Tag Archives | SEC

SEC Commissioner Wants to Muzzle Shareowners

DanielGallagherIn a speech to the 26th Annual Corporate Law Institute held at Tulane University Law School on Federal Preemption of State Corporate Governance, SEC commissioner Daniel Gallagher delivered a scathing attack on small investors and proposed radical steps to severely limit democracy in corporate governance.

Gallagher opened his attack by stating,

 Activist investors and corporate gadflies have used these loose rules to hijack the shareholder proposal system. Continue Reading →

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SRI Funds & Advisors Send Open Letters on Lawsuits Against Shareholders

SRIIt is wonderful to have supportive friends, especially when they represent socially responsible investors and advisors. John Chevedden, Myra K. Young and James McRitchie extend sincere thanks to the following for sending letters of concern regarding their recent lawsuits against us to: EMC Corp, Omnicom, Express Scripts, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.: Continue Reading →

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Omnicom (OMC) Group Loses to Chevedden: Shareowner Rights Preserved

OmnicomIn a memorandum and order issued yesterday, Judge Louis L. Stanton, of United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, ruled John Chevedden’s motion to dismiss is granted. Omnicom’s motion for summary judgment is denied. “The clerk is requested to enter judgment dismissing the complaint, with costs and disbursements in favor of Mr. Chevedden according to law.” Continue Reading →

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Fleming to Head SEC’s Office of the Investor Advocate

Rick A. Fleming

Rick A. Fleming

The Dodd-Frank act created a new permanent Investor Advisory Committee (SEC-IAC) to consult with and advise the SEC on matters, such as making recommendations to Congress for legislative changes on the regulation of securities products, trading strategies and fee structures, the effectiveness of disclosures, and other investor protection initiatives. The IAC is comprised of the head of a newly created Office of the Investor Advocate, a representative of senior citizens, a representative of state securities commissions, and 10 to 20 representatives of individual and institutional investors appointed by the SEC. Almost two years after establishing the new SEC-IAC, Rick A. Fleming has been named as the first head of the agency’s Office of the Investor Advocate (OIA). Continue Reading →

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SEC-IAC to Meet January 31st

SECThe Securities and Exchange Commission Investor Advisory Committee (SEC-IAC), established pursuant to Section 911 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, will hold a public meeting on Friday, January 31, 2014, in Multi-Purpose Room LL-006 at SEC headquarters, 100 F Street, NE, Washington, DC 20549. The meeting will begin at 10:00 a.m. (EDT) and end at 4:30 p.m. and will be open to the public, except during portions of the meeting reserved for meetings of the Committee’s subcommittees.
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Take Action: Support CII Rulemaking Petition for “Universal” Proxy

CII-logoThe Council of Institutional Investors (CII) filed a rulemaking petition with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asking that it amend its rules for contested elections so that “shareholders can vote for any combination of management and dissident nominees they wish to represent them.”  I hope readers will join with me in sending e-mails in support of the petition to the SEC.  Instructions on how to do so can be found at the bottom of this post. 

This petition is a followup to action they took on July 23, 2013 when the Policies Committee of CII approved a draft proposal for a Universal Proxy. Key, was addition of the following sentence to their policy on director elections:

To facilitate the shareholder voting franchise, the opposing sides engaged in a contested election should utilize a proxy card naming all management-nominees and all shareholder-proponent nominees, providing every nominee equal prominence on the proxy card.  Continue Reading →

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Best Coverage of SEC Proxy Advisory Services Roundtable

theracetothebottomTheRacetotheBottom has by far the best coverage I’ve seen on the SEC’s roundtable. Congratulations. Those interested in the tweet stream during the event can check out Proxy Advisory Services Roundtable: Tweets & Links to Analysis.

Of course, there was no one invited to the Roundtable to represent the interests of retail investors… left out again. My biggest disappointment is that no one mentioned the possibility of proxy advisor contests, such as what I proposed at Cisco. See Cisco: How Our Proxy Competition Would Work – The Short VersionContinue Reading →

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Proxy Advisory Services Roundtable: Tweets & Links to Analysis

SECNo time to synthesize or comment but following are tweets I gathered from SEC’s Proxy Advisory Services Roundtable. Sorry for one bit of profanity, several possible misinterpretations, wiping out a few tweets in cleanup process and poor formatting.

