DOL Quietly Joins SEC’s Shareholder Voter Suppression Effort

Here is the latest from the DOL in intentionally bureaucratic gobbledygook:

This deregulatory action would modernize fiduciary practices related to the voting rights associated with ERISA plan investments and harmonize those regulations with the requirements of other regulators. The goal of this proposal would be to protect the interests of participants and beneficiaries by: (1) addressing practices that could present conflicts of interest associated with proxy advisory firm recommendations; (2) ensuring that proxy voting decisions are based on best information; and (3) ensuring that proxy voting decisions are solely in the interest of, and for the exclusive purpose of providing plan benefits to, participants and beneficiaries.

Translation: The Labor Department wants to roll back guidance in place for 20 years making the simple and incontrovertible point that proxy voting rights are a plan asset and subject to the same fiduciary obligation (“for the exclusive benefit of plan participants”) as the decisions to buy, sell, and hold. It is important to remember that the reason this obvious point had to be made in official guidance back in 1988 is that there was evidence that fund managers were voting contrary to the interests of investors in order to get more business from portfolio companies.

Anyone interested in corporate governance, finance, or economics should be aware of this rulemaking and prepare to file comments opposing it.

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