The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has abandoned a key point of its proposal to clamp down on the power of proxy advisers in an apparent victory for activist funds that have pushed back against the new guidance.
The market regulator has ditched the portion of the proposal that would have forced proxy advisers to submit their voting recommendations to companies for review before disseminating them to investors, according to the Financial Times.
The proposal, first advanced in November, was backed by various business groups, including the U.S. Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). These have argued that the advisory business has grown out of control and wields too much power in proxy battles, with some even accusing the firms of catering to the wishes of activist groups.
Activists investors such as Elliott Management, Pershing Square Capital Management, and Carl Icahn spoke out against the changes. In an early March comment letter to the SEC, a lobby group sponsored by the activist funds said the proposal was “seriously flawed.”
However, the SEC is considering other ways to limit the influence of proxy advisers, pondering the implementation of a so-called “speed bump” that would essentially make it less likely for shareholders to blindly follow the voting recommendations issued by proxy advisers, people familiar with the matter told the newswire.
The reworked proposal, floated last month by SEC commissioner Elad Roisman, would require proxy advisers to disable any automatic submission features, giving companies more time to rebut a recommendation with which they disagree.
However, Elliott argued in a March 30 letter to the market regulator that a speed bump “would raise a serious question” about the final rule’s legality.