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The BRICK Act Moves Forward, and Manufacturers Gain Regulatory Certainty

By | General, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Sustainability | No Comments

Today, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee held a markup and approved the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act of 2018 (S. 2461), a bipartisan bill that would permit a full legal review of national emissions standards for brick, clay products and clay ceramics manufacturing before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires regulatory compliance. On March 7, the House passed similar legislation (H.R. 1917) that was strongly supported by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

The NAM fully supports the ongoing national effort to protect our environment and improve public health through appropriate laws and regulations. However, manufacturers need policies that provide regulatory certainty and ensure a sustainable environment and economy. In September 2015, the EPA issued final National Emissions Standards for Brick, Structural Clay Products and Clay Ceramics Manufacturing, often referred to as Brick MACT. It is estimated that this rule will collectively cost the brick industry, which is made up of predominantly small and medium-sized manufacturers, more than $100 million per year.

When regulations stretch beyond what the law allows, manufacturers and other stakeholders must turn to the courts for relief–a lengthy process that can take months, if not years. Under the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act of 2018, if a final rule under this Act is challenged in court, the compliance date extension would be limited to December 26, 2020. However, if the court refutes the EPA’s rule, the legislation requires the agency to issue new regulations within one year. This bill is a commonsense approach, as it ensures that manufacturers will have the certainty that the investments they make are based on laws that the courts have determined are appropriate and legal.

Manufacturers support reasonable environmental policies but need regulatory certainty to make necessary, long-term investments, and they believe both goals can be achieved through S. 2461. With the committee’s approval of the bill today, the measure will now proceed to the Senate for consideration.

SEC Withdraws Proxy Firm No-Action Letters

By | General, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

Investment advisers owe a fiduciary duty to the middle-class Americans whose retirement accounts they manage. Their decisions on how to vote an investor’s shares in corporate proxy contests must be guided by the investor’s best interests. But how can an investment adviser guard against any conflicts of interest that he or she may have and ensure that all proxy voting decisions are made in the best interest of the investor? It’s a good question, and one that helps explain why actions taken last week by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are so important.

Back in 2004, the SEC issued two so-called “no-action” letters that allowed investment advisers to simply outsource proxy voting decision-making to third-party proxy advisory firms to mitigate their own potential conflicts of interest. What those no-action letters failed to account for, however, were the many shortcomings and, worse, conflicts of interest embedded in the proxy advisory firms’ business models.

The practical effect of the no-action letters was, for more than a decade, to entrench and empower these unregulated, black box proxy advisory firms. Millions of Main Street investors are unaware that these important decisions have been outsourced to conflicted third parties, so the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has for years called on the SEC to withdraw the 2004 no-action letters. Last week, that’s just what the SEC did.

The SEC’s decision will restore the primacy of a fund manager’s fiduciary duty to protect investors’ retirement savings and also reduce proxy firms’ influence over manufacturers and the important decisions that guide company growth, job creation and economic expansion in America.

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons released a statement last week praising the decision and calling for further oversight of proxy firms. The SEC’s announcement is a precursor to further discussion of these important issues at its proxy roundtable in November, where the NAM will continue to advocate corporate governance policies that bolster capital formation for manufacturers and strengthen the long-term interests of Main Street investors.

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