“Proxy Advisor” & “Shareholder Proposal” Regs: Comments Are In!
With the comment period for the SEC’s proposed rules on regulating proxy advisors and the shareholder proposal process closing today – February 3rd – let’s take a peek at some of the comment letters submitted so far on these topics respectively.
First, among other things, T. Rowe Price has asked the SEC to refocus on proxy infrastructure – e.g. end-to-end vote confirmation – and to go back to the drawing board. That’s similar to recent recommendations from the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee – I wrote last week on our “Proxy Season” Blog that the Committee wants the SEC to revisit its priorities and re-do the proposals.
Some letters focus primarily on the proposal dealing with regulation of proxy advisors, while others focus primarily on the proposal dealing with the Rule 14a-8 shareholder proposal process – and some address both.
The Council of Institutional Investors issued a press release criticizing the proposals and then submitted two letters, one on the regulation of proxy advisors and another on the Rule 14a-8 shareholder proposal process, each is 65 pages long. Here’s an excerpt from CII’s press release:
The two proposals are the most significant attempt by the SEC to limit the voice of shareholders since the Commission was created in 1934. They would tighten regulation of proxy advisory firms and shareholder proposals in ways that CII believes are fundamentally flawed and unnecessary. If adopted, both proposals would introduce complexity and micromanagement in proxy voting and in shareholder-company engagement processes that have worked well for decades. CII urges the SEC to withdraw both proposals and focus instead on festering problems in the proxy voting system.
Here are a few other letters worth noting:
– Boston Trust Walden (signatories include, among others, As You Sow, Mercy Investment Services, NYC Comptroller, Trillium Asset Management)
– Principles for Responsible Investment (sign-on letter – signatories include, among others, BMO Global Asset Management, ClearBridge Investments, Legal & General Investment Management, MFS Investment Management, New York State Comptroller, Wellington Management Company)
– Washington State Investment Board
Aside from traditional comments to the SEC, at least one asset manager has criticized the proposed rules in a letter to clients – here’s a client letter from Daniel Loeb’s Third Point (comments on rule proposal on pg 4).
As reported in the NY Times and Reuters, in a speech last week, SEC Commissioner Roisman defended the proposals and said that some of the comments are based on misinformation but he is “open to changing his mind” on the direction of the proposals.
And, even though the comment period closes today, comments will continue to roll in…
-Lynn Jokela, TheCorporateCounsel.net February 3, 2020
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