This piece originally appeared in the November 7, 2014 edition of GPW. I reformatted, added the title, graphics and ads. Let’s hope the SEC recognizes Whole Foods Market’s (WFM) sham proxy access proposal for what it is and denies their no-action request. New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and New York City’s pension funds have initiated a groundbreaking campaign to give shareowners the right of proxy access at 75 U.S. companies. If the SEC grants WFM’s no action request, further progress on proxy access by New York and others could grind to a halt.
Tag Archives | SEC
Carl Gershenson - “Protecting Markets from Society: Non-Pecuniary Claims in American Corporate Democracy” forthcoming in Politics & Society looks at the role of the state as ‘market protector.’ Protecting us from inside trading, pump and dump schemes, policing market players? Yes, that may be the primary duty of agencies such as the SEC. However, Gershenson turns our attention to a very important secondary duty – “protecting the market from disruptive challengers so that corporations may operate as if markets were autonomous.”
As we have seen in The Rise and Fall of Homo Economicus: The Myth of the Rational Human and the Chaotic Reality and the Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street, people are not rational robots. Continue Reading →
The Investor as Owner Subcommittee of the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee (SEC-IAC) established pursuant to Section 911 of the Dodd-Frank Act issued a report on Impartiality in the Disclosure of Preliminary Voting Results. The recommendations will be discussed at a meeting on October 9, 2014.
|When:||Thursday, October 9, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm|
|Who:||Investor Advisory Committee|
|What:||Investor Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting|
|Where:||Multipurpose Room, SEC Headquarters, 100 F Street, NE, Washington, DC|
|Contact:||Frankie White, Office of the Investor Advocate, (202) 551 – 4310|
The members of the subcommittee are listed here. After I discuss the SEC-IAC’s two recommendations briefly below, which I support, I then urge readers to write to the SEC-IAC requesting they address additional issues of impartiality. Continue Reading →
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that Tracey L. McNeil has been selected as the first ombudsman for the agency. Ms. McNeil will begin her new post on September 22. She currently is a senior counsel in the SEC’s Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI), an office created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. In this position, she has advised the director of OMWI in establishing the office and has worked to ensure the fair inclusion and utilization of minorities, women, and minority-owned and women-owned businesses in all business and activities of the agency. Continue Reading →
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that Brent J. Fields has been appointed as the agency’s Secretary, who is responsible for overseeing the administrative aspects of Commission meetings, rulemakings, and procedures. Let’s give Mr. Fields a warm welcome with a flood of e-mail supporting the petition to require companies to disclose political spending. Continue Reading →
With John Chevedden‘s help, I recently submitted shareowner proposals to United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) and The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (HAIN). Both have asked the SEC for no-action letters [UNFI (UNFI no-action 8-15-2014 pdf) and HAIN] because they plan to introduce their own proposals on the same subjects. The SEC is likely to grant both requests. Shouldn’t such actions be counted as ‘gadfly’ wins by pundits like the Deal Professor? More importantly, should the SEC grant such no-action requests? Continue Reading →
Most people don’t like their behavior criticized. CEOs and boards almost always fight my proxy proposals aimed at improving corporate governance. Likewise, I wasn’t happy with the Deal Professor’s criticisms of my shareowner activism in his August 19th NYTimes article, Grappling With the Cost of Corporate Gadflies, which also criticizes John Chevedden and William Steiner. I stewed for days but finally took the advice of a good friend, who is Assistant General Counsel & Corporate Secretary at a major company,
Better to be engaged than enraged!
If I had more time available, my response would have been shorter but I have a number of projects that demand attention. When I submit proposals, I want boards to weigh them carefully on the merits. I have tried to do that with the Deal Professor’s criticism. I hope our mutual use of hyperbole doesn’t preclude further engagement. Unlike the character in the cartoon at right, I feel no need to irritate… but I do often question mechanisms in corporate governance that isolate and concentrate power, rather than distributing it. I prefer structures that distribute power, making us of the wisdom found at all levels. Continue Reading →
This is the second of a two part series. Part I discussed proxy voting at Savings Plus, as compared with at CalPERS.
CalHR’s Current RFP for Savings Plus
CalHR recently released a Request for Proposal (RFP 700-14-01) seeking bids for investment management services for Savings Plus. Unfortunately, the RFP fails to require Savings Plus participants be informed of proxy voting policies or decisions. Continue Reading →
Most California State employees and retirees have their retirement funds invested largely through two vehicles. CalPERS is the nation’s largest public pension, with almost $300B in assets. Many employees also have smaller amounts invested in CalHR‘s Savings Plus program, with assets of $10B. Both vehicles invest a large proportion of their funds in corporate stock, which carries voting power that can not only impact the value of the companies and potentially our retirement income but also the quality of our environment and our political framework.
Over the course of several decades the Department Labor and the SEC have ruled that proxy voting rights are assets. Fiduciaries of funds, such as CalPERS and Savings Plus, must ensure the underlying shares are voted for the benefit of the employees and retires whose funds they hold in trust. Continue Reading →
The SEC this week weighed into the proxy advisor debate with Staff Legal Bulletin 20, which provides information on the proxy voting responsibilities of investment advisers (i.e. professional investors) as well as clarification on the exemptions from federal regulation which apply to proxy advisory firms. Continue Reading →
On June 30th, the Securities and Exchange Commission released some long-awaited guidance on the procedures that advisers should follow in retaining proxy advisory firms and clarifies the responsibilities for both investment advisers and proxy advisory firms. Here is our initial response for a more detailed response please read our white paper. Continue Reading →
I thought this recent correspondence was noteworthy. I’m so happy CII exists. I wish there were a similar organization representing the interests of retail shareowners. Most footnotes are removed and the letter is slightly edited for formatting. Original.
Via Hand Delivery May 22, 2014
Keith F. Higgins
Director Continue Reading →
In 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 →