October 7, 2007
Dear Chairman Cox:
Our country's around the world is in dire straits. As a global citizen I feel the same and am concerned about our future ability to move freely about the world with our U.S. Passport. Something has to be done to improve our image, especially in terms of the transparency of our business practices.
I am writing today to ask the Commission to preserve a critical tool for corporate accountability and investor protection: the nonbinding shareholder proposal. Shareholder proposals have helped to promote transparency, improve corporate governance and performance, and raise important issues ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to sweatshops to sustainability reporting. In this way, investors have also brought visibility to important business risks that can have a profound impact on the value of our investments.
I am concerned that questions raised by the SEC may lead to the restriction or elimination of shareholders' rights to propose advisory resolutions under Rule 14a-8. As an investor, I regard shareholder resolutions as a valuable tool for shareholders to make their voices heard about the direction of our companies. I specifically oppose granting companies the ability to "opt out" of the shareholder resolution process, substituting electronic petitions or chat rooms for resolutions, or increasing the percentage vote required for resubmission in subsequent years.
It is to the credit of the SEC and our democratic system that small investors as well as large ones can participate in this process. Many of the most critical corporate reforms of recent years have been promoted by these small individual and institutional investors. The current proxy rules have facilitated a rich and diverse dialogue on some of the most critical issues of our time, from climate change to excessive executive compensation. I urge you to keep these current rules in place.
The many corporate scandals of recent years have underlined the importance of more communication, more transparency, and more accountability - not less. Nonbinding shareholder resolutions have proven effective in holding companies accountable to their owners. I ask that the Commission safeguard, not undermine, their use.
Please let me know what action you intend to take on this issue.
Richard Berkfield III