Shareholders Should Be Allowed To Vote On Universal Health Coverage Proposal

Armen Hareyan's picture

The Securities and Exchange Commission, in a reversal of a previous position, hastold companies that they cannot exclude a health care proposal from proxymaterials provided to shareholders, the New YorkTimesreports. The proposal -- offered by religious groups, labor unions and othershareholders -- asks companies to adopt "principles for comprehensivehealth care reform."

Many companies have attempted to exclude the proposal from proxy materials fortheir annual shareholder meetings this year. During the last few months, SEChas told several companies -- such as Boeing, General Motors, UnitedTechnologies, Wendy's International and Xcel Energy -- that they must include theproposal in proxy materials.


SEC rules do not require companies to allow shareholders to vote on proposalsthat address issues "relating to the company's ordinary business operations."However, SEC said that companies must allow shareholders to vote on"significant social policy issues." In the past, SEC has allowedcompanies to exclude similar health care proposals from proxy materials, butthe commission appears to have reversed that position based on "changingsocietal views" on the issue.

According to the Times, the proposal seeks to "draw thenation's largest corporations deeper into a debate over the future of healthcare" and might help "bridge the divide that has frustrated earlierefforts to cover the uninsured." Many companies have opposed such effortsin the past, but "businesses of all sizes are clamoring for relief fromhigh health costs and have concluded they cannot solve the problem bythemselves," the Times reports (Pear, New York Times,5/27).

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