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N.Y. State Common sues Qualcomm for political spending information

Thomas P. DiNapoli

New York State Common Retirement Fund, Albany, sued Qualcomm Inc., San Diego, to review records on political spending.

The lawsuit was designed to make sure that Qualcomm follows corporate “best practices” of disclosure and transparency to enhance shareholder value, Thomas DiNapoli, the New York state comptroller and sole trustee of the $150.1 billion fund, said in an interview.

The suit was filed Wednesday in Delaware Chancery Court. Although based in San Diego, Qualcomm is a Delaware corporation.

Mr. DiNapoli said this is the first time his pension fund has sued a company for access to its records to review political spending practices. Eric Sumberg, a spokesman for Mr. DiNapoli, said the pension fund has filed requests with 27 companies for information on political spending over the past two years. Ten companies agreed to provide the information, including CSX, Marriott International, Yum! Brands and Safeway, Mr. Sumberg said.

In most other cases, the pension fund filed shareholder resolutions that failed to achieve 50% support among investors at annual meetings.

Mr. DiNapoli said the pension fund and other institutional investors had asked Qualcomm for political-spending information, but they were rebuffed.

“Despite repeated efforts to engage with Qualcomm to resolve the matter without litigation … Qualcomm has refused to provide plaintiff with requested materials,” the lawsuit said.

The New York pension fund owns $378 million worth of Qualcomm stock, according to the lawsuit, which said the pension fund is the largest public pension fund shareholder of Qualcomm shares. Qualcomm has a market cap of about $110.4 billion.

“Without disclosure it is not possible for shareholders to assess the level of risk to their investments in a given company,” the lawsuit said. “Shareholders have a strong interest in knowing how corporate funds are spent, especially in the political arena, in order to monitor the actions of corporate fiduciaries … and hold corporate fiduciaries accountable for their stewardship of the corporation.”

A Qualcomm representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.