Category: Shareholder Activism

SEC Withdraws No Action Letters on Proxy Advisory Firms

Cam C. Hoang

In order to facilitate discussion on the role of proxy advisory firms at the upcoming Roundtable on the Proxy Process, which is scheduled for November 2018, the SEC staff has determined to withdraw two no action letters that provided comfort to investment advisers in relying on proxy advisory firm recommendations: In Egan-Jones Proxy Services (May 27, 2004), the staff had confirmed that by voting based on the...

Proxy Access “Fix-It” Proposals Fizzle

Gary L. Tygesson

As the 2017 proxy season winds down, one clear take-away is that shareholder proposals attempting to modify the terms of previously adopted mainstream proxy access bylaws did not fare well. Many of these proposals focused solely on the aggregation limit, seeking to increase the number of shareholders (usually 20) that are required to meet the minimum ownership threshold (usually 3% of outstanding shares) in order...

Shareholder Proposals Restricting Board/Management Access to Preliminary Voting Results May Be Excluded

Cam C. Hoang

On January 6, 2017, the SEC Staff granted no-action relief that would allow companies to exclude shareholder proposals preventing management or the board from accessing preliminary voting results on uncontested matters prior to the annual meeting, including a running tally of votes for and against, and using that information to solicit votes. See, The Boeing Company, Ferro Corporation, Honeywell International Inc., L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc.,...

Recent Developments in Proxy Access

Cam C. Hoang

As the 2017 proxy season begins to unfold, proxy access continues to be a focus of shareholder proposals. Last year, companies that had already adopted mainstream proxy access bylaws, or that were planning to put mainstream proxy access bylaws up for a shareholder vote, were largely successful in being able to exclude shareholder proposals to adopt proxy access bylaws on the grounds that such proposals...

First U.S. Proxy Access Nominee

Jason Brenkert

On November 10, 2016, GAMCO Asset Management filed a Schedule 13D/A and 14N announcing that it had used the proxy access bylaw at National Fuel Gas to nominate a director candidate for election to NFG’s board at the upcoming 2017 annual meeting of shareholders.  This nomination appears to be the first use of proxy access bylaws by a shareholder to nominate a director in the...

SEC Proposes Universal Ballots in Contested Elections

Kimberley R. Anderson

On October 26, 2016, in a split vote, the SEC proposed the mandated use of universal ballots in contested director elections at annual meetings. The proposed rules were controversial even before they were proposed – the House of Representatives approved a spending bill this summer that included a provision prohibiting the SEC from proposing or implementing the use of the universal ballots in contested elections....

2016 Proxy Season Review: Shareholder Proposals

Cam C. Hoang

With most of the 2016 proxy season in the rear-view mirror, it’s clear that shareholder proposals continue to be a preferred vehicle for certain kinds of shareholder activism, though with limited effectiveness unless the company and the shareholder reach a negotiated outcome. Proxy access proved to be the notable exception. Overall, the total number of shareholder proposals submitted (916) was down from the all-time high...

SEC Approves NASDAQ Rule Requiring Disclosure of “Golden Leash” Arrangements

Kimberley R. Anderson

Do your directors have a “golden leash”? If so, NASDAQ-listed companies will be required to publicly disclose those arrangements as a result of newly adopted rules. “Golden leash” arrangements are compensation arrangements between activist shareholders and their director nominee in connection with his or her service on, or candidacy for, a company’s board of directors, usually in connection with a proxy fight. In a typical...