November 8, 2018
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) roundtable on the proxy process is fast-approaching. In preparation for the roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have launched a six-figure ad campaign to draw attention to the threats that unrestrained proxy advisory firms pose to the retirement funds of retail investors.
The ads, which appear in Politico, The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, The Daily Caller, CNBC, and across various social media platforms, call on Main Street investors with 401(k)s and pension plans to voice their concerns about the proxy advisory process to their legislators. A sample of the ads are below, and additional information about the campaign can be found at www.proxyreforms.com.
One ad reads:
You worked hard to save for retirement. But proxy advisory firms pose a growing risk. They sound harmless. But these companies have a far greater impact on publicly traded companies and their shareholders than anyone realizes. This industry is rife with conflicts, lacks transparency, and needs reform.
The ad campaign draws attention to an disturbing reality: the retirement incomes of millions of Americans are controlled by hugely powerful, but little-known, proxy advisory firms. And evidence is piling up to show that these groups are neglecting their fiduciary duties.
The problems with the proxy process extend further than retirement funds. A report published last month by the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) highlights the alarming frequency with which proxy advisors’ recommendations contain factual or analytical errors. Another report from the U.S. Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness (CCMC) on the 2018 proxy season survey found that more than half of the companies surveyed were not confident that advisory firms adequately researched or understood the issues they were voting on. What’s worse is that these firms are riddled with conflicts of interest, frequently placing politics over performance in decision-making, a trend detailed by another report published by ACCF.
In the past, proxy advisors have been able to take advantage of the public’s lack of awareness regarding proxy firms. This ad campaign bolsters the efforts of the Main Street Investors Coalition to shine a light on proxy advisory firms and prevent them from operating in the shadows any longer. The Coalition hopes to see the momentum continue in this space as the roundtable approaches. Main Street investors have made it known that they want to see a check on proxy advisors and want fund managers to prioritize returns on their investments.