Links to analysis by others:

I hope they don’t do anything to stifle the possibility of proxy contests. See my comments to the SEC on this issue. Continue Reading →

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Take Action: Proxy Advisory Services Roundtable Seeks Comments

SECActNowOn November 27, 2013 the SEC Announced the agenda and panelists for their 12/5/2013 Roundtable On Proxy Advisory Services. In the first session, participants will discuss, among other topics, the current use of proxy advisory services, including the factors that may have contributed to their use, the purposes and effects of using the services, and competition in the marketplace for such services.  In the second session, participants will discuss, among other topics, issues identified in the Commission’s 2010 concept release on the U.S. proxy voting system, including potential conflicts of interest that may exist for proxy advisory firms and users of their services, and the transparency and accuracy of recommendations by proxy advisory firms. It is critical that members of the public, especially unrepresented retail shareowners submit comments, so your interests can be considered.

See Notice, Comments of James McRitchieComments Received, Suggested Email Comment, and Submit Comments

While the panelists look well qualified and reputable, none appear to represent retail shareowners. True, under the current framework Continue Reading →

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SEC Announces Agenda, Panelists For Roundtable On Proxy Advisory Services

SECThe Securities and Exchange Commission today announced the agenda and panelists for its December 5 staff roundtable on the use of proxy advisory firm services by institutional investors and investment advisers.

The roundtable, announced earlier this month, will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be divided into two sessions.  In the first session, participants will discuss, among other topics, the current use of proxy advisory services, including the factors that may have contributed to their use, the purposes and effects of using the services, and competition in the marketplace for such services. Continue Reading →

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Take Action: Comments on SEC Pay Ratio Rule Due 12/2/2013

The deadline for submitting comments on the SEC’s proposed pay ratio disclosure is coming up quickly on December 2, 2013. SEC general comment instructionsSubmit Comments on S7-07-13 Pay Ratio Disclosure. Get your comments in soon, before Thanksgiving. Another advantage to earlier submittal is that those who wait for the deadline are likely to borrow from previous submission. The earlier you submit, the more likely you are to influence others. For example, I am impressed by comments from the following: Continue Reading →

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Corporate Governance: Stepping Back in Time From October 2013

MrPeabodysWayBackMachinePublisher’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

  • The Treasury is injecting $125 billion into nine big banks and making a like amount available for other banks that apply. Those financial giants owed their executives more than $40 billion for past years’ pay and pensions as of the end of 2007, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows. (Banks Owe Billions to Executives, 10/31/08) How much of our $250 billion bailout will go to pay for special executive pensions and deferred compensation, including bonuses? Will our disgust with those who brought us the financial melt-down lead to an upsurge in mutual banks and credit unions?
  • Jackie Cook, the founder of Fund Votes, told SocialFunds.com, “Executive compensation is at the heart of a growing problem Continue Reading →
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The False Promise of the Enhanced Broker Internet Platform

AmBusConfOn September 22, the HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation posted an article (The Promise of the Enhanced Broker Internet Platform) from John Endean, President of the American Business Conference, a coalition of CEOs of mid-cap companies. I attempted to post a comment on the HLS Forum but it appears to have fallen through the cracks. Mr. Endean begins as follows:

A breakthrough for improved corporate democracy is languishing at the Securities and Exchange Commission. The breakthrough, called the Enhanced Broker Internet Platform (EBIP) is a technological innovation that would make it vastly easier for shareholders to participate in corporate elections for directors and shareholder resolutions. This is important because the rate of individual or “retail” shareholder voting is pitifully low. For example, in fiscal year 2012, the rate of retail positions voted was less than 14%.

Mr. Endean purports to speak for retail shareowners, but employs only a thin disguise. Continue Reading →

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Take Action: Comments on SEC Pay Ratio Rulemaking Due December 2

I-Want-Your-OpinionLast week the SEC finally proposed rules to require public companies to disclose the pay ratio between their CEO and their employees, as mandated by Dodd-Frank. Companies would have to disclose the ratio between CEO compensation and the median pay of their employees. Update: Comments due December 2nd.

As reported by the WSJ,  the ratio of “average” pay jumped from 51.6 in 1981 to 319.7 in 2011, according to data compiled by Kevin Murphy of the University of Southern California. The AFL-CIO sampled S&P 500 firms and claims the ratio went from 42 in 1980 to 380.

