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February 9, 2010

DiNapoli Wants Shareholder Voice on AIG Campaign Spending

State Comptroller Files Resolution with AIG Seeking Annual Vote on Spending

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, as trustee of the $126 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund), filed a nationally unprecedented shareholder resolution with American International Group (AIG) that would give shareholders a vote on AIG’s political spending. DiNapoli filed the resolution in the wake of the Supreme Court of the United States decision last month that overturned certain restrictions on corporate political spending.

“Our pension fund exists solely to provide benefits for our members,” DiNapoli said. “The Fund has more than one million employees, retirees, and beneficiaries, and it’s my job to make sure their investments are protected. We have a right to know how company funds are spent. An annual vote to ratify spending on political campaigns is a reasonable way to promote greater transparency and accountability to investors. While this is a new approach in the United States, policies like this have worked effectively in Europe.”

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who is a trustee of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, said: “When corporations like AIG spend millions of dollars in elections, they need to be fully transparent and accountable to their shareholders. In the aftermath of the Citizens United decision, investors across the country should demand similar common sense reforms from the companies they invest in. I applaud Comptroller DiNapoli for submitting this resolution and look forward to working with him to give shareholders nationwide a greater say in corporate political spending.”

Under DiNapoli’s resolution, AIG shareholders would vote to ratify the company’s political spending program for the prior year. While the vote would be advisory and non-binding, it would provide disclosure to investors of political spending and shareholder feedback to board members. While DiNapoli’s resolution is the first of its kind in the U.S., companies in the U.K. have been legally required to seek shareholder ratification on such spending since 2000.

The information to be disclosed and voted upon would include:

  • Policies and procedures for political contributions and direct and indirect expenditures made with corporate funds and payments used for grassroots lobbying;
  • Monetary and non-monetary political contributions made to individual candidates, political parties, and political committees; and,
  • Tax-exempt groups that are not regulated by the Federal Election Commission and focus on issue advocacy and voter mobilization.


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