More Firms to Make Political Disclosures

Only climate change inspired more shareholder proposals this proxy season.

A dozen companies have recently adopted political disclosure and accountability policies, according to a group of shareholder activists.

Aetna, Colgate-Palmolive, DuPont, FirstEnergy, Pfizer, WellPoint, and Xcel Energy will report trade-association payments used for political purposes as part of their overall disclosure of political spending with corporate funds. Cigna, Chevron, EMC, General Motors, and Lockheed Martin will disclose soft-money political contributions. All 12 have agreed to board oversight of their political spending.

In addition, 3M has committed to limited disclosure of soft-money contributions; 3M, Dominion Resources, and Limited Brands have agreed to dialogues with shareholders on disclosure of trade-association political spending.

The announcement was made by the Center for Political Accountability, five New York City pension funds, Trillium Asset Management, Walden Asset Management, Green Century Capital Management, Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Funds, and Mercy Investment Program.

A total of 31 companies have agreed to disclosure and board oversight of political expenditures during the 2005, 2006, and 2007 shareholder resolution seasons, the announcement added.

Institutional Shareholder Services reported that this year, more than 60 shareholder resolutions have asked companies to disclose and better monitor their political contributions, including, in many cases, their political activities through trade associations. Of all social issues, ISS noted, only climate change inspired more shareholder proposals this proxy season.

According to ISS, the proposals commonly request that companies:

• issue semi-annual reports on all political contributions and provide the guidelines for those contributions
• identify the persons involved in making contribution-related decisions
• provide information on contributions to “527 committees,” which do not directly contribute to political campaigns but are allowed by federal law to raise unlimited donations from corporations or individuals
• report on dues paid to trade associations

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