November 26, 2002
Jonathan G. Katz, Secretary
Re: Comments regarding file numbers S7-36-02 and S7-38-02
Dear Secretary Katz:
I was pleased to see the recent action toward proxy voting disclosure taken by the Securities and Exchange Commission. At a time when investors are looking to the Commission to restore confidence in our financial markets, we support the Commission's proposed new rule that would require companies managing mutual funds to disclose guidelines and individual proxy voting decisions at publicly-held companies.
Through our trust department, Amalgamated Bank invests approximately $6 billion of the assets of employee benefit plans in corporate securities. Though we do not manage a mutual fund, we do offer commingled investment funds to our employee benefit investors and provide semi-annual reports of our guidelines and proxy votes at 1500 companies to each client. We know that it is our duty to provide this information regularly. Our experience with investors is that many take a strong interest in our proxy-voting record. Since some of these same clients are also invested in mutual funds, we do not find credible the claim of some in the industry that clients have no interest in proxy voting information.
I understand from your February 12, 2002 letter to John Higgins of Ram Trust Services that shareholding voting rights are viewed as an asset subject to the fiduciary obligations of the Investment Company Act. The Commission's proposed new rule provides a standard of disclosure that would be applied equally to all investment companies. I believe the final rule should be at least as strong and comprehensive as the language proposed by the Commission.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment.