New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced that a majority of voting shareholders supported the New York State Common Retirement Fund’s request that H&R Block disclose its spending on political activities. The Fund owns shares of H&R Block with an approximate value of $24 million.
“Shareholders have made it clear that they want increased transparency and accountability from H&R Block regarding its political spending,” DiNapoli said. “We expect H&R Block to do the right thing and respond to this majority vote in support of our proposal by adopting a disclosure policy. Without disclosure shareholders have no way to evaluate whether their investment dollars are being spent on objectives that foster long-term value. This is an issue on which we will continue to engage our portfolio companies.”
Of the 149,865,977 voting shares cast at H&R Block’s annual meeting last month, 75,880,439 (50.6%) were cast in favor of the Fund’s proposal and 73,985,538 (49.4%) were cast in support of management’s position opposing the proposal. Another 58,445,900 shares abstained from voting. The shareholder proposal is available here: www.osc.state.ny.us/sites/default/files/other/documents/pdf/2019-04/hr-block-shareholder-proposal.pdf
According to the Center for Political Accountability, H&R Block has no publicly available policy on its corporate political spending. The company currently offers no information on what campaigns, causes, committees, or trade associations it donates to, nor does it explain how it makes decisions to spend, or not to spend, on political issues and causes.
DiNapoli’s proposal asked the company to disclose its 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.
DiNapoli has made disclosure of political spending a top shareholder priority. Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, which struck down prohibitions on independent corporate spending for political advocacy, the Fund has filed resolutions with 52 portfolio companies asking that they disclose corporate political spending. To date, the Fund has reached disclosure agreements with 21 of them.
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 $180.7 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.