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Waters Applauds Change to SEC Staff Action on Shareholder Proposals

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, released the following statement on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) reversal of some of President Trump’s actions to weaken shareholders’ ability to engage with companies.

“The benefits of shareholder proposals—to long-term investors, retirees, and working-families, and the societies in which we all live—are significant. Over the past several years, I have called attention to the need to empower shareholders through the disclosure of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) information.

“With today’s Staff Legal Bulletin, the SEC begins restoring shareholders’ rights by making it a little bit easier for shareholders’ proposals to qualify for inclusion in a company’s proxy voting materials. Once a shareholder proposal is qualified for a vote, all shareholders of a given company can vote on the matter. Even though these votes are non-binding, they still invite scrutiny and offer guidance to correct the policies and practices of public companies, including policies related to human capital management, diversity and inclusion practices, and environmental impact of the company.

“So, I welcome today’s Staff Legal Bulletin, and the fact that further actions on these issues are on SEC Chair Gensler’s agenda. The SEC needs to do more to empower shareholders to better guide and course-correct the management of the companies they own. The SEC must repeal the restrictive changes it implemented at the end of the Trump administration because shareholders need better access to the proxy. Shareholders also need a universal proxy and the ability to offer longer proposals. Importantly, shareholders’ votes must be better counted. These and other reforms are critical to improving corporate suffrage. Just like with voting for public officials, when shareholders are empowered to exercise their corporate suffrage more easily, they engage more, and we—our corporations, our welfare, and our society—are all better off for it.”

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