In response to complaints from multinationals that tallying pay for workers around the globe would be prohibitively expensive, the SEC’s draft largely leaves estimating and sampling methodology up to individual companies. Continue Reading →

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Proxy Advisor Competition at Cisco OK’d by SEC

ciscocisco

Mark Latham came up with a brilliant idea in the late 1980s: Shareowners should use their corporation’s funds to pay for external evaluations of governance and performance of the board and management. Shareowners would vote to choose among competing organizations to provide this service.

It was a simple concept but SEC rules made subsequent proposals unnecessarily complex and excluded advice on director candidates, often among the most critical decisions on a proxy. Continue Reading →

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Vote Splitting: Are We Moving to a Universal Proxy?

SEC-IACYears ago, the DC Court’s decision to vacate the SEC’s Rule 14a-11 had me thinking of possible approaches under Rule 14a-8 but also working around the whole access issue. With regard to short slates, I wavered between “field agents” attending annual meetings with “proxy assignments” to allow more wide-spread vote splitting to consideration of amendments needed to SEC rules. These were the primary papers involved in my intellectual mash-up but now my back-burner project has been taken up by CII and the SEC-IAC. More on their efforts below. Continue Reading →

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Noteworthy Proposal to Cap Pay Ratio at Microsoft (MSFT)

qube-logomicrosoftA proposal by Qube Investment Management, which owns 10,208 shares of Microsoft ($MSFT), to cap pay has been challenged through the “no-action” process. See incoming correspondence to the SEC. The resolved clause of Qube’s proposal reads as follows:

Resolved: The the Board of Directors and/or the Compensation Committee limit the average individual total compensation of senior management, executives and all other employees the board is chanted with determining Continue Reading →

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Video Friday: Bruce Freed & Disclosure of Political Contributions

CenterforPoliticalAccountabilityThis session features a debate on corporate political spending by Bruce Freed, president and founder of the Center for Political Accountability, and Brian Cartwright, a former general counsel at the Securities and Exchange Commission. They discuss the most frequently submitted type of proxy proposal in 2013, disclosure of political expenditures. How do we address corporate money in politics? There’s no real video on this one, just a picture of the Continue Reading →

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2013 Proxy Season Review

ProxyAccessSteven Hall Partners published a list of all the failed “say on pay” votes this season to date. 56 companies  failed with an average 60% ‘Against’ vote.

  • Two additional company received less than 50% ‘For’ but considered the vote a win because ‘For’ votes outnumbered ‘Against’ votes due to abstentions. I say they’re crazy. They failed.
  • Nine companies have failed previous votes
    • Abercrombie & Fitch Co. failed in 2012
    • Big Lots, Inc. failed in 2012
    • Cogent Communications failed in 2011
    • Comstock Resources failed in 2012
    • Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold, Inc. failed in 2011
    • Gentiva Health Services failed in 2012
    • Three companies have failed all three of their say on pay votes (2011, 2012 & 2013)
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Corporate Governance: Stepping Back in Time

MrPeabodysWayBackMachineFive years ago in Corporate Governance

Publisher’s Note: Yes, you’ll find many broken links. 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. 

Since 2005, KLD has studied the S&P 100’s sustainability reporting practices for the Sustainable Investment Research Analyst Network, a working group of the Social Investment Forum. The 2008 Sustainability Report Comparison reveals encouraging news. Of the 100 largest U.S. publicly-traded companies, 86 maintain corporate sustainability websites and 49 produced sustainability reports in 2007. Continue Reading →

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Yes Men Best Chamber in Lawsuit

Maybe the SEC would be better off hiring the Yes Men to handle their rulemaking, rather than Robert Rice as SEC counsel, which could have a chilling impact on the SEC’s whistleblower program. (see SEC Chair Mary Jo White’s first big test by )

The Yes Men today implored the US Chamber of Commerce to reconsider their recent decision to withdraw the lawsuit they filed nearly four years ago, in a press conference on the steps of the lobbying giant itself. Said former defendant Andy Bichlbaum of the Continue Reading →

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Turnkey Governance Problematic at Northern Lights

Some trusts are created as turnkey mutual fund operations that launch numerous funds to be managed by different unaffiliated advisers and overseen by a single board of trustees. The federal securities laws require all mutual fund directors to evaluate and approve a fund’s contract with its investment adviser, and the funds must report back to shareholders about the material factors considered by the directors in making these decisions. The SEC Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit has been taking a widespread look into the investment advisory contract renewal process and fee arrangements in the fund industry. Continue Reading →

