Republican operative and former Trump administration official Holly Turner has posted a fraudulent video on YouTube urging her followers to support the proposed rulemaking at the SEC to undermine the fundamental market principles of capitalism and suppress shareholder votes and access to independent research. The disappearance of the fake CEO-funded dark money front group Main Street Investors Coalition (reminder — not from Main Street, not investors, and not a coalition) has led to a round of whack-a-mole, with insidious and equally dissembling new groups trying to mislead actual Main Street investors to get them to support something self-evidently not in their interest.
Turner and her husband Chris appear in the video to be ordinary citizens, sitting cozily in front of their fireplace, casually dressed, and waving at the camera as if they are sincerely concerned for the safety of investment and retirement funds of ordinary Americans. It is intentionally low-tech, with Chris holding up a piece of paper with PROXY ADVISORS written on it, no fancy graphics or glitzy production values. They give explicit information about who to write to and what file number to put in the letter but they do not reveal who is paying them to spread this message.
And they lie. There are defamatory falsehoods throughout the video, which of course provides no documentation for any of its wildly inflammatory claims. They claim proxy advisory firms, which are for-profit businesses in a competitive market, providing research no one has to buy and recommendations no one has to follow, have “a progressive left agenda.” Of course the Turners do not provide any specific examples, because there aren’t any. They claim proxy advisors “are not only voting but are submitting shareholder proposals, too.” This is a lie. Even if they wanted to, which they do not, they could not submit shareholder proposals unless they actually were shareholders, which they are not. “These companies many of them were started by moms and pops,” Holly Turner says. Not that it matters, but these are multi-billion dollar public companies with hundreds of thousands of employees, not the corner bodega. But what does the truth matter when you’re being paid to get people to file comments with the SEC?
They say that shareholder proposals depress shareholder value. Not true. Chris casually mentions that he thinks he saw a report that “these” mutual funds (I thought we were talking about proxy advisors?) are “performing 44 percent weaker.” Again, providing no documentation because there isn’t any. “You’re getting almost half of your money stolen and given to things like abortion and open borders,” Holly says, completely fabricated. She says shareholder proposals give money to groups that oppose the Second Amendment and the First Amendment (while here urging her followers to support a rule that violates the First Amendment by interfering with the right to publish independent research and analysis) and the right to life and support open borders.
She says that this is a liberal vs. conservative issue. Not true. Conservatives are, at least in theory, in favor of minimal regulation of the free market. She says that whoever sends in the most comments “wins.” Not true. There are extensive rules governing the regulatory process requiring fairness, expertise, and a robust cost-benefit-analysis.
And Holly Turner accuses commenters opposed to the rule of not being “real Americans” with “real jobs” and she accuses “liberal organizations” of being nasty. We cannot think of anything nastier than hiding your funders and lying about the most fundamental, easily provable facts in order to protect enormous, powerful corporations from non-binding, advisory-only feedback from their shareholders.
We note the inconsistency with Turner’s stated commitment to advocating for free markets on her consulting firm’s website.
A reminder — we are not a proxy advisory firm and do not get paid by them or anyone else for expressing our views on these issues. VEA Chair Robert A.G. Monks and Vice Chair Nell Minow were co-founders of proxy advisory firm ISS in 1986 but left in 1989 and 1990. We recommend this excellent post from James McRitchie on the subject of this dark money fake news effort by Turner.