On October 16, the staff of the Division of Corporation Finance (Staff) of the Securities and Exchange Commission issued Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14K (SLB). The SLB provides new guidance regarding the Staff’s views as to when registrants may properly exclude, pursuant to Rule 14a-8(i)(7) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, shareholder proposals under the “ordinary business” exception.
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On November 1, the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (Division) published Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14I (SLB 14I), which provides new, issuer-friendly guidance on shareholder proposals in advance of the 2018 proxy season. Specifically, SLB 14I provides guidance on (1) exclusion of shareholder proposals under the “ordinary business” and “economic relevance” exceptions under Rule 14a-8 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; (2) proposals submitted on behalf of shareholders through a representative; and (3) the use of images in proposals.
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As previously reported in the Corporate and Financial Weekly Digest edition of October 30, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Corporation Finance (“Division”) issued Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14H (SLB 14H) on October 22, 2015. SLB 14H established a new standard for determining when a shareholder proposal conflicts with a company proposal (providing that a direct conflict would exist if a reasonable shareholder could not logically vote for both proposals) and therefore may be excluded from the company’s proxy statement under Rule 14a-8(i)(9).
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On March 22, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Corporation Finance issued a new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretation (C&DI) regarding how a registrant must describe a Rule 14a-8 shareholder proposal on its proxy card to be in compliance with Rule 14a-4 (a)(3) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.
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On February 12, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Corporation Finance (the Division) posted on its website 18 no-action letters relating to the exclusion of proxy access shareholder proposals under Rule 14a-8(i)(10). Rule 14a-8(i)(10) permits a company to exclude a shareholder proposal from its proxy statement if “the company has already substantially implemented the proposal.” In 15 of the 18 letters, the SEC granted issuers requested no-action relief, allowing them to exclude the shareholder proposals. In each case, the shareholder proposal sought adoption of a bylaw amendment that would permit shareholders holding a requisite threshold of shares to nominate board candidates for inclusion in the issuer’s proxy statement (i.e., a proxy access bylaw proposal).
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