Legislation would transfer proxy voting authority to state treasurer, compromising the ability of SURS board to protect assets from undue political influence and to fulfill fiduciary obligations to SURS membership

Champaign, IL – The State Universities Retirement System (SURS) board today voted unanimously to oppose Senate Bill 2152, legislation that would transfer all proxy voting authority for SURS assets from the SURS Board of Trustees to the state treasurer.

“Funds in the SURS trust come from employee contributions, employer contributions, state contributions and investment income,” noted SURS Chair John Atkinson. “Once funds are deposited into that trust, they belong to SURS members. The SURS Board of Trustees has a legal responsibility to vote proxies due to their role as fiduciaries for SURS members. The state treasurer does not serve on the SURS board and is not a fiduciary to SURS members.”

Proxy voting allows SURS to analyze risk and set principles for the way its proxy voting agent votes on its behalf at shareholder meetings. Those decisions protect the long-term value of its assets.

“Under this legislation, SURS does not have control over how the state treasurer votes SURS proxies,” added Atkinson. “We cannot tell the treasurer how to vote and we cannot hold the treasurer accountable for how the treasurer votes. It gives one statewide elected official unilateral control over the long-term value of SURS assets.”

SURS has a proxy voting policy in accordance with fiduciary duties and utilizes a provider, Glass Lewis, to execute proxy votes in accordance with that policy.

Reports of proxy votes are provided to the SURS board on a quarterly basis, posted on SURS website on a summary-level, and are available on a detailed-level under FOIA.