Saturday, September 10, 2011

SEC Allows Shareholder Proposals for Proxy Access

While Rule 14a-11, a contentious Dodd-Frank reform granting limited proxy access, was defeated by litigation, its sister--Rule 14a-8--is very much alive. Rule 14a-8 effectively gives shareholders the right to submit a proposal for proxy access to be voted on at company annual meetings. Says SEC Chairman Schapiro,

"Last year, when the Commission adopted Rule 14a-11, it also adopted amendments to Rule 14a-8, the shareholder proposal rule. Under those amendments, eligible shareholders are permitted to require companies to include shareholder proposals regarding proxy access procedures in company proxy materials. Through this procedure, shareholders and companies have the opportunity to establish proxy access standards on a company-by-company basis -- rather than a specified standard like that contained in Rule 14a-11.
Although the amendments to Rule 14a-8 were not challenged in the litigation, the Commission voluntarily stayed the effective date of those amendments at the time it stayed the effective date of Rule 14a-11. The Commission's stay order provides that the stay of the effective date of the amendments to Rule 14a-8 and related rules will expire without further Commission action when the court's decision is finalized, which is expected to be September 13. Accordingly, absent further Commission action, Rule 14a-8 will go into effect and a notice of the effective date of the amendments will be published."

By giving shareholders the right to vote on proxy access instead of a one-size-fits-all model, this increases "choice" while allowing for efficient reforms in corporate governance.

For reference, The Harvard Law School on Corporate Governance wrote a piece on this.