The Securities and Exchange Commission took a first step yesterday in requiring mutual funds to disclose their proxy voting policies and their actual proxy votes cast.

The proposal, which would affect both mutual funds and registered investment advisers, is supposed to enable shareholders to monitor their funds’ involvement in the governance activities of companies.

"If adopted, these proposals would give investors fundamental information about the practices of those who vote proxies on their behalf," SEC Chairman Harvey L. Pitt said in a statement. "They also would discourage or expose proxy voting conflicts of interest. The securities belong to fund investors, who are entitled to know how their property is being voted."

The SEC also proposed requiring investment advisers to adopt written policies governing their exercise of voting authority with respect to client securities. Advisers would also be required to inform clients about these policies and make proxy election information available to investors.

The SEC is accepting opinions on the proposed proxy requirements over the next 60 days.

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