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SEC Paves Way for More Proxy Votes on Climate Change

  • Agency makes it harder to exclude shareholder proposals
  • Public companies may face wave of votes on social issues
Gary Gensler
Gary GenslerPhotographer: Melissa Lyttle/Bloomberg
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Corporate executives may soon hear a lot more from investors about climate change and social issues after Wall Street’s top watchdog took steps to make it easier for proposals on these topics to get a vote at annual shareholder meetings. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission issued guidance Wednesday specifying public companies shouldn’t exclude shareholder plans from proxy ballots just because the ideas aren’t related to a firm’s business. They agency also said it plans to be more skeptical when companies ask for permission to withhold certain proposals on the grounds that top managers consider them to be inappropriately intrusive.