A continuing push by New York State Common Retirement Fund, Albany, to have companies disclose political spending and lobbying activity resulted in an agreement with FirstEnergy Corp.
In return for the Akron, Ohio-based utility's agreement to post semi-annual comprehensive reports for corporate spending on candidates, political parties, ballot measures and trade association payments over $25,000, the pension fund will withdraw a related shareholder resolution, New York state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, sole trustee of the $247.7 billion pension fund, said Monday in a news release.
Mr. DiNapoli called it "a positive step for a company that has run into significant troubles with its political spending." FirstEnergy is facing federal public corruption charges that it made more than $60 million in secret payments in exchange for a bailout. "This illustrates how undisclosed corporate political activity can backfire and harm a company's reputation, create litigation risks and impact shareholder value," he said in the statement.
The company's board has made significant changes recently to address the problems, including transparent discussions with stakeholders and how it approaches political advocacy, FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said in an interview.
"Our political process engagement will be much more limited than it has been in the past with additional oversight and closer alignment to our strategic goals. In addition, significantly more robust disclosures around the company's political advocacy will help make it clear what efforts the company appropriately supports," Ms. Young said.
New York State Common has filed more than 155 shareholder proposals on political spending since 2010, with 43 companies adopting or agreeing to adopt that disclosure, including Bank of America, Delta Air Lines and PepsiCo.