The Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday announced a series of steps to improve education about proxy voting and increase investor participation in corporate elections in advance of the new proxy disclosure requirements, which take effect Feb. 28.

“Investor participation in elections at companies they own is critical to effective corporate governance,” said SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro. “The recent changes to the voting rules for the election of directors have increased the importance of voter participation.”

The new measures include amending the SEC's e-proxy rules to improve participation, issuing an investor alert and creating new online resources that explain the proxy voting process in plain English.

The e-proxy rules have been amended to clarify and provide additional flexibility for companies and their investors who rely on e-proxy, including the requirement to send out notices to shareholders notifying them that proxy materials are available online and by mail upon request. Also, an investor alert will notify investors about changes to proxy rules regarding broker voting, and a new spotlight page will provide investors with information on the mechanics of proxy voting, the e-proxy rules, corporate elections and other proxy matters.

“We designed these new resources to help investors better understand the materials they will receive in connection with annual meetings of shareholders and how to vote by proxy in corporate elections,” said Lori Schock, director of the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy.

“The right to vote in corporate elections is a key investor right,” she said.

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