Here is the SEC’s Fact Sheet on its proposed amendments to its rules governing proxy solicitations.
Proposed Rule Amendments for Proxy Voting Advice
SEC Open Meeting
Nov. 5, 2019
The Securities and Exchange Commission today proposed amendments to its rules that exempt businesses furnishing proxy voting advice from the filing and information requirements of the federal proxy rules. The Commission’s proposal is intended to help ensure that proxy voting advice used by investors and others who vote on investors’ behalf is accurate, transparent, and materially complete. If adopted, the proposal would amend Exchange Act Rule 14a-2(b), which provides exemptions from the proxy rules’ filing and information requirements for certain kinds of solicitations, call for enhanced disclosure of material conflicts of interest, a standardized opportunity for registrants and other soliciting persons to review proxy voting advice, and an improved means for investors to be informed about differing views on the advice. In addition, the proposed changes would codify recent Commission guidance by amending the definition of “solicitation” in Exchange Act Rule 14a-1(l) to include proxy voting advice, with certain exceptions, and provide additional illustrative examples to Exchange Act Rule 14a-9, the proxy rules’ antifraud provision.
The Commission’s proposal is part of its ongoing focus on improving the proxy process and the ability of shareholders to exercise their voting rights. It follows the Commission’s recent guidance clarifying the applicability of the federal proxy rules to proxy voting advice and the proxy voting responsibilities of investment advisers, roundtables on the proxy process in 2018 and proxy advisory services in 2013, and the publication of its Concept Release on the U.S. proxy system in 2010.
Rule 14a-1(l). The proposed amendments would amend Exchange Act Rule 14a-1(l), which defines the terms “solicit” and “solicitation,” to specify the circumstances when a person who furnishes proxy voting advice will be deemed to be engaged in a solicitation subject to the proxy rules. The proposed amendment would also codify the Commission’s view that voting advice provided in response to an unprompted request would not constitute a solicitation.
Rules 14a-2(b)(1) and 14a-2(b)(3). The proposed amendments would revise Rule 14a-2(b), which provides exemptions from the information and filing requirements of the proxy rules. Under the proposed amendments, proxy voting advice businesses relying on these exemptions would be subject to the following conditions:
- They must include disclosure of material conflicts of interest in their proxy voting advice;
- Registrants and certain other soliciting persons must be given an opportunity to review and provide feedback on proxy voting advice before it is issued (with the length of the review period dependent on the number of days between the filing of the definitive proxy statement and the date of the shareholder meeting); and
- Registrants and certain other soliciting persons may request that proxy voting advice businesses include in their voting advice a hyperlink or analogous electronic medium directing the recipient of the advice to a written statement that sets forth the registrant’s or soliciting person’s views on the proxy voting advice.
The proposed amendments would permit proxy voting advice businesses to require registrants and other soliciting persons to enter into confidentiality agreements for materials exchanged during the review and feedback period and would allow proxy voting advice businesses to rely on the exemptions where failure to comply with the new conditions was immaterial or unintentional.
Rule 14a-9. The proposed amendments would modify Rule 14a-9 to include examples of when the failure to disclose certain information in the proxy voting advice could, depending upon the particular facts and circumstances, be considered misleading within the meaning of the rule.
The proposal will be subject to a 60-day public comment period. To submit comments, use the SEC’s Internet submission form or send an email to email@example.com.