Shareholder activists today launched a campaign for corporations to disclose their political contributions to ensure accountability, board oversight and value to corporate performance.
“The goal today is to start a nationwide campaign” of investors to compel corporate political spending disclosure, Bill de Blasio, New York City public advocate and a trustee of the $31 billion New York City Employees’ Retirement System, said at a teleconference conducted by members of the group. That is the initial goal, he said. “A further goal is to require shareholder approval” of such corporate spending, he added.
“We look forward to reaching out to pension funds all over the country to involve them in this effort.” Mr. de Blasio said.
The effort follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision Jan. 21 that relaxed legal constraints on corporate political contributions.
Research has shown corporate political spending often has an inverse impact on shareholder value, Mr. de Blasio said.
At the teleconference, Robert A.G. Monks, shareholder advocate, attorney and founder of Lens Governance Advisors, called the court’s ruling “the worst judicial decision since Dred Scott” and “grotesque and harmful.” But “the good news is” the court “held that there is such a thing as corporate democracy.” He called on shareholders to seek corporate disclosure and for state legislatures to effectively bar companies from making political contributions.
Last year, 47 shareholder proposals called for political contribution disclosure, Bruce Freed, Center for Political Accountability president, said at the teleconference, adding the vote on them ranged from about 20% to 40%. He expects about the same number of proposals this year, hoping they will open the door to discussions with corporate management and boards.