SEC Orders Enhanced Reporting of Proxy Votes By Investment Managers

Statement by Commissioner Caroline A. Crenshaw on the SEC’s updated proxy vote disclosure rules:

Commission rules often focus on corporate transparency and helping investors understand how their money – their ownership stake of U.S. companies – is used. Today’s rule does just that. When the Commission adopted Form N-PX in 2003, it stated that investors in mutual funds have a “fundamental right” to know how proxy votes are being cast on their behalf

Today’s amendments build on that foundation in a number of ways:

First, the information reported on Form N-PX will be easier to analyze, digest, and access. For example, proxy votes will be broken into specific, standardized categories. Votes will be listed using the same language, and in the same order, as the issuer’s form of proxy. The Form N-PX will be filed using a structured data language that will make it easier for reporting persons to prepare and submit the information accurately, increase the utility of the information submitted, and ultimately, be more readable by the end user. And, proxy voting records will be publicly available on fund websites.

Second, pursuant to the 2010 Dodd-Frank mandate, the final rule requires that certain large institutional investment managers report their proxy votes on matters of executive compensation (“say-on-pay” votes). This covers proxy votes relating to the approval of executive officer compensation, the frequency of executive compensation approval votes, and the approval of so-called “golden parachute” compensation in connection with mergers or acquisitions.

Additionally, the rule will clarify that the reported proxy disclosures should reflect a fund’s securities lending activities – or, shares that were loaned out but not recalled for voting purposes. This closes what is a wide gap in the current disclosure regime, which can lead to an incomplete picture of proxy voting practices.

With the passage of today’s amendments, investors will have better insight into fund governance of portfolio companies, which can improve shareholder value. Additionally, investors can further distinguish voting practices or share lending practices among different funds, or verify fund claims of active stewardship. The amendments will further act as a deterrent to fund advisers who might be motivated to vote corporate proxies based on their own economic or personal interests, rather than those of their investors.

I started today’s statement by noting transparency as an impetus behind today’s rule. Well, transparency goes hand-in-hand with accountability. When investors have better information about fund proxy voting records – including information about the governance and stewardship provided by funds to their portfolio companies – those investors can better allocate their hard-earned capital in line with their goals and preferences. [emphasis added; footnotes omitted] | Statement on Enhanced Reporting of Proxy Votes

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