Five state treasurers, including North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell, sole trustee of the $88.8 billion North Carolina Retirement Systems, Raleigh, are urging the SEC to require corporate political disclosures.
In a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the treasurers — who also include Ted Wheeler, Oregon state treasurer and member of the Oregon Investment Council, Tigard, which runs the $69 billion Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, Salem, write that as “elected officials representing funds with assets under management totaling more than $300 billion, we call on the commission to stand up for shareholders by embracing disclosure for all publicly traded corporations.”
An additional letter from investors, which includes William Donaldson, former SEC chairman — argues the absence of corporate political spending disclosure “prevents shareholders and investors from assessing corporate legal, reputational, operational and other risks.”
The SEC must require such disclosure so “shareholders can evaluate whether a corporation’s assets are being utilized in the best interests of the corporation,” the letter said.
The investors argue that shareholder interest is more than sufficient to make the SEC take action.
“Prior SEC rules have been crafted to require reasonable disclosure of information for any significant number of interested investors, not just at the request of a majority of shareholders,” the investors’ letter said. “Over the past three years, the 221 shareholder proxy proposals concerning political and lobbying expenditures earned an average of 24.5% support; two proxy proposals adopted with over 50% vote totals in 2013. This level of support is substantially higher than the 11.2% proxy-voting support for executive pay proposals cited by the SEC when it expanded those rules in 1992.”
Judith Burns, SEC spokeswoman, declined to comment.