Until recently, most shareholders had as much influence over their company's board of directors as they did over the weather. To nominate directors, they had to navigate an expensive proxy solicitation process that is as complex as the Minotaur's labyrinth in order to secure enough shareholder votes for a real change.

However, a change in Securities and Exchange Commission rules now allows any shareholder who owns 3% of the outstanding shares of a company for three years or more to nominate a director without the expensive journey through aforementioned labyrinth. This was a good move for shareholders. It meant that anyone serious enough about a company to hold a significant number of shares for the long term would have an easier chance to influence the company's direction.

However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has sued the SEC to have the rule overturned, and the SEC says it will wait to implement the rule until the lawsuit is resolved. The chamber says, "This special interest-driven rule will give small groups of special-interest activist investors significant leverage over a business' activities." This might make sense if the rules didn't make it so difficult for this to actually happen. Even then, dissidents can only nominate up to 25% of the board, and can't use the tactic to take over a company.  

Take Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT). A dissident group would have to buy up 19 million shares at $78 each -- that's almost $1.5 billion worth of stock -- and hold it for three years, to wield any influence. At the moment, only Vanguard Group, State Farm Insurance, and State Street Corp. (NYSE: STT) own more than 3%. I'm not concerned about these "special interests."

One could argue that the chamber is more concerned about smaller companies. OK, fair enough. However, reading between the political lines of the chamber's "special-interest" quote, corporations are concerned with unions becoming the fox in the corporate henhouse.

The takeaway is that while heavily unionized companies like UPS (NYSE: UPS), AMR (NYSE: AMR), and CSX (NYSE: CSX) might fear undue influence from workers on company direction, shareholders are the real winners. Anyone serious enough to want influence would have a much easier way of obtaining it.

Except the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is playing the Minotaur. It needs to be slain.

United Parcel Service is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool has established a bear put spread position on Caterpillar. The Fool owns shares of United Parcel Service. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.