Donald Trump may think that Jay Powell is the worst appointment he’s made as president, but as on so many other points, he is wrong. Don’t believe a pinko cuck like myself? Well, just ask Carl Icahn.
Don’t get Uncle Carl wrong: He admires much of the other Jay’s (Clayton) oeuvre as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He loves how little regulating he’s done as the country’s top securities regulator, and how much that laziness has rubbed off on the rest of the SEC. Sure, that penchant for inaction has meant that the SEC hasn’t participated as much as Carl might have liked in the regulatory bonfire he lit back in the early days of the Trump administration, but nobody’s perfect. (Even he, for instance, cannot beat his son at chess.)
Still, Carl Icahn didn’t insert himself into the president’s ear to have people make things harder for him. Shareholder activism is hard enough, if you ask him. And Jay Clayton for some reason seems dead-set on making activism much harder for Icahn and his ilk, by making it way easier for the kind of idiots running America’s companies into the group to waste further shareholder capital to sue proxy advisers who have the gall to occasionally agree with, say, Carl Icahn. Since he can’t (yet) buy a significant stake in a federal agency and send angry letters agitating for change to its leaders, Icahn’s going to settle for writing a letter to the editor (and possibly making a quick phone call to Washington after "Fox and Friends").
A new proposal by the Securities and Exchange Commission is now poised to make it even more difficult and expensive to practice activist investing…. Now any public company can claim any omission or fact in a proxy advisory report is “false” or “misleading,” a much lower litigation standard. This is akin to newspapers facing liability for publishing articles critical of an incumbent politician. Even worse, on Nov. 5 the SEC proposed a new rule that would require proxy advisory firms to give a preview of their reports to the very companies that are the subjects of those reports—this before investors can read the advice they purchased. This odd arrangement would allow corporations to interfere with advisers’ research—a recipe for disaster./For the first time in modern history the SEC is making it harder to be a shareholder. That would be an unfortunate legacy in an administration that has prioritized reducing burdensome regulations.