James McRitchie, Corpgov.net: Historic Context for Retail Investor Rights, 2018

James McRitchie, Editor, CorpGov.net

While at one time, ownership of a single share of stock came with the right to submit a proposal without restriction as to number or subject, in 1983 the SEC decided it made sense to impose a modest but low submission requirement, setting the threshold at $1,000 held for at least one year. The SEC raised this to $2,000 in 1998, “to adjust for inflation” but did not raise it higher “in light of rule 14a-8’s goal of providing an avenue of communication for small investors.” (File No. S7-25-97)

A study of 286 shareholder proposals submitted between 1944 and 1951 found that 137 or 47% were submitted by the Gilbert brothers. (The SEC Proxy Proposal Rule: The Corporate Gadfly, p. 830 av) The fact that three families submit a disproportionately high number of proposals is not historically unusual.

Without early ‘gadflies’ like the Gilberts and Wilma Soss, shareholders would not have the right to file proposals, vote on auditors, or have executive pay disclosed and there would be even fewer women directors.

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