Proxy battles to watch at banks’ annual meetings

That rite of spring known as annual meeting season begins soon, though social-distancing practices will make it largely a virtual affair for the second year in a row.

As always, bank investors will get to vote on a slew of proposals from their fellow shareholders. Proxy items in 2020 range from increasingly familiar issues such as environmental impacts and racial equity to more cutting-edge concerns about nuclear weapons financing and whether public companies should be restructured to make them more responsible to their communities.

But something makes this year unique: Extra pressure is mounting on activist investors to rack up votes for their initiatives ahead of a critical Securities and Exchange Commission rule change that takes effect in 2022. Proposals must earn 25% voter support by the third attempt in order to be reintroduced starting next year, up from the current 10%. The new rule will make it harder for activists to build support over time and means they either need to win this year or demonstrate substantial momentum to keep them viable.

Below is a look at the issues that will take center stage in the coming weeks and years and banks’ arguments against the proposals.

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