The Securities and Exchange Commission needs to speed up its examination of the shareholder proposal process if a reform proposal is to be implemented in time for the next proxy season, according to SEC Commissioner Steven M.H. Wallman.
As things stand, he says, any changes the agency recommends might come too late to let investors express their views on workplace issues to companies in the 1998 season.
The SEC is studying responses it received to a questionnaire sent earlier this year to investors and corporations. The agency is required to submit recommendations to Congress before Oct. 11.
In a May 6 letter to Rep. Thomas J. Manton, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Finance and Hazardous Materials subcommittee, Mr. Wallman wrote: "Given the months already spent on the questionnaires, and the time still to be spent analyzing them, coupled with the likely schedule for completing the study and reviewing the broader issues, I am skeptical that any broad-based reform proposal . . . could be implemented in time for next year's proxy season."
Current SEC policies let companies exclude from their proxy statements any shareholder proposals dealing with workplace issues on grounds that they are ordinary business matters and not of concern to investors. If examination of the proposal process cannot be handled more quickly, the agency should simply change this policy, Mr. Wallman wrote.