NEW YORK, Sept 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is set to vote on Wednesday on making it tougher for shareholders to push companies on issues such as climate change, social justice and diversity.
The rule, first proposed last November, raises the bar on how long investors have to hold $2,000 worth of stock before they can submit a shareholder proposal to be included on the company’s annual ballot and how much support they must receive before resubmitting it. The guidelines on how much support proposals must receive to be resubmitted have not changed since 1954.
“Going forward, anyone who wants to invest in a company and establish the ability to submit a proposal has to hold it for longer,” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a news briefing on Tuesday. “That’s not much of an incremental cost.”
The SEC, which received blowback from many investors on the rule, moved away from a contentious change that would have allowed companies to exclude proposals that received falling levels of support, a development Reuters reported first. The SEC felt that change was “not necessary,” an official said on background.
Corporate lobbying groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have pushed to rein in shareholder proposals and have argued that the bar for resubmitting them should be higher in order to stop niche issues with diminishing levels of support from clogging up company ballots.
SEC officials said dealing with shareholder proposals is relatively expensive for companies as compared to the rest of the investor base. They added that most of the proposals come from a small group of repeat filers.
“While we all have a right to get on our soapboxes, we have no right to force others to pay for them,” said Commissioner Elad Roisman, who introduced the new rule. (Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.