United States: Proxy Statements Under Maryland Law – 2015

Last Updated: February 23 2015
Article by James J. Hanks, Jr. and Michael A. Leber

The 2015 proxy season is fast approaching. Based on our prior experience reviewing proxy statements for Maryland public companies, we would like to call your attention to certain matters of Maryland law about which we often receive questions. As in the past, we are available to review draft proxy statements for Maryland law compliance. Because the same principles generally apply to both corporations formed under the Maryland General Corporation Law (the "MGCL") and to real estate investment trusts formed under the Maryland REIT Law (the "MRL"), we generally refer hereafter only to corporations.

Virtual Stockholder Meetings. We have recently seen increased interest in holding stockholder meetings on the internet. The MGCL expressly authorizes the board of directors, if it is otherwise authorized to determine the place of a meeting of stockholders, to determine that the meeting will be held solely by means of remote communication. A virtual meeting is subject to certain notice and procedural requirements set forth in the statute. The MGCL also requires that the board of directors provide a "place" for a meeting of the stockholders if requested by a stockholder. This requires only that the corporation provide a physical location for the requesting stockholders to access the meeting of stockholders on the internet. It does not require the board of directors to transform the meeting into a traditional stockholders meeting held at a single location, or update the notice of the meeting. The MRL does not contain a counterpart to the MGCL provision on shareholder meetings by remote communication and simply requires that the declaration of trust provide for an annual meeting of shareholders "at a convenient location." We believe that a real estate investment trust could provide for virtual shareholder meetings in the declaration of trust or bylaws and that it would be prudent to have those provisions generally mirror those in the MGCL.

Internet Availability of Proxy Materials. Pursuant to Regulation 14A (the "Proxy Rules"), all filers are required to post their proxy materials on a publicly accessible internet website (other than EDGAR) and may choose to (a) utilize the "notice and access" model for furnishing proxy materials to shareholders by sending a notice of internet availability complying with the Proxy Rules (the "Proxy Rule Notice") or (b) deliver a full set of paper copies of the proxy materials, including the Proxy Rule Notice. A Maryland corporation may combine the notice of a meeting of stockholders that is required by the MGCL with the Proxy Rule Notice.

Householding. Proxy Rule 14a-3(e) provides that an annual report, proxy statement or Proxy Rule Notice will be considered to have been delivered to all shareholders of record who share an address so long as one annual report, proxy statement or Proxy Rule Notice, as applicable, is delivered to the shared address, and is addressed (a) to the shareholders as a group, (b) to each of the shareholders individually or (c) to the shareholders in a form to which each of them has consented in writing. The Proxy Rules also require compliance with certain other conditions regarding express or implied consents by shareholders.

Although the MGCL does not address delivery of annual reports or proxy statements, it does address the manner in which a corporation may give notice of a meeting of stockholders by providing for four types of notice: personal delivery, leaving the notice at the stockholder's residence or place of business, mailing to the stockholder at the stockholder's address as shown on the records of the corporation and electronic transmission.

Under the MGCL, a single notice is effective as to all stockholders who share an address unless the corporation receives a written or electronic request from a stockholder at such address that a single notice not be given. In lieu of householding, we believe that the only means of delivery permissible under the MGCL is addressing the material to each stockholder "individually" at the shared physical or electronic address. The corporation may deliver these materials in one package if it lists the name of each stockholder-recipient on the label containing the shared address. Additionally, the corporation must include a separate proxy card for each individual stockholder at the shared address. The MRL does not state the permissible methods of delivery of notice to the shareholders and this is customarily addressed by provision in the declaration of trust or bylaws.

Advisory Vote on Executive Compensation. Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act ("Dodd-Frank") and rules adopted by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"), an issuer for which the SEC requires compensation disclosure under the Proxy Rules and Item 402 of Regulation S-K is generally required to include a shareholder advisory vote on executive compensation ("say on pay") in the annual meeting proxy statement at least every three years. Additionally, at least every six years, shareholders must be given the opportunity to hold an advisory vote on the frequency of the executive compensation advisory vote, selecting among choices of every one, two or three years or abstain. Almost all public companies are now submitting say-on-pay votes to their shareholders each year.

It is important to emphasize that the executive compensation advisory votes have no effect on a director's or trustee's duties under Maryland law with respect to compensation decisions. Section 14A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the "Exchange Act"), provides that shareholder advisory votes are not binding on the issuer and, among other things, may not be construed "[t]o create or imply any change to the fiduciary duties of such issuer or board of directors [or] . . . to create or imply any additional fiduciary duties for such issuer or board of directors."1

Shareholder Proxy Access for Director Elections. Proxy Rule 14a-8 requires a company to include in its proxy materials, under certain circumstances, shareholder proposals recommending the adoption of a procedure in the company's governing documents for including shareholder nominees for director in the company's proxy materials ("proxy access").

