Following a tense period of debate and comments, on September 23, 2020, the SEC adopted amendments to Rule 14a-8 governing shareholder proposals in the proxy process. The proposed rule was published almost a year before in November 2019 (see HERE). The amendment increases the ownership threshold requirements required for shareholders to submit and re-submit proposals to be included in a company’s proxy statement. The ownership thresholds were last amended in 1998 and the resubmission rules have been in place since 1954. The new rules represent significant changes to a shareholder’s rights to include matters on a company’s proxy statement.
Shareholder proposals, and the process for including or excluding such proposals in a company’s proxy statement, have been the subject of debate for years. The rules have not been amended in decades and during that time, shareholder activism has shifted. Main Street investors tend to invest more through mutual funds and ETF’s, and most shareholder proposals come from
As anticipated on November 5, 2019, the SEC issued two highly controversial rule proposals. The first is to amend Exchange Act rules to regulate proxy advisors. The second is to amend Securities Exchange Act Rule 14a-8(b) to increase the ownership threshold requirements required for shareholders to submit and re-submit proposals to be included in a company’s proxy statement. The ownership thresholds were last amended in 1998 and the resubmission rules have been in place since 1954. Together the new rules would represent significant changes to the proxy disclosure and solicitation process and shareholder rights to include matters on a company’s proxy statement. Not surprisingly, given the debate surrounding this topic, each of the SEC Commissioners issued statements on the proposed rule changes.
I am in support of both rules. This blog addresses the proposed rule changes related to shareholder proposals. Shareholder proposals, and the process for including or excluding such proposals in a company’s proxy statement, have been
In October 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a report to President Trump entitled “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities; Capital Markets” (the “Treasury Report”). The Treasury Report was issued in response to an executive order dated February 3, 2017. The executive order identified Core Principles and requested the Treasury Department to identify laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and record-keeping requirements, and other government policies that promote or inhibit federal regulation of the U.S. financial system in a manner consistent with the Core Principles. In response to its directive, the Treasury Department is issuing four reports; this one on capital markets discusses and makes specific recommendations related to the federal securities laws.
The Core Principles are:
- Empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth;
- Prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts;
- Foster economic growth and vibrant financial markets through more rigorous regulatory impact analysis that addresses systemic risk
Although in the small cap marketplace, proxy season really spreads all year, the majority of issuers hold annual meetings in connection with the issuance of their annual reports and the majority of issuers have a December 31 fiscal year end. Accordingly, in the coming months, public companies will be preparing their annual shareholder meeting notices and be dealing with the associated shareholder proposals.
The regulation of corporate law rests primarily within the power and authority of the states. However, for public companies, the federal government imposes various corporate law mandates including those related to matters of corporate governance. While state law may dictate that shareholders have the right to elect directors, the minimum and maximum time allowed for notice of shareholder meetings, and what matters may be properly considered by shareholders at annual meeting, Section 14 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and the rules promulgated thereunder, govern the proxy process itself for publicly reporting companies.