In 2014, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees the NYC pension funds, submitted proxy access proposals to 75 companies—and ignited the push for proxy access at public companies across the U.S. The form of proxy access proposed in this first phase of the Boardroom Accountability Project was very similar to the form of proxy access mandated under the SEC’s rules that were overturned in 2011, requiring an eligibility threshold of 3% ownership for three years, with shareholders having the right to nominate up to 25% of the board. (See this PubCo post and this PubCo post.) It has been reported that, of the 75 proposals submitted by the NYC comptroller in 2014, 63 went to a vote, with average support of 56% and 41 receiving majority support. In 2015, Stringer submitted more proxy access proposals. Notably, until Stringer’s initiative, private ordering for proxy access had not gathered much steam; only six companies had adopted proxy access. Stringer’s office reports that, today, more than 425 companies, including over 60% of the S&P 500, have enacted proxy access bylaws. Now, the NYC Comptroller’s Office, leveraging the success of its proxy access campaign and the “powerful tool” it represents to “demand change,” has announced the Boardroom Accountability Project 2.0, which will focus on corporate board diversity, independence and climate expertise. Will Project 2.0 have an impact comparable to that of the drive for proxy access?
The NYSE is proposing two changes with regard to material news: the first relates to a limitation on the issuance of material news in the period immediately after the NYSE close, and the second relates to a delay in the effective date of the NYSE’s recent rule change regarding notice to the NYSE of dividends and stock distributions.
The GAO has issued a new report on conflict minerals focused in this instance on the supply chain for artisanal and small-scale mined (ASM) gold in the DRC region. The report also addressed efforts to encourage responsible sourcing of ASM gold and sexual violence in the region since the GAO’s last report in August 2016.
On August 24, the SEC announced that it was, once again, hiking the fees it charges issuers to register their securities. In fiscal 2018, the fee rates for registration of securities and certain other transactions will be $124.50 per million dollars, up from $115.90 per million dollars last year.
With the SEC now considering whether to approve AS 3101, the PCAOB’s new enhanced disclosure requirement for the auditor’s report (see this PubCo post), and SEC concept releases and other disclosure projects still hovering in the ether, there seems to be a steady march by companies toward inclusion of more supplemental audit committee disclosures on a voluntary basis, according to a new study by the EY Center for Board Matters. The study, which reviewed audit committee reporting in proxy statements by companies in the Fortune 100 for 2017, showed that companies in that elite group have demonstrated “[y]ear-over-year growth in voluntary audit-related disclosures in 2017 filings … similar to that seen in 2015 and 2016, indicating that companies and audit committees continue to reflect upon and make changes to the information that they communicate to shareholders.”
Notwithstanding the deregulatory emphasis of the current administration, two campaigns are currently being waged to convince the SEC to adopt new regulations mandating more disclosure—one related to human capital management and the other related to a frequent target, corporate political spending. Are these just pipe dreams? Is it time for a reality check? Or might there be some basis for believing that this SEC might act on these requests?
SEC approves NYSE amendments requiring notice related to dividends and stock distributions, even if outside of NYSE trading hours (updated)
Yesterday, the SEC approved a rule change that amended the NYSE Manual to require listed companies to provide notice to the NYSE at least ten minutes before making any public announcement with respect to a dividend or stock distribution, irrespective of the time of day, even when the notice is outside of NYSE trading hours (rather than limited to the hours of 7:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. as in the prior rule). Bring your sleeping bags, NYSE staff: the NYSE indicated that “it intends to have its staff available at all times to review dividend or stock distribution notices immediately upon receipt, regardless of the time or date the notices are received….The Exchange staff will contact a listed company immediately if there is a problem with its notification.” Update: the NYSE has now proposed to amend the rule to delay its implementation to be “no later than February 1, 2018,” and will provide reasonable advance notice of the new implementation date by email to listed companies. (See this PubCo post.)