NATIONAL Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) CEO Jeff Morgan noted in his weekly message yesterday that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) wants companies to help educate retail investors about proxy voting by adding links on their websites to the SEC’s educational materials.
This is the second consecutive year that Morgan has gone to bat for the SEC by urging his organization’s members to help educate retail shareholders, whose participation in annual meetings has plummeted in recent years due to some bad rule changes and public disaffection with corporations and their boards.
Both this year and last, Morgan provided links to the SEC’s materials in his posts. This year his pitch has a notable edginess with a bullet point reading:
• Do you care about the retail shareholder vote? The SEC hopes you do, and has provided a few helpful sites you may want to add to your corporate website: Spotlight on Proxy Matters and Shareholder Voting.
I say good for NIRI and Jeff Morgan for trying to cajole members into doing their part to improve investor awareness about the important proxy voting process. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that many are listening.
Only 5 corporate sites link
Using the Yahoo! Site Explorer web utility, I tracked down which corporate websites are linking to the SEC’s educational content that NIRI is promoting. I came up with just five companies that have added links in the past year.
Four sites link to the SEC’s proxy matters page on SEC.gov. They are Flowers Foods, Rogers Corporation, The Hartford, and Dell. Meanwhile, Quest Diagnostics was the only corporate site I could find that linked to the SEC’s investor alert on the 2010 proxy changes. No companies are currently linking to the new shareholder voting page on the commission’s Investor.gov site.
That’s a dismal showing considering that NIRI’s urging has been buttressed by many law firm memos out to clients, plus a lot of media attention to the issue of low retail investor participation.
Even if you take into account that companies may be posting their own educational materials or linking to information provided by others, that so few companies have heeded the SEC’s call for support tells you everything you really need to know about the corporate community’s commitment to getting out the retail shareholder vote.