

In 1987, an average of 16 percent of shareholders voted in favor of proposals to declassify boards so that directors stand for election each year. In 2012, these proposals enjoyed an 81 percent level of support on average.

Electing directors in uncontested elections by majority (rather than plurality) vote “was considered a radical idea a decade ago when shareholders pressed for it in proposals they filed with numerous companies,” Bertsch wrote. Today, 90 percent of large-cap U.S. companies elect directors by majority vote, largely as a result of robust shareholder support for majority voting proposals.

Wells Fargo shareholders may not have presided over an immediate purge of directors. What they did accomplish, akin to shareholders at other companies, is to keep things moving in the right direction.

The idea of weakening the regulatory tools that empower shareholders may make some executives very happy. Directors and shareholders, however, may want to fight to preserve their symbiotic relationship, no matter how contentious it may seem to be.