Subject: File No. S7-19-03
From: Patrick Christensen, MBA, CPA, CFP
Affiliation: Independent Financial Solutions, LLC
October 3, 2004
Dear Secretary Katz,
While I was heartened to see a proposed SEC rule to support greater democracy in the corporate elections process (shareholder proxy access), I have been frustrated and disappointed that the rule has not yet been enacted. If we want to maintain and strengthen our financial strength, it is imperative that shareholders' rights be empowered. Without the election of truly independent board members (the stock exchanges' definition of independence is weak and full of loopholes), we'll continue to witness an annual parade of corporate scandals and CEO enrichment, and board mismanagement.
The SEC should quickly pass a robust rule that provides fair and adequate mechanisms for company owners to place highly qualified and truly independent people on the proxy ballot. Only then can shareholders effectively hold individual board members accountable for their actions. And investors across the country strongly agree. The Commission has already received an overwhelming majority of comments in favor of proxy access - more than any other rule in the Commission's history. And a recent Pensions and Investments (9/20/04) editorial sums up investor frustration around this rule's delay: "The SEC proposal fits right into [President] Bush's ownership society...If the president wants individuals to have more control over their retirement assets and to assume more responsibility for them, he has to provide a way for shareholders to hold corporations - namely, directors - more accountable for their decisions."
The adopted rules should not require event-based triggers as barriers to entry. Shareholders should not have to wait for corporate malfeasance to nominate independent directors to a board. A threshold requirement should be sufficient to protect corporations from frivolous nominations.
Shareowners are willing to monitor board accountability in order to protect their hard-earned assets and retirement funds. Now it's up to the Commission to give us the proper tools to do so.
Patrick Christensen, MBA, CPA, CFP
Independent Financial Solutions, LLC