New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the results of the New York State Common Retirement Fund’s successful efforts to expand disclosure of corporate political spending by its portfolio companies. Over the past year, the $176.2 billion Fund filed shareholder proposals seeking disclosure from 29 companies in which it has investments of more than $2.73 billion.
"We reached new milestones this past shareholder season and grew the roster of corporations that disclose their political spending," DiNapoli said. "Spending shareholder dollars on politics can be a risky business. When it’s done in the shadows it may result in spending that is contrary to the company’s long-term interests and cause real damage to a company’s reputation. Investors need increased daylight and transparency to reduce those risks."
DiNapoli has made disclosure of political spending a top shareholder priority. His proposals asked companies to disclose their spending on candidates, political parties, ballot measures, any direct or indirect state and federal lobbying, "grassroots lobbying communications," payments to any trade associations used for political purposes, and payments made to any organization that writes and endorses model legislation. Reporting of political spending helps shareholders evaluate whether money is being spent on objectives that foster long-term value.
This year the Fund withdrew its shareholder proposal from Comcast, Peabody Energy and CF Industries after the companies agreed to adopt disclosure policies along the lines requested by the Fund.
"Investors have made it clear that they are concerned about political spending and want to know how their dollars are spent on lobbying," DiNapoli said. "We hope and expect that companies will respond to shareholders’ overwhelming desire for disclosure and take the appropriate steps."
The Fund’s proposal also received significant support from shareholders at Marathon Oil (43.2%), Western Union (42.1%), Waste Management (38.9%), Raytheon (34.2%), Nisource (33.5%) and The Travelers Companies (33.2%).
To date, the Fund has reached political spending disclosure agreements with the following companies:
CF Industries (2014 agreement followed 66% support in 2013 vote)
Southwest Airlines Co.
Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc.
Dr Pepper Snapple Group
Noble Energy Inc.
Reynolds American Inc.
R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company
The Kroger Co.
Yum! Brands Inc.
Marriott International Inc.
About the New York State Common Retirement Fund
The $176.2 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third largest public pension fund in the United States. The Fund holds and invests the assets of the New York State and Local Retirement System on behalf of more than one million state and local government employees and retirees and their beneficiaries. The Fund has a diversified portfolio of public and private equities, fixed income, real estate and alternative instruments.