The SEC Has Issued New Guidance On Shareholder Proposals And Updated The Rule 14a-8 No-Action Letter Process

On November 3, 2021, the SEC Division of Corporation Finance (“Corp Fin”) issued Staff Legal Bulletin 14L (“SLB 14L”) related to Rule 14a-8, rescinding prior Bulletins 14I, 14J and 14K and effectively destroying four years of interpretative guidance related to the exclusion of ESG related shareholder proposals from proxy statements.  SLB 14L also provides interpretative guidance on the use of images in shareholder proponents’ supporting statements, proof of ownership, and the use of email for notices.

Following the issuance of Bulletin 14L, the SEC announced that it was reversing a 2019 policy change related to providing written responses to no-action letter requests in accordance with Rule 14a-8 in the proxy process.  The earlier 2019 policy change provided that the SEC no longer had to provide written responses to company’s that sought to exclude a shareholder proposal.  Rather, the SEC could inform the company and the proponent of its position (concurs, disagrees or declines to state a view) orally or