The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing yesterday titled “Reforming the Proxy Process to Safeguard Investor Interests”—and NAM Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram was there to represent manufacturers. The committee is in the middle of a monthlong series of hearings on environmental, social and governance topics and other issues related to the proxy process.
The background: Manufacturers often face challenges from politically motivated activists who use the proxy voting process to gain attention for issues unrelated to the companies’ success, and from a Securities and Exchange Commission that has empowered these activists.
The topline: At the hearing, Netram called on Congress to rein in the SEC’s regulatory overreach, keep activists out of the boardroom and protect Americans’ investments in manufacturing growth.
- “Focusing on financial returns helps businesses grow and safeguards investors’ retirement security,” said Netram. “But in recent years, third parties have hijacked the proxy process to distract companies from this duty: activists use the proxy ballot to advance political and social agendas, proxy firms dictate corporate governance decisions, and the SEC is empowering these groups—while also proposing ESG disclosure mandates of its own.”
Depoliticizing corporate governance: Netram called on Congress to stop activists from abusing the proxy ballot to pursue social and political agendas. That means preventing the SEC from forcing companies to include irrelevant proposals on their ballots, and instituting further reforms like making it harder for activists to resubmit the same unpopular proposals regularly.
- “Turning the proxy ballot into a debate club diverts time and resources away from shareholder value creation and forces companies to wade into controversial topics over which they have no control,” said Netram. “Congress must prevent the SEC from forcing companies to include irrelevant proposals on their ballots.”
NAM in the news: CNBC cited Netram’s testimony to the committee.
Read the full story here.