Securities chief pushes Web tools for shareholders

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox on Tuesday touted his goal of letting investors use technology to give them a greater say in corporate governance.

In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development, Cox noted that several SEC rules proposed in recent months have furthered his agenda of empowering individual shareholders to play a greater role in the companies they own.

In prepared remarks, Cox singled out the agency's electronic proxy proposal, in which postcards would notify shareholders of proxy material online for their companies. The investors then could go online to search more quickly and efficiently for information than on paper statements.

"With more than 75 percent of Americans having access to the Internet -- and spending an average of 25 percent of their waking hours online -- it's high time to bring this revolutionary technology to the world of shareholder democracy," said Cox, who represented a wealthy Los Angeles suburb in the House before taking the helm at the SEC last year.

Cox added that by providing investors more usable information through the Web, "we can enable increased participation by better-informed shareholders."

He noted that in the aftermath of the corporate scandals at such companies as Enron and the former WorldCom, executives and directors "are taking the lead on ensuring the integrity of their controls and their financial reporting."

In conjunction with the speech, the Committee for Economic Development released a package of recommendations for policymakers in the aftermath of a 2002 corporate governance law designed to curtail boardroom malfeasance.

The recommendations include curbing excessive executive compensation, using nominating committees to select and appraise directors, making audit committees autonomous, and allowing sufficient time for the act to be implemented before making changes.

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