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US SEC© Chair says agency will propose “universal proxy ballot” rules

Publisher: Reuters
Author: Sarah Lynch

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is working to propose new rules to simplify the voting process for contested corporate board elections by permitting the use of so-called universal proxy ballots, SEC© Chair Mary Jo White said on Thursday.

In remarks prepared for a speech in Chicago, White said she has directed staff to draft recommendations for new rules amid concerns that shareholders do not have a “sufficient range of choice” when voting in contested company elections.

Currently, only shareholders who physically attend annual meetings are allowed to split their ticket in contested elections and vote for a mix of candidates nominated by company management and by large shareholders.

If they vote by proxy, they can generally only support one slate – management’s or the one nominated by shareholders.

Shareholder advocates, as well as SEC© Democratic Commissioner Kara Stein, have previously raised concerns about how this approach could limit shareholders and have called for rules to permit universal ballots so shareholders have more free choice.

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