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Rhode Island reaches lobbying disclosure agreement with Mastercard

Mastercard Inc. reached a shareholder agreement with Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner to increase its disclosure of corporate lobbying expenses, the treasurer's office said Thursday.

Mr. Magaziner, who oversees the Rhode Island State Investment Commission, including the $8.1 billion Rhode Island Employees' Retirement System, Providence, said in a statement that full disclosure of the company's direct and indirect lobbying activities and expenditures "will help investors assess whether the company's lobbying is consistent with its expressed goals and in the best interests of shareholders."

Inadequate lobbying disclosure by publicly traded companies presents reputational risks, he said, particularly in recent cases where large companies have upset customers, investors and other stakeholders by supporting controversial causes, such as climate-change denial or reduced consumer protections.

The agreement comes after Mr. Magaziner filed a shareholder proposal last fall requesting Mastercard's board of directors to annually disclose information regarding payments used for direct or indirect lobbying, payments to trade associations or grassroots lobbying activity. That proposal was withdrawn after shareholder engagement led to the agreement, which calls for Mastercard to publish an annual list of its lobbying priorities and amounts spent on lobbying, and an annual list of U.S.-based trade associations receiving $25,000.

Mastercard will also disclose the percentage of those payments used for lobbying and ask the trade associations for that information. Mastercard has already posted on its website that it does not use any corporate resources to mobilize employee grassroots lobbying efforts.

Last fall, Mr. Magaziner and Walden Asset Management co-filed similar shareholder proposals with AT&T Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. that were also withdrawn after investor engagement led to additional public disclosure of their respective lobbying practices and procedures.