- By Eric Sumberg
- Business & Technology
“Shareholders have a right to know how companies are using corporate money for political purposes,” DiNapoli said. “These companies deserve credit for embracing transparency and reducing potential risk to shareholder value by disclosing direct and indirect contributions made with corporate funds. To date, eighteen companies have reached agreements with the New York State Common Retirement Fund to disclose their political spending — it’s time for more good corporate citizens to follow their lead.”
All five agreements on disclosure of political spending include commitments to make public all direct and indirect monetary and non-monetary political contributions, including contributions to trade associations that are used for political purposes.
Through his Office of Corporate Governance, DiNapoli has engaged portfolio companies held by the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund) to disclose political spending. In 2010, the Fund, along with other members of the Council of Institutional Investors, sent letters to 430 S&P 500 companies calling on them to disclose contributions made with corporate funds for political purposes.
In 2011 and 2012, the Fund filed 27 shareholder resolutions seeking disclosure of political spending, reaching agreement with 10 companies. For 2013, DiNapoli has filed 26 resolutions on the issue of political spending disclosure, reaching agreement with eight companies, including KeyCorp and PepsiCo.
Last year, the Comptroller DiNapoli wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission supporting a petition for rulemaking regarding disclosure of political expenditures. In March, Comptroller DiNapoli and New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio penned an op-ed that appeared in the New York Times urging incoming SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White to take up this issue once she is confirmed.
In mid-February, the Fund and telecommunications giant Qualcomm announced that the company had agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the Fund in the Delaware Court of Chancery which sought to compel it to disclose how shareholder funds were being spent for political purposes. As a result of that settlement, Qualcomm revealed previous political spending and agreed to disclose future use of corporate funds for political purposes.
As of March 28, the Fund owned:
- 2,221,207 shares of Southwest Airlines valued at $29.9 million
- 626,150 shares of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group valued at $29.4 million
- 500,250 shares of Plum Creek Timber Company valued at $26.1 million
- 821,912 shares of Harley-Davidson valued at $43.8 million
- 543,850 shares of Noble Energy valued at $62.9 million
Yum! Brands Inc.
Marriott International Inc.
Reynolds American Inc.
R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company
The Kroger Co.
Southwest Airlines Co.
Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc.
Dr Pepper Snapple Group
Noble Energy Inc.