Proxy Contests in an Era of Increasing Shareholder Power: Forget Issuer Proxy Access and Focus on E-Proxy
Jeffrey N. Gordon
Columbia Law School; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)
ECGI - Law Working Paper No. 92/2008
Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper No. 322
Vanderbilt Law Review, Forthcoming
The current debate over shareholder access to the issuer's proxy for the purpose of making director nomination is both overstated in its importance and misses the serious issue in question. The Securities Exchange Commission's new e-proxy rules, which permit reliance on proxy materials posted on a website, should substantially reduce the production and distribution cost differences between a meaningful contest waged via issuer proxy access and a freestanding proxy solicitation. The serious question relates to the appropriate disclosure required of a shareholder nominator no matter which avenue is used. Institutional investors and other shareholder activists should focus their energies on working through the mechanics of waging short-slate proxy contests using e-proxy solicitations. Activist institutions need to prepare the disclosure package required under the existing proxy rules. Such disclosure may be tested (and refined) through litigation, but a standardized package should emerge relatively quickly that the institution could use in proxy contests without a control motive. Institutional investors need to become facile with the e-proxy model (including coordinating a practice for opting-in to web-access) and should appreciate the extent to which proxy advisory services will do much of the actual solicitation work. If institutions are unwilling to make the relatively modest investment to master the mechanics of e-proxy contest, both in their initiation as well as voting in support of them, then their role in corporate governance will necessarily be limited.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
Keywords: corporate governance, institutional investor, proxy contests, shareholders, directors
JEL Classification: D70, G30, G34, G38, K22, M14
Date posted: January 20, 2008 ; Last revised: March 10, 2008
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