July 18, 2011

Congress Batters the SEC (Again) By Cutting Its ’12 Budget

As noted in this NY Times’ article on Saturday, the House Appropriations Committee cut the SEC’s fiscal 2012 budget request by $222.5 million, to $1.19 billion (the same as this year’s), even though the SEC’s responsibilities were vastly expanded by Dodd-Frank. As I’ve blogged about numerous times before, the SEC needs to be self-funded because Congress is all too willing to play politics with this independent agency.

As noted in the article, cutting the SEC’s budget doesn’t help Congress in its battle to cut the federal deficit. In fact, this move hurts that effort because the SEC is funded out of fees it collects – and Section 991 of Dodd-Frank limits the fees that the SEC can collect by now tying the amount it is able to collect to its budget. Congress really shot itself in the foot when it included that provision in Dodd-Frank, but Wall Street and the corporate world have good lobbyists. Here’s an excerpt from the NYT article:

By way of comparison, in 2009 Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, two institutions the S.E.C. regulates, spent $4.6 billion each — four times the SEC’s entire annual budget – on information technology alone. Under the House’s proposed budget, the S.E.C.’s resources for technology would be cut by $10 million and a $50 million reserve fund earmarked for technology would be eliminated.

The Re-Introduction of the Shareholder Protection Act

Last week, several prominent members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives re-introduced the Shareholder Protection Act for debate. As noted in the Harvard Corporate Governance Blog, the bill – which originally passed the House last year – would establish corporate governance rules for deciding when corporate resources may be spent on politics. Although it appears that the bill is unlikely to be adopted during this Congress, its reintroduction might mean that it will continue to surface until a time comes when it has substantial support.

Meanwhile, as part of the efforts to reduce the federal deficit, Sen. Levin and Sen. Brown have introduced legislation – the “Ending Excessive Corporate Deductions for Stock Options Act” (S. 1375) – to end a corporate tax break allowing corporations to deduct stock option expenses on their tax returns in amounts greater than the expenses shown on their books

Proxy Season Results of Mobile Phone Voting

In this podcast, Joe Vicari describes how Broadridge facilitated voting by mobile devices during the proxy season (following up on this podcast), including:

– How many shareholders voted by mobile phone?
– Was this more than expected?
– Are you aware of any companies that made special efforts to notify their shareholders that they could vote by mobile phone?
– What do you recommend that companies do next year to boost their mobile phone voting rates?

– Broc Romanek