Manufacturers won a victory yesterday as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published new guidance regarding proxy advisory firms, outlining how institutional investors should monitor their use and setting the stage for more effective oversight of the proxy firm business.
Investment advisers and fund managers who oversee Americans’ retirement savings are empowered to have a voice in the policies of the companies in which the fund invests. These fund managers often turn for assistance to proxy firms to recommend votes on company policies. As a result, proxy advisory firms have enormous influence over the corporate governance policies of U.S. public companies, impacting the direction of businesses they have no stake in and the life savings of Main Street investors. Unfortunately, a lack of oversight means proxy advisory firms can operate with undisclosed conflicts of interest and inadequate transparency, implement one-size-fits-all decision-making, and make errors that impose significant costs and damaging policies on manufacturers and workers.
The SEC’s guidance clarifies how investment advisers can utilize these firms, representing a significant step toward vital investor protections. In particular, the guidance outlines the due diligence that fund managers have to undertake when relying on a proxy firm’s services and identifies factors, such as errors, conflicts of interest, and methodological weaknesses, that fund managers should be on the lookout for.
“This decision is a big win for manufacturers across the country,” said Charles Crain, Director of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy at the National Association of Manufacturers. “With this guidance, the SEC is providing a roadmap for asset managers to protect Main Street investors’ best interests and laying the groundwork for improved oversight of the proxy advisory industry—and a smarter, more informed environment for millions of manufacturers and middle-class Americans.”
The SEC’s guidance echoes specific requests made by the NAM in their March 5 comment letter, in which the organization called for more clarity around “how investment advisers can utilize independent third parties in order to ensure that proxy voting decisions are made in the best interests of the middle-class Americans whose retirement accounts are at stake.”
The NAM has also requested additional rules that would implement direct SEC oversight of proxy advisory firms. The SEC yesterday issued interpretive guidance that its proxy rules do apply to firms providing proxy advice, and manufacturers are optimistic that further reforms will be considered and addressed by the SEC in the coming months.
“This SEC announcement represents critical direction for investment advisers and demonstrates the SEC’s understanding of the fiduciary duty these money managers owe to Americans nationwide,” said Crain. “We’re thankful that yesterday’s guidance provides critical guardrails manufacturers have called for, and we look forward to continuing this conversation to ensure that proxy voting decisions are made in the best interests of Americans saving for a secure retirement.”
Washington, D.C. – Ahead of the midterm elections, the National Association of Manufacturers released its policy roadmap, “Competing to Win,” a comprehensive blueprint featuring immediate solutions for bolstering manufacturers’ competitiveness. It is also a roadmap for policymakers on the laws and regulations needed to strengthen the manufacturing industry in the months and years ahead.
With the country facing rising prices, snarled supply chains and geopolitical turmoil, manufacturers are outlining an actionable competitiveness agenda that Americans across the political spectrum can support. “Competing to Win” includes the policies manufacturers in America will need in place to continue driving the country forward.
“‘Competing to Win’ offers a path for bringing our country together around policies, shared values and a unified purpose,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “The NAM is putting forward a plan filled with ideas that policymakers could pursue immediately, including solutions to urgent problems, such as energy security, immigration reform, supply chain disruptions, the ongoing workforce shortage and more. Manufacturers have shown incredible resilience through difficult times, employing more workers now than before the pandemic, but continued resilience is not guaranteed without the policies that are critical to the state of manufacturing in America.”
The NAM and its members will leverage “Competing to Win” to shape policy debates ahead of the midterm elections, in the remainder of the 117th Congress and at the start of the 118th Congress—including in direct engagement with lawmakers, for grassroots activity, across traditional and digital media and through events in key states and districts as we did following the initial rollout of the roadmap in 2016.
The document focuses on 12 areas of action, and all policies are rooted in the values that have made America exceptional and keep manufacturing strong: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.
Learn more about how manufacturers are leading and about the industry’s competitiveness agenda at nam.org/competing-to-win.
The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.77 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 58% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org