February 02, 2013
Corporations Agree to Disclose Political Spending
by Robert Kropp
The Center for Political Accountability announces that engagement has led to six corporations
agreeing to adopt political disclosure and accountability, while a shareowner resolution at Visa
gains significant support.
Last year, the Center for
Political Accountability (CPA) announced that the number of public corporations agreeing to
disclose their political expenditures had reached 100. More than half of the companies are listed
on the S&P 100.
As reported here in late November, it
now appears that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering a rule requiring that
"public companies provide disclosure to shareholders regarding the uses of corporate resources for
political activities," according to Paula Dubberly, a Deputy Director of the Division of
Corporation Finance at the SEC. However, sustainable investors and other advocates are not simply
waiting for a rule to materialize; CPA reports that more than 50 resolutions were filed with
corporations this proxy season, requesting that they adopt political disclosure and board
It's also apparent companies themselves are acknowledging reality, as not only
the number of resolutions but the vote totals as well continue to rise. At Visa's annual general
meeting this week, for instance, 37% of shareowners votes in support of a resolution requesting
that the financial services company disclose all payments used for lobbying purposes, including
payments to trade associations.
The resolution, co-filed by Boston Common Asset Management and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), stated,
"Public opinion is skeptical of corporate influence on Congress and public policy and questionable
lobbying activity may pose risks to our company's reputation when controversial positions are
At Visa's annual meeting, Meredith Benton of Boston Common said, "We commend
Visa for initiating enhanced disclosure."
"We persist, though, in bringing this proposal
to ballot as the company has not yet contemplated any disclosure to shareholders on lobbying
spending connected with trade associations or other tax exempt organizations," Benton continued.
Also this week, CPA announced that six corporations avoided having resolutions on
political spending come to a vote by agreeing to adopt disclosure and accountability. Boeing and
Mylan, a pharmaceutical company, came to agreement after resolutions during last year's proxy
season gained significant support. KeyCorp, Harley-Davidson, Deere & Co., and AmerisourceBergen
also agreed to disclosure of political expenditures.
"The companies have agreed to
disclose their direct corporate political contributions, indirect political spending through trade
associations and other groups such as 'social welfare' 501(c)(4)s and to implement board
oversight," CPA stated.
The withdrawn resolutions, which were based on the CPA model, were
filed by Investor Voice, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the Nathan Cummings Foundation,
the International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund, and William Zessar.
political spending soared off the charts in the 2012 elections, but a steadily increasing number of
American companies are choosing an alternative, the Center's model for disclosure and board
oversight of corporate political spending," said CPA President Bruce Freed.
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