Timmons: Proxy Advisory Firms Pose Threat to Main Street Investors
By: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons
December 12, 2018
“. . . Today, institutional investors—including the brokerages and money managers that maintain Americans’ retirement accounts—control nearly 80 percent of the stocks and equities traded on U.S. exchanges.
“With such large stakes in American businesses, they have a big say in corporate decision-making and governance when a vote is put before shareholders. They often turn to outside advisers, called proxy advisory firms, to guide those decisions.
“Seeking outside advice makes sense, but many of the practices of these proxy advisory firms do not. That can lead them to give advice that isn’t in the best interest of a company, which in turn harms a Main Street investor saving for retirement.
. . .
“[S]ome proxy firm reports have been found to be riddled with errors. They can get basic facts about a company wrong—and some won’t even let companies correct those errors without paying a fee, if at all.
. . .
“In addition, proxy advisory firms often have conflicts of interest and can let views of political activists on issues unrelated to a company’s business color their recommendations.
“Such conflicts lead to advice—sometimes ultimatums—that could harm a company’s growth, which, again, is why Americans invest in the stock market in the first place. They want those companies, and therefore their savings, to grow.
“With all this power, proxy advisory firms should be subject to reasonable government oversight.
. . .
“And why do manufacturers care? First, we employ more than 12.5 million people, two-thirds of whom participate in a workplace retirement plan. We want manufacturing workers to have confidence that their retirement savings are going to help them achieve the retirement they hope to have.
“Second, the capital raised through the stock market helps manufacturers grow right here in America. It means jobs. It means investments in communities. It means new factories and new equipment.
“To develop life-changing products and technologies, manufacturers must invest in expensive research and development. A well-functioning stock market allows manufacturers to finance this growth.
“Proxy advisory firms can influence money managers’ decisions about a manufacturing company’s governance. If they are giving bad advice, bad decisions will be made.
. . .
“It is time for the SEC to act . . .”
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) 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 million men and women, contributes $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters 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 Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.