Under the MGCL, the board may be given exclusive power over amendments to the bylaws and the bylaws of most of our Maryland public company clients so provide. Thus, stockholders of these companies are not able to amend the bylaws directly for any purpose and so any stockholder proposal to change the bylaws of a Maryland corporation with exclusive board power over amendments could only be precatory. We continue to reiterate our advice of many years that Maryland law specifically recognizes the right of directors to refuse to take any action recommended by the stockholders, even if recommended by the holders of a substantial majority of the shares.

Ratification of Auditors. Although quite common, ratification of the board's appointment of auditors is, of course, generally not required by either federal or Maryland law. Importantly, as ratification of auditors is a routine matter under the New York Stock Exchange ("NYSE") rules, brokers are able to vote on it without instructions from their beneficial owners. Thus, if there is no other routine matter on the proxy card, including ratification of auditors on the card may assist in obtaining a quorum for the meeting.

Board Structure and Director Nominations. Item 7 of Schedule 14A of the Proxy Rules ("Schedule 14A") sets forth various requirements with respect to disclosure regarding the composition of the board and the director nomination process. Of particular note are the requirements that the proxy statement include (a) a discussion of the "specific experience, qualifications, attributes or skills" that led to the conclusion that the nominee or incumbent director should serve as a director; (b) a discussion of the leadership structure of the board, including, among other things, disclosure indicating why the company has determined that its leadership structure is appropriate and the role of the board in risk oversight; (c) the role of compensation consultants and any potential conflicts of interest; and (d) whether the board or nominating committee considers diversity in identifying board nominees, whether the board or nominating committee has a diversity policy and, if so, how it is implemented and its effectiveness assessed. Regarding the foregoing, there are three important issues under Maryland law:

First, (a) any policy and/or procedures relating to the consideration of shareholder-recommended candidates for director and (b) any specific minimum qualifications for recommendation by the nominating committee for election as a director should be drafted, adopted, disclosed and applied in full coordination with any existing provisions in the charter or bylaws relating to substantive qualifications for election (e.g., minimum or maximum age or ownership of company stock) and procedures for nomination (e.g., advance notice to the company) and with any corporate governance guidelines. With the proliferation of policies, processes, committee charters, guidelines and principles – in addition to already existing corporate charters and bylaws – it is important that the provisions of all these documents not conflict in either letter or spirit. This also applies to other requirements and duties such as those involving composition of the audit and compensation committees.

Second, the MGCL permits a director "to rely on any information, opinion, report, or statement . . . prepared or presented by" an officer, employee, lawyer, accountant, other expert or board committee on which the director does not serve if the director reasonably believes (a) the officer or employee to be reliable and competent, (b) the expert to be acting within her or his professional or expert competence or (c) the committee to merit confidence, as the case may be. This right to rely applies not only to determinations of independence and other matters relating to director nominations but also to any other determination that a director must make. Thus, the availability and presentation of information and advice can be an important element in a director's substantive performance and in protecting him or her from liability. However, directors should guard against over-reliance, especially in the current corporate governance environment. Appropriate reliance can be an important aid to – but is not a substitute for – the proper exercise of business judgment. The MGCL specifically provides that the board's delegation of authority to a committee does not relieve the directors who are not members of the committee of their duties under the MGCL.

Finally, the additional disclosure requirements, including the need to continuously evaluate the qualifications of all directors for service in such capacity, highlight the importance of an annual board self-evaluation (required by the NYSE) in which each director actively participates. Although NASDAQ does not have a similar requirement, many NASDAQ companies have adopted a board evaluation process as a matter of good corporate governance. We regularly assist clients in the design and conduct of board evaluations.

Committees. Item 7(d) of Schedule 14A and the rules enacted under the Sarbanes- Oxley Act of 2002 and by the stock exchanges require various disclosures in the proxy statement concerning the audit, compensation and nominating/corporate governance committees, their charters and their members. Item 7(d) currently requires a public company to include these committees' charters as appendices to its annual meeting proxy statement at least every three fiscal years, if the charters are not available to shareholders on the company's website. As a result, most public companies in our experience place these charters on their websites. In addition, Section 303A of the NYSE Listed Company Manual (the "Listed Company Manual") requires the charters of the audit, nominating and compensation committees, the corporate governance guidelines and the code of business conduct and ethics to be posted on the company's website.

All committee reports included in the proxy statement should have actually been reviewed and signed by each member of the committee and submitted to the board and made a part of the board and committee records. Although not required, you may want to consider dating these reports. Most importantly, each committee report should be carefully reviewed to confirm that the committee actually did what the report says was done.

To read this article in full, please click here.


1. There are now many decisions applying the laws of various jurisdictions granting motions to dismiss cases brought after negative say-on-pay votes.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions