Takin' It To The Web

New SEC rule paves way for online proxy materials.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-Based Republic Services announced that it will make annual reports and other proxy materials available online for its shareholders. The move is permitted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) new “Notice and Access” rule and is expected to result in the saving of millions of pages of paper and reduce mailing expenses.

There are four major requirements for companies posting proxy materials online, according to the new SEC rule. First, companies must post searchable and printable materials on a public Web site. Next, at least 40 days before a meeting, they must mail shareholders a notice explaining how to access posted materials and request paper copies. Then, if a shareholder requests a paper copy of materials, companies must mail it within three business days. Finally, companies must solicit, secure and manage future shareholder delivery preferences.

Will Flower, vice president of communications for Republic, says the notices will be mailed to shareholders in early April, and the company expects 90 percent of its shareholders to utilize the online access based on what other companies with similar shareholder bases have experienced. “This move to Internet access and voting is a natural progression for Republic,” he says. “The new rules give us and shareholders new levels of flexibility and efficiency in the way we communicate. Importantly, the new rules also allow us to enhance our environmental commitment by reducing the amount of paper we generate and deliver.”

According to a press release, Republic expects to reduce hard-copy printing of proxy materials by 75 percent, from 36,000 copies to approximately 9,000 copies, which will, in turn, reduce paper and printing costs.