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NAM Fights Back Against SEC About-Face

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As the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission turns its back on a bipartisan agreement on proxy advisory firms, the NAM is taking action.

The background: In 2020, the NAM supported—and the SEC finalized—a major rule to increase oversight and transparency with regard to proxy advisory firms. These unregulated and unaccountable entities influence publicly traded companies by recommending how institutional asset managers should vote in corporate proxy contests.

  • Since last January, the SEC’s new leadership has taken steps to undermine and reverse the 2020 rule. The NAM has filed suit against the SEC for refusing to enforce the 2020 rule, called on the agency to provide “reliable rules of the road” and opposed a proposed rule to reduce proxy firm oversight.

The new rule: Yesterday, the SEC released a final rule that rescinds many of the critical reforms the NAM secured in 2020. Specifically, the new rule removes requirements for proxy firms to engage with impacted companies and their shareholders, and it weakens the 2020 rule’s anti-fraud provisions.

Arbitrary and capricious: The SEC is making these substantial changes absent any new evidence—because the 2020 rule was never allowed to take effect. It has also failed to articulate a satisfactory policy justification. Federal agencies are prohibited from issuing regulations that are “arbitrary and capricious”—an easy descriptor for the SEC’s actions given the agency’s abrupt and unjustified about-face.

NAM in action: The NAM announced yesterday that it plans to file suit against the SEC to preserve the 2020 rule. It will argue that the SEC’s decision to change course without allowing the 2020 rule to take effect and be fairly evaluated epitomizes arbitrary and capricious rulemaking.

What we’re saying: “The SEC has offered no justification for abandoning a decade’s worth of bipartisan, consensus-driven policymaking,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “This move will undoubtedly harm the competitiveness of publicly traded manufacturers, and it will hurt Main Street investors.”

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