Visa Inc (V), a payments technology company, operates an open-loop payments network worldwide. The company facilitates commerce through the transfer of value and information among financial institutions, merchants, consumers, businesses, and government entities. Visa is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is on February 3, 2016. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected no votes when I checked. I voted against the pay plan, incentive plan, amendments and the compensation committee but with the Board’s recommendations 53% of the time. View Proxy Statement on iiWisdom. Continue Reading →
Tag Archives | SEC
2nd update, 12/20/2015: Unpack your bags, cancel your flight and hotel. Reeds Inc. (REED) has postponed tomorrow’s annual meeting to 12/30/2015. Although the move may be costly to shareowners and our company, it may pay dividends in the long-run if REED finally starts paying more attention to shareowners, corporate governance and their legal obligations. REED made a material error in their proxy materials and ballot. Although they filed a revised proxy, they didn’t pay to send a new ballot or link to shareowners. The supplement they issued on Friday includes a new ballot but so far that has not gone out to most shareowners. I am hoping they will do so this week through Broadridge’s proxyvote.com platform. Continue Reading →
United Natural Foods, Inc. $UNFI, together with its subsidiaries, distributes and retails natural, organic, and specialty foods and non-food products in the United States and Canada. United Natural Foods is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is on December 16, 2015. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of four funds when I checked. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 42% of the time. View Proxy Statement.
Medtronic PLC ($MDT) manufactures and sells device-based medical therapies worldwide. Medtronic is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is on December 11, 2015. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of two funds when I checked. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 44% of the time. View Proxy Statement.
Guidewire Software, Inc. provides software products for property and casualty (P&C) insurers. It offers a technology platform supports core insurance operations, including underwriting and policy administration, claim management, and billing. Guidewire is one of the stocks in my portfolio. Their annual meeting is coming up on December 3, 2015. ProxyDemocracy.org had collected the votes of two funds when I checked. I voted with the Board’s recommendations 40% of the time. View Proxy Statement.
Publisher’s note: I wasn’t going to publish anything today but I couldn’t resist this recent news from Sanford Lewis, Esq. and Sonia Kowai of Zevin Asset Management about a denial of a no-action letter that allows shareholders to hold mutual funds to account. Imagine what the world could look like if mainstream funds lived up to their own hype.
This is the perfect reason for Thanksgiving and is the best news I’ve heard all year. For the first time we have the possibility that mutual funds might be so embarrassed by the wide gap between what they say and what they do that they may actually start voting as their investors would wish. This is a real game changer and could be the start of something HUGE if similar proposals are filed at other fund companies and shareholders hold them accountable.
Climate change is the first issue, and is critically important, but there are other issues to address as well. Many thanks to Sanford Lewis, Sonia Kowal of Zevin Asset Management LLC,, Jackie Cook of Fund Votes, Ceres, First Affirmative Financial Network, and everyone who worked to obtain these critical new rights. Continue Reading →
Take Action: Bartlett Naylor of Public Citizen sent me the following draft sign-on comment letter to FASB/SEC regarding their concept release to redefine “materiality” from information that “could” be important to investors to information that “would” be considered important. If you agree with us that regulators shouldn’t be reducing the volume information that “could” be material, please contact Mr. Naylor at [email protected]. Let him know you want to join in the comment letter. Include your contact details and how you want to be referenced.
December 6, 2015
Mary Jo White/Chair
James Schnurr/Office of Chief Accountant
Securities and Exchange Commission Members
Financial Accounting Standards Board Continue Reading →
Never underestimate the ability of SEC staff to parse the rules in a creative way. Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14H (CF) does not adhere completely to original intent, which staff determined was “to prevent shareholders from using Rule 14a-8 to circumvent the proxy rules governing solicitations.” However, it gets us where we need to be in defining the meaning of “directly conflicts” with regard to Rule 14a-8 exclusions. Continue Reading →
Tom Croft of Heartland Capital Strategies had a good post the other day on the proposed CEO pay rules:
The US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to adopt a new CEO-Worker Pay Ratio Rule at its August 5 Meeting, passing the rule mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (five years later).
Continue Reading →
Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc. BR, launched a newly upgraded ProxyVote site, which improves the shareholder communication and proxy voting experience for individual shareholders. Read the press release below, then my commentary.
“ProxyVote.com has long been a key technology in the corporate governance process,” said Broadridge Investor Communications Solutions President Robert Schifellite. “Since its launch more than 17 years ago, usage has grown tremendously and, in the past year alone, more than two-thirds of all proxy votes by individual shareholders were cast on ProxyVote.com. The newly upgraded platform reflects extensive input from individual investors, companies, broker-dealers, corporate governance experts, and regulators.”
