April 20, 2008
Ahdieh on Rule 14a-8
The Dialectical Regulation of Rule 14a-8: Intersystemic Governance in Corporate Law, by ROBERT B. AHDIEH, Emory University School of Law; Program in Law and Public Affairs, was recently posted on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In recent years, Rule 14a-8 of the Securities Exchange Act - first adopted more than sixty years ago to increase shareholder participation in corporate governance - has been the subject of a flurry of litigation, scholarly analysis, and SEC rulemaking. Most recently, following several years of debate, the SEC issued a significant clarification of the rule, reversing the Second Circuit's hotly contested interpretation of it in AFSCME v. AIG. For the most part, the debates surrounding Rule 14a-8 - including in the latter case - have focused on the scope of the rule's exceptions. This paper, selected for reprinting in the Securities Law Review's forthcoming volume of the year's top securities law articles, attempts to go beyond those exceptions, to suggest a fundamental rethinking of the nature and operation of the rule.
Specifically, the paper explores Rule 14a-8 as an occasion for what I have termed "intersystemic governance" - an embrace of cross-jurisdictional overlap and engagement in regulatory design and function. In its very structure, thus, Rule 14a-8 calls on the SEC to interpret and apply state law. Properly utilized, this scheme offers an opportunity for the development of regulatory norms that meaningfully integrate both federal and state values of corporate governance and shareholder participation. To this end, among other reforms, I propose a shift in the SEC presumptions applicable to no-action letters, praise Delaware's recent constitutional amendment to permit SEC certification of questions to the Delaware courts, and highlight various opportunities for heightened discourse. By means such as these, a more integrated - and ultimately more efficient - regime of shareholder participation may begin to emerge.
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