Shareholder Proposals: Corp Fin Considering Changing Approach to No-Action Requests
Every proxy season, Corp Fin responds to somewhere between 200-400 no-action requests about shareholder proposals. Earlier this year, we blogged several times about how the government shutdown upended the process. And even though the Staff got back to “business as usual” when the shutdown ended, they had to be even more efficient given the time constraints – and that experience might have contributed to Corp Fin considering whether to rethink their approach to Rule 14a-8 no-action requests.
As you can hear at the 29-minute mark of the taping of a Chamber event a few days ago, SEC Chair Clayton & Corp Fin Director Hinman commented that they’re considering changing some aspects of their “referee” role (my word, not theirs) – so that, like other types of no-action requests, Corp Fin wouldn’t respond to every Rule 14a-8 submission. Rather, they’d focus on requests that involve “novel” issues and encourage companies & proponents to work things out themselves. Bill says they’re seeking input from the community on how they might change their approach.
As I blogged during the shutdown, companies continue to be very cautious about excluding proposals without first obtaining Staff no-action relief. Some speculate that we’ll see more litigation if Corp Fin does change their role and isn’t as involved – especially on matters that involve tough judgment calls. Any changes in Corp Fin’s role is bound to have a variety of views as this area is always contentious when change is considered, particularly if the SEC’s role might change.
-Liz Dunshee, TheCorporateCounsel.net July 19, 2019
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