June 26, 2015
SEC Chair Speaks: Universal Proxy Ballots Coming?
As reported by this WSJ article, SEC Chair White delivered this speech yesterday at the Society’s National Conference. In her speech – which focused on proxy-related matters – Chair White advised that she “asked the staff to bring appropriate rulemaking recommendations before the Commission on universal proxy ballots.” A universal proxy ballot provides security holders a means to vote for management & proponent nominees on a single ballot in an election contest. This allows a security holder to mix & match votes between nominees of the company & the proponent – without attending & voting in person at the meeting. Chair White also encouraged companies & proponents to voluntarily use “some form” of universal proxy ballot while the SEC Staff prepares its rulemaking recommendation. Here’s an excerpt from her speech:
All of the participants [of a roundtable held on ways to improve the proxy voting process] agreed that if the Commission were to revise the proxy rules to implement a universal proxy ballot, the “devil would be in the details.” Questions include when a universal ballot could be used, whether it would be optional or mandatory and under what circumstances, whether any eligibility requirements should be imposed on shareholders to use universal ballots, what the ballot would look like, and whether both sides must use identical universal ballots.
Chair White’s speech also covered the topics of preliminary voting results & “unelected” directors and called for “more thoughtful treatment of shareholder proposals” by companies & proponents.