Continue Reading →
Most companies opposing a shareholder proposal simply rely on an opposition statement, although sometimes they solicit the votes of their largest shareowners. Steris Corporation (NYSE:STE) took it a bit further. Was it cheating? That depends on your perspective. Like a partially inflated football, a partially stuffed ballot can provide the crucial margin needed to win.
Proxy Voting Deflate-Gate: What Steris Did
What a mouthfull. The 2015 National Conference in Chicago, 6/24-27, was my first time attending one of their events. Even though I’ve been blogging about corporate governance for almost 20 years, I didn’t know what they call themselves? SCSGP? Even that is a mouthful; without vowels how would I pronounce it? Maybe “Corporate Secretaries?” It turned out to be just the “Society.” Like Modonna, Yanni, Sher, Twiggy, Enya, Charo, Bono and Voltaire, only one name is needed. All those other societies will have to come up with other options to avoid confusion. Continue Reading →
Take Action: Comment on SEC’s Rule 14a-8(i)(9) Review
As proxy season draws to an end, managers, boards and their legal advisors are calling on the SEC to allow companies to exclude shareholder proposals if a company includes a proxy proposal on the same subject, even if it would do the opposite of the shareholder proposal. That recommendation threatens to hijack the very existence of the proxy proposal system, which simply allows shareholders to petition boards to take action and to put those petitions to a proxy vote to gauge support from shareholders. Your meaningful vote in corporate elections and the foundations of democratic corporate governance are at stake. Continue Reading →
The Status of Proxy Access 2015:
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” – Winston Churchill
This post is in response to a LinkedIn piece by Anthony Goodman of Tapestry Networks regarding the status of proxy access post the success of New York Comptroller Scott Stringer’s Board Accountability Project (with adopt of proxy access by Bank of America, Abercrombie & Fitch, Big Lots and Whiting Petroleum to date). While the “2015 Battle for Proxy Access” appears won, the war over access is far from finished. What is over is the “ambiguity” over whether there is unanimity amongst institutional investors, governance advocates and proxy advisors for the 3-3-25 standard or whether the mega mutual funds would support conflicting higher ownership thresholds and holding periods. We now know that the answer to that question is generally universal support for 3-3-20/25 standard. Continue Reading →
Investing in America began with bankruptcy and early lessons in corporate governance. In the early 17th century, the hottest stock in England was the Virginia Company of London. Instead of adding to their fame and fortune, wealthy investors gained several hard insights from this first company to go bust on American soil.
Fame Is Not To Be Confused With Fortune
By 1609, the Virginia Company was two years into the Jamestown settlement and despite many setbacks from rugged conditions and Continue Reading →
I think most Americans have a very limited attention span when it comes to investing, the SEC and especially corporate governance. When I came across SECDisclose.org earlier this week, I was delighted with a series of videos they have uploaded on dark money and with their byline: Because the S.E.C. shouldn’t stand for “S-E-C-RET.”
In a few paragraphs below lifted from SECDisclose and a press release from the Corporate Reform Coalition, I hope to perk your interest in this project so that you’ll share their links with your friends. I love their campaign. It is very creative. However, one thing the campaign fails to do, at least as far as I could tell in a quick look, is to call their viewers and readers to action. I’ve practically hounded my readers to death on this issue but will do so once again. Continue Reading →
Replay the SEC Proxy Voting Roundtable. (Sorry no YouTube embedded video. You need to click a link.)
- Panel 1: Universal Proxy Ballots
- Panel 2: Retail Participation in the Proxy Process (starting about 1:44 into webcast)
Unfortunately, there is a gap about 2/3 of the way through for a fire drill. The second panel does come back but the video runs out while Nell Minow is speaking. As usual, she provides the best quote of the day: Continue Reading →
Missing from the preliminary proxy statements of Illinois Tool Works $ITW and Huntington Ingalls Industries $HII are special meeting proposals from William Steiner, even though the SEC months ago withdrew no-action letters previously issued to the companies. (Illinois Tool Works and Huntington Ingalls Industries) Shareowners of these companies might want to inquire as to why the proposals were left off preliminary proxy statements. (see ITW and HII statements) Continue Reading →
Disclosure of corporate lobbying expenses remain top shareholder proposal topics for 2015, as more than 60 investors have filed proposals with more than 50 companies asking for reports that include federal and state lobbying payments, political contributions and/or payments to trade associations used for lobbying and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.
