Tag Archives | proxy access

SEC Withdraws No-Action: Rule 14a-8(i)(9) Suspended

Seal of SEC

The SEC has essentially suspended Rule 14a-8(i)(9) Conflicts with company’s proposal. Shareowners at Whole Foods Market and at many other companies have scored a huge victory.

Last Friday the SEC issued the following:

Statement from Chair White Directing Staff to Review Commission Rule for Excluding Conflicting Proxy Proposals

Chair Mary Jo White

Jan. 16, 2015 The Commission’s proxy rules enable shareholders to submit proposals for inclusion in a company’s proxy materials for a vote at a shareholder meeting, subject to certain procedural and substantive exclusions.  One of the exclusions, Exchange Act Rule 14a-8(i)(9), allows a company to exclude a shareholder proposal that “directly conflicts” with a management proposal.  Due to questions that have arisen about the proper scope and application of Rule 14a-8(i)(9), I have directed the staff to review the rule and report to the Commission on its review.

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SEC Creates Turmoil with Whole Foods No Action on Proxy Access

Proxy Access (P&I)

Pensions & Investments

Apologies to those tired of reading about the issue of proxy access at Whole Foods. However, the SEC’s no action letter is a real watershed moment in the long struggle for proxy access, which began in earnest for me with a rulemaking petition in August 2002 but which others have been puruing for decades. Last Friday I received a letters from the Council of Institutional Investors (CII) and the Marco Consulting Group Trust in support of my December 23, 2014 appeal. (See below or CII site.

I am delighted to see the growing concern and support from investors for my appeal. As has been pointed out in the press, we are now witnessing the beginning of an avalanche of copycat filings. See Continue Reading →

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CII Requests Change to Whole Foods Proposal

CIIThe Counsel of Institutional Investors (CII) took a very strong stand yesterday, asking Whole Foods Market to amend its proxy access proposal to conform with the “3 percent for three years” standard applicable to groups.

Whole Foods appears to have generated their proposal in direct response to mine in order to obtain a no-action letter from the SEC under Rule 14a-8(i)(9). As reported earlier, I appealed the SEC’s decision on Whole Foods to the full Commission.  Continue Reading →

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Appeal of No-Action on Proxy Access at Whole Foods Markets (WFM)

Whole Foods Market (WFM)The no-action letter to Whole Foods Market (Whole Foods), sanctioning exclusion of  my proxy access proposal is based on a reinterpretation of Rule 14a-8(i)(9) without going through the rulemaking process. Letting Whole Foods substitute a sham proxy access proposal could negatively impact dozens of  proposals submitted this year on proxy access and other topics.

Seal of SECThe case is similar to AFSCME vs AIG, where the SEC also reinterpreted an existing rule without going through the rulemaking process. When rules are changed, the public has a right to notice and input. Yesterday, I filed an appeal to the full Commission. The body of that appeal is posted below so that others can benefit from and supplement these arguments in future cases. Download the full appeal as a pdf (McRitchieAppealNo-action12-23-2014). Continue Reading →

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OECD’s Draft Updated Principles Support Proxy Access

OECDThe OECD is inviting public comment on its draft updated Principles of Corporate Governance – last updated in 2004. These principles (first published in 1999) have long been among the most influential sources of corporate governance guidelines for regulators, stock exchanges, investors and companies world-wide, and continue to be referenced as a benchmark for good governance practices.

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Reed’s, Inc. (REED) – Proxy Score 43

Reed'sReed’s, Inc. (REED), which develops, manufactures, markets, and sells natural non-alcoholic carbonated soft drinks, kombucha, candies, and ice creams, is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 12/12/2014. Reed’s is still too small to be covered by ProxyDemocracy.org.  I voted with management 43% of the time and assigned them a proxy score of 43.

View Proxy Statement. Read Warnings below. What follows are my recommendations on how to vote the Reed’s, Inc. 2014 proxy in order to enhance corporate governance and long-term value. Continue Reading →

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Road to Proxy Access Altered Again

Road to Proxy Access (Photo by Erik Johansson)

Road to Proxy Access (Photo by Erik Johansson)

… If the stockholder is to regard himself as a continuing part-owner of the business in which he has placed his money, he must be ready at times to act like a true owner and to make the decisions associated with ownership. If he wants his interests fully protected he must be willing to do something of his own to protect them. This requires a moderate amount of initiative and judgment.  – Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, Securities Valuation, 1934

The most fundamental means for shareholders to act like true owners is to help decide who will represent their interests on the board of directors. It is not so much independent directors that shareowners want, but directors who are dependent on our vote – accountable to us, not to the corporate managers they oversee on our behalf.  Obtaining the right to proxy access has been a long and perilous road.

