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SEC Investor Advisory Committee gets to work

The SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee has kicked off its first meeting with an ambitious and far-reaching agenda.Sets Ambitious Agenda. At its inaugural meeting July 27, the committee, which includes institutional governance heavyweights Hye-Won Choi (TIAA-CREF), Mark Anson (Nuveen Investments), Abe Friedman (Barclays Global Investors), Dennis Johnson (Shamrock Activist Fund) and Damon Silvers (AFL-CIO), as well as the Council of Institutional Investor’s Executive Director Ann Yerger, agreed to consider the following broad spectrum of topics:

  • Fiduciary duty: Should all financial intermediaries who provide investment advice to their customers be subject to the same fiduciary duties, and how should those duties be defined?
  • Majority Voting: Should majority voting for directors be mandatory for all U.S. companies? Although most large U.S. companies have adopted a form of majority voting, many other companies still enable directors to be elected based only on plurality support.
  • Director-Investor Communications: Are there more effective ways for investors and directors to communicate with one another and what steps can the commission take to facilitate dialogue and help ensure that corporate manager interests are aligned with investor interests?
  • Proxy Voting: Do investors — both institutional and individual — have the information they need to make informed proxy voting decisions, and are these decisions effective in holding corporate directors accountable? Does the proxy voting process and system foster informed decision-making? Should there be more transparency to the market about investors’ proxy decisions? What is the role of proxy advisory firms, and should they be subject to more oversight by the commission?
  • Proper disclosures: Does the information that investors currently receive — both before making an investment decision and afterwards — meet their needs, and if not, what changes are necessary to ensure that investors have the information that they need, when they need it?
  • Sustainability/SRI:Do investors consider environmental compliance, climate change and sustainability issues important in making investment or voting decisions?
  • Technology: Can technology be better used to improve the flow of information to and from investors?
  • Financial Literacy: Should there be a distinction between “investor information” and “investor education,” and if so, what is that distinction? What is the role of “financial literacy,” and how can the SEC promote early education of these issues?
  • Valuation: Do investors fully understand the role that underlying asset valuation plays in portfolio and fund valuation?
  • Resources: Does the SEC have the resources it needs to effectively achieve its investor protection mission?

“The formation of this committee is a signal of the commission’s renewed focus on investors and I am very pleased with the energy that the committee members brought to the discussions,” noted SEC Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar, who serves as the committee’s sponsor and chief liaison to the commission.

Several subcommittees will be formed to help organize the work and bring in additional external expertise

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What do you think?