The Times They Are A-Changin' -- S.E.C., Shifting Its Position, Backs Health Care Balloting
The Securities and Exchange Commission, shifting its position, has told companies they must allow shareholders to vote on a proposal for universal health insurance coverage.
Shareholders, including religious groups and labor unions, have offered the proposal in an effort to draw the nation’s largest corporations deeper into a debate over the future of health care, fast emerging as one of the most important issue in domestic policy.
This came as a surprise to many executives, who said the agency had allowed companies to exclude similar proposals in the past.
Many companies say the health care principles are not a proper matter for shareholders to vote on, and they have tried to keep the proposal out of proxy statements prepared for their 2008 annual meetings.
Opposition from businesses was one of the major factors that sank President Bill Clinton’s proposal for universal coverage in 1994. But businesses of all sizes are clamoring for relief from high health costs and have concluded they cannot solve the problem by themselves.
Under the commission’s rules, a company does not have to allow shareholders to vote on a proposal if it “deals with a matter relating to the company’s ordinary business operations,” for which management is responsible.
But the commission said it was appropriate for shareholders to express their views to company management by voting on “significant social policy issues” beyond day-to-day business matters.