April 2, 2010
SEC Rule 14a-4(a)(3) states the proxy "shall identify clearly and impartially each separate matter intended to be acted upon, whether or not related to or conditioned on the approval of other matters, and whether proposed by the registrant or by security holders."
Broadridge claims they don't have to follow the rules required for proxies because they use a Voter Information Form (VIF), not a legal proxy. Broadridge can apparently reference a shareholder proposal however they want, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say however the issuer wants. The SEC doesnt appear to be either aware or concerned that retail shareowners getting VIFs, not proxies, have no idea what they are voting for or against without referencing back to the Definitive Proxy Statement. With only about 20% of retail shareowners voting (5% under e-proxy), it is likely that many who do choose to vote do so based only on the ballot description.
John Chevedden is attempting to bring this concern once again to the SEC's attention, using his proposal at Altera as an example. (See his CheveddenToSECreAltera4-1-2010. For additional background on this issue, see previous post Investors Against Genocide Fighting American Funds, Broadridge and Vague SEC Requirements: More Problems Solved Using Direct Registration.)
Here's how Broadridge/Altera represent the proposal on the VIF, which most retail shareowners get:
"TO CONSIDER A STOCKHOLDER PROPOSAL REQUESTING THAT BOARD TAKE THE STEPS NECESSARY SO THAT EACH STOCKHOLDER VOTING REQUIREMENT IN ALTERA S CERTIFICATE OF INCORPORATION."
What the...? That's not a statement it is nothing but gobbledygook. Here's how Chevedden's actual resolved statement reads:
"Shareholders request that our board take the steps necessary so that each shareholder voting requirement in our charter and bylaws, that calls for a greater than simple majority vote, be changed to a majority of the votes cast for and against the proposal in compliance with applicable laws. This includes each 80% supermajority provision in our charter and bylaws."
Of course, this and many other issues could be corrected if we moved to direct registration of all shares. However, in the meantime the SEC should simply rule that all requirements for proxy statements, such as Rule 14a-4(a)(3), also apply to VIFs.(Attached File #1: 2652504-1.pdf)