As reported in our previous client alert, on September 6, 2019, the staff in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Corporation Finance (the Division) announced important changes to the Division’s process for administering Rule 14a-8 no-action requests regarding shareholder proposals. Specifically, the staff may respond orally rather than in writing to no-action requests. Moreover, the staff may decide not to take a position on the merits of certain requests, thus leaving to the company the decision of whether to include or exclude the shareholder proposal.
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A recent successful effort by a public company to exclude an environmental proposal from its proxy statement may signal a new approach for boards of directors to consider when managing shareholder proposals. Because retailers and consumer products companies routinely receive shareholder proposals on environmental and sustainability issues, similar arguments for exclusion may be persuasive to the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the future.
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