On December 1, 2014, SEC staff effectively cut the road, giving a free pass to every group of entrenched board members and managers that seeks to prevent proxy access and direct accountability to shareowners.  Continue Reading →

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Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) – Proxy Score 62

MicrosoftMicrosoft Corporation ($MSFT), which develops, licenses, markets, and supports software, services, and devices worldwide, is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 12/3/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of six funds when I checked and voted on 11/30/2014. Sorry for the late post. Tomorrow is the last day to vote online. I voted with management 62% of the time and assigned them a proxy score of 62.

View Proxy Statement. Read Warnings below. What follows are my recommendations on how to vote the Microsoft 2014 proxy in order to enhance corporate governance and long-term value. Continue Reading →

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Cisco Systems – Proxy Vote Score 37

Cisco SystemsCisco Systems, Inc. (NASD:CSCO), which designs, manufactures, and sells Internet Protocol (IP) based networking products and services related to the communications and information technology industry worldwide, is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 11/20/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of four funds when I checked on 11/18/2014. Sorry for the late post. Today is the last day to vote online. I voted with management 37% of the time and assigned them a proxy score of 37.  View Proxy Statement. Read Warnings below. What follows are my recommendations on how to vote the Cisco Systems 2014 proxy in order to enhance corporate governance and long-term value.

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October 2014: 5, 10, 15 & 20 Years Ago in Corporate Governance

Mr. Peabodys WayBackMachineCorporate Governance Publisher’s Note: Yes, you’ll find many broken links in the material referenced below. After 5, 10 and 15 years, the internet moves on. Many of the organization’s linked have since gone under. We’re just glad to still be here, offering our readers a sense of the history we have shared. More about the WABAC machine

Five Years Ago in Corporate Governance

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FedEx: Proxy Vote Score 42

fedex-logoFedEx $FDX, which provides transportation, e-commerce, and business services in the United States and internationally, is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on 9/29/2014. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of three funds when I checked on 9/20/2014.  I voted with management 42% of the time and assigned them a proxy score of 42.  View Proxy Statement. Read Warnings below. What follows are my recommendations on how to vote the FedEx 2014 proxy in order to enhance corporate governance and long-term value. Continue Reading →

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CSP Inc. (CSPI): Draft Proxy Access Proposal – Comments Invited

CSPIIn February, I reported that prospects were looking up at nano-cap CSP, Inc. (CSPI), one of the companies in my portfolio. See CSP Inc. (CSPI): How I Voted – Proxy Score 100. CSPI completed a number of reforms, including declassifying the Board.  In addition, CSPI started paying a dividend and adopted a mandatory retirement age of 75 for directors, leading to some board refreshment. However, since then the NASDAQ has gone up by about 9%, while CSPI stock has gone down about 3%. I am a long-term investor, so am willing to give the current board more time to demonstrate their performance.

At the same time it is better to take preventive measures by continuing to improve corporate governance BEFORE problems arise.  There is no more fundamental measure to ensure the Board’s accountability to shareowners than proxy access. Continue Reading →

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Florida SBA Increases Shareowner Value Through Active Ownership

FloridaSBA

Mike McCauley

Michael McCauley

The State Board of Administration of Florida (Florida SBA) is the fourth largest public pension fund in the US and was early to announce their votes in advance of annual meetings. Those announcements can be found on the Florida SBA site, as well as on Proxy Democracy. The following is from a press release that Florida SBA issued out last week on their accomplishments during the recent proxy season. They certainly did a lot to  shift us to more democratic forms of corporate governance. Congratulations to Ash WilliamsMichael McCauley and all those working at Florida SBA. Continue Reading →

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Reeds: Proxy Access Still Needed

ReedsLast Year’s Proxy Access Proposal

Last year I introduced a proxy access proposal at Reeds (REED) calling on the Board to allow 1% shareowners holding for two years to place their director  nominees (up to 24% of the board) on the proxy. It also would have allowed a party of 25 or more $2,000 one year shareowners to place an equal number of nominees on the proxy. Since Reeds had a five member board, the proposal would have allowed for up to two shareowner nominees from two non-coordinating parties. Continue Reading →

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July 2014: 5, 10 & 15 Years Ago in Corporate Governance

Mr. Peabodys WayBackMachineCorporate Governance Publisher’s Note: Yes, you’ll find many broken links in the material referenced below. After 5, 10 and 15 years, the internet moves on. Many of the organization’s linked have since gone under. We’re just glad to still be here, offering our readers a sense of the history we have shared. More about the WABAC machine

Five Years Ago in Corporate Governance

This morning, the SEC held a hearing on proxy access. By a three to two vote, Commissioners voted for proxy access. Democracy in corporate governance will dramatically improve with our right to nominate and elect directors, even if limited to 25% of the board. Directors may actually begin to feel dependent on the will of shareowners. Continue Reading →

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