In 2014, resolutions relating to corporate political and lobbying expenses of a company were among the most common shareholder proposal put forth during the proxy season for the fourth consecutive year, and it is expected that these will be among the most popular shareholder proposal topics for 2015 proxy season. The bulk of political spending resolutions fall under two categories, either requesting disclosure of lobbying expenditures or seeking disclosure of political contributions. Continue Reading →
Yesterday (2/10/2015), Corp Fin Director Keith Higgins delivered this interesting speech entitled “Rule 14a-8: Conflicting Proposals, Conflicting Views.” There are some really interesting things in this speech on counterproposals, etc., although there isn’t much that helps those companies grappling with proxy access shareholder proposals this proxy season (but there is some, such as #6 below). Here’s some notables from Keith’s speech: Continue Reading →
As I have been mentioning, I will be on a panel at the 2/19 SEC Roundtable discussing how to increase retail shareholder participation in the proxy process. It is the night before the event; so I’m trying to boil it all down, knowing I’ll probably only get a few minutes to say anything. The previous posts are all well and good about things that should be done. I tried to focus on what the SEC could do to help, since they are holding the event. Now that our panel is about to convene, I’m just going to mention what could prompt participation, whether or not it requires anything from the SEC.
From the SEC notice: This panel will focus on strategies for increasing retail shareholder participation in the proxy process. The panel will discuss how technology – by providing better access to information or easier means of voting – might affect retail participation. In addition, the panel will discuss whether the format of disclosure could be improved to increase the engagement of shareholders and how the mechanics of voting could be improved to affect retail shareholder participation. Continue Reading →
I will be on a panel at the 2/19 SEC Roundtable discussing how to increase retail shareholder participation in the proxy process. The SEC agenda is in bold italics. Our thoughts on VIFs and CITs are in normal type. Part 1 is here. Part 2 here.
This panel will focus on strategies for increasing retail shareholder participation in the proxy process. The panel will discuss how technology – by providing better access to information or easier means of voting – might affect retail participation. In addition, the panel will discuss whether the format of disclosure could be improved to increase the engagement of shareholders and how the mechanics of voting could be improved to affect retail shareholder participation. Continue Reading →
The last set of questions for panel at the 2/19 SEC Roundtable deal with client directed voting (CDV). Below are a few thoughts with the help of readers. I welcome further comments. The SEC agenda and questions are in bold italics. Our thoughts are in normal type. Part 1 is here.
This panel will focus on strategies for increasing retail shareholder participation in the proxy process. The panel will discuss how technology – by providing better access to information or easier means of voting – might affect retail participation. In addition, the panel will discuss whether the format of disclosure could be improved to increase the engagement of shareholders and how the mechanics of voting could be improved to affect retail shareholder participation.
The SEC raises several questions in their last group of questions for the panel on client directed voting, which I discuss below. Continue Reading →
As mentioned before, I will be on a panel at the 2/19 SEC Roundtable discussing how to increase retail shareholder participation in the proxy process. I’ve been collecting a few thoughts with the help of readers. Time is a major constraint, so I will need to prioritize my main points and will probably end up with a few bullet points by the time Thursday rolls around. In the meantime, I welcome further comments. The SEC agenda is in bold italics. Our thoughts are in normal type. Continue Reading →
The roundtable, announced in January, will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be divided into two panels. Participants on the first panel will focus on the state of contested director elections and whether changes should be made to the federal proxy rules to facilitate the use of universal proxy ballots by management and proxy contestants. Participants also will discuss the state law, logistical, and disclosure issues presented by a possible universal proxy ballot process. Continue Reading →
I’m delighted to see “Discussion of Proxy Access” (11:05-12:05 p.m.) as one of the items on the agenda for the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee (SEC-IAC) at the upcoming February 12th meeting. I discuss two recommendations below. Take Action: Please submit your own and paste into comments below. See comments submitted.
Proxy Access: Rule 14a-11
In light of CFA Institute’s Proxy Access in the United States: Revisiting the Proposed SEC Rule with the following findings, it is time to revisit the SEC’s overturned Rule 14a-11. Continue Reading →
(1/27/2015) The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it will host a roundtable on February 19 to explore ways to improve the proxy voting process. The roundtable, which will be held at the SEC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, will focus on universal proxy ballots and retail participation in the proxy process. I will be a member of the second panel. I invite readers to help me by sharing your ideas.
Proxy voting is important to both investors and companies. The ability to vote allows investors to make their views known to the company’s management and to participate effectively at annual or special meetings. Thus, the proxy voting process should be robust, effective and workable. Continue Reading →
The SEC has essentially suspended Rule 14a-8(i)(9) Conflicts with company’s proposal. Shareowners at Whole Foods Market and at many other companies have scored a huge victory.
Last Friday the SEC issued the following:
Statement from Chair White Directing Staff to Review Commission Rule for Excluding Conflicting Proxy Proposals
Chair Mary Jo White
Jan. 16, 2015 The Commission’s proxy rules enable shareholders to submit proposals for inclusion in a company’s proxy materials for a vote at a shareholder meeting, subject to certain procedural and substantive exclusions. One of the exclusions, Exchange Act Rule 14a-8(i)(9), allows a company to exclude a shareholder proposal that “directly conflicts” with a management proposal. Due to questions that have arisen about the proper scope and application of Rule 14a-8(i)(9), I have directed the staff to review the rule and report to the Commission on its review.