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Nell Minow: The Unfinished Business of Corporate Governance

Nell Minow

Writing in the March/April edition of The Corporate Board, Nell Minow titles her latest bit of advice, The Unfinished Business of Corporate Governance. Here’s the lead in:

After a decade of frantic corporate governance reform, business leaders may believe that governance has reached the pinnacle of responsibility and effectiveness. Not so fast, says Nell Minow, one of America’s most respected governance observers. Corporate data disclosure can still be manipulated, boards can still be opaque or unaccountable to investors, and work is still needed on corporate pay setting and transparency. Continue Reading →

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Take Action: Last Day to Comment on NYSE Rules on Proxy Distribution Fees

The deadline for comments on this important NYSE rulemaking that must be approved by the SEC is today, March 15, 2013, so act now or forever regret not taking action.

See the rulemaking and comments already posted to SEC site.  I’m concerned that provisions meant to facilitate voting on broker platforms may lead us right back into what is essentially broker voting. See discussion of Enhanced Broker’s Internet Platform beginning on page 37.   I would much prefer a more open system as I described in my Harvard Law post, An Open Proposal for Client Directed Voting. See also proxy plumbing comments by Moxy Vote and proxy plumbing comments by VoterMedia.org. Continue Reading →

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Ground-Breaking Proxy Proposals Headed to Shareowner Vote

Climate Change Portfolio Exposure

Boston Common Asset Management has a proposal that will appear on the proxy of PNC Financial Services ($PNC) requesting that it report to shareowners on the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from its lending portfolio and its exposure to climate change risk in its lending, investing, and financing activities. Watch for your proxy. The annual meeting will be held on April 23, 2012. According to the proposal, Continue Reading →

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Quicker Disclosure of Ownership Petitioned – Updated

NYSE Euronext, NIRI (National Investor Relations Institute) and the Society (Society of Corporate Secretaries & Governance Professionals) submitted a joint petition to the SEC requesting the SEC to reduce the time frame under which investors are required to report their holdings from 45 business days after the end of the quarter to two business days after the end of the quarter. Currently, the Exchange Act requires quarterly reporting, so a further reduction than quarterly reporting would require an act of Congress. Continue Reading →

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Corporate Directors Forum – Day 2

This is the last in my series on the Corporate Directors Forum 2013. See materials, slideshowCorporate Directors Forum 2013: Bonus Session, and Corporate Directors Forum 2013 – Day 1, Part 1, and Corporate Directors Forum: Day 1, Part 2. The program was subject to the Chatham House Rule, so there will be little in the way of attribution below but I hope to provide some sense of the discussion. I throw in a lot of opinions. Some are those of panelists, some are mine, and some came from the audience. Continue Reading →

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Corporate Directors Forum: Day 1, Part 2

Below are some relatively quick notes I took at the Corporate Directors Forum 2013, held on the beautiful campus of the University of San Diego, January 27-29, 2013. See materialsCorporate Directors Forum 2013: Bonus Session, and Corporate Directors Forum 2013 – Day 1, Part 1.

The program was subject to the Chatham House Rule, so there will be little in the way of attribution below but I hope to provide some sense of the discussion. I throw in a lot of opinions. Some are those of panelists, some are mine, and some came from the audience.  I still get a little lost in some of the financial discussions but think we need to raise public understanding, so I don’t shy away from trying to learn or from offering opinions. I had fun, learned from various perspectives, renewed acquaintances and made some new ones. If corporate governance is your thing, I hope to see you there in 2014. Continue Reading →

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Biased Ballots: Oshkosh Vote Questioned – Take Action

I found another case of corporate elections where ballot measures failed to be identified ”clearly and impartially.” This time at Oshkosh ($OSK). Should we be surprised? Isn’t it time you took a minute out of your day to send a message to the SEC asking for an end to such abuses?

Broadridge claims:

When it comes to proxy ballots, regulations are complex and mailing deadlines are tight. Broadridge helps fulfill regulatory responsibilities efficiently and economically. Broadridge handles the entire process on-line and in real time, from coordination with third-party entities to ordering, inventory maintenance, mailing, tracking and vote tabulation. Continue Reading →

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