According to a statement from the SEC, the amendments address concerns voiced by investors and industry stakeholders regarding the proxy voting advice rules established under the Trump administration.
Agency leaders say the principal idea of the new proposal is that climate change and other ESG factors can be financially material and, when they are, considering them will inevitably lead to better long-term risk-adjusted returns.
The language of the regulation has not yet emerged, but the title published by the Department of Labor suggests it will address both ESG and proxy voting matters.
The department says it will not pursue enforcement actions against any plan fiduciary for failure to comply, and it plans to release further guidance on the issues.
Democrats used Gary Gensler’s confirmation hearing to speak to issues of racial and wealth inequality exacerbated by the pandemic—which has killed more than 500,000 Americans and caused a surge in unemployment—while Republicans focused squarely on the potential of government overreach.
The final regulation includes delayed compliance dates to January 31, 2022, for certain recordkeeping and proxy voting requirements.
Negative reactions immediately piled in from concerned stakeholders and consumer advocates who say the proxy voting rule amendments will stifle shareholder engagement.
As with its guidance related to environmental, social and governance investing, the Department of Labor’s stance on proxy voting and other forms of retirement plan investor shareholder rights has become a political football.
Along with the rule about ESG investing in retirement plans, attorneys say, the DOL is making it clear it doesn't want plan fiduciaries spending time on things it says have no impact on plans.
Provisions of the proposal articulate general duties requiring fiduciaries to vote any proxy where the fiduciary prudently determines that the matter being voted upon would have an economic impact on the plan.
Advocacy organizations representing the fiduciary advisory industry are smarting after the Securities and Exchange Commission finalized restrictive new proxy voting rules.
In addition to the ambitious Regulation Best Interest package, the securities and market regulator is making significant changes to the proxy voting landscape and its rules for adviser advertising.
Both the Department of Labor and the Securities and Exchange Commission are revisiting their proxy voting rules, creating an opportunity for greater regulatory alignment.
The Investment Adviser Association says the SEC’s proxy voting guidance will increase costs for advisers and also increase barriers to entry for proxy advisory firms.