New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today urged Aetna Inc. to report the corporate funds it spends on political campaigns and causes. DiNapoli’s shareholder request that Aetna fully disclose its political spending will be subject to a shareholders’ vote on Friday, May 15 at the Fortune 500 company’s annual meeting. DiNapoli is trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which holds 1,249,849 shares in Aetna, one of the largest insurance companies in the United States, valued at $135.6 million.
“In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, investors and the public are too often in the dark on corporate political spending,” DiNapoli said. “We need to know whether Aetna is using our investment in ways that benefit long-term value or if it is putting the company’s reputation and its bottom line at risk. Aetna should join the growing ranks of major corporations that have chosen to pull back the curtain on their political spending.”
In the past, Aetna has made significant payments to tax-exempt, partisan organizations. In 2012, Aetna inadvertently disclosed that the previous year it had donated more than $7 million to organizations that conducted advocacy campaigns both in support of, and in opposition to, candidates for political office. Aetna’s accidental disclosure resulted in subsequent attention in the press.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, DiNapoli has made it a priority to engage the Fund’s portfolio companies to disclose their political spending. His proposal asks companies for a comprehensive and public report that lists their spending on candidates, political parties, ballot measures, any direct or indirect state and federal lobbying, payments to any trade associations used for political purposes, and payments made to any organization that writes and endorses model legislation.
In addition to Aetna, the Fund’s proposal is currently pending at four other portfolio companies: NextEra Energy Inc., Raytheon Company, The Travelers Companies Inc. and Western Union.
The following 28 companies have adopted political spending disclosure in agreement with the Fund or after a significant shareholder vote in support of the Fund’s request:
CF Industries (2014 agreement followed 66% support in 2013 vote)
Dr Pepper Snapple Group
Noble Energy Inc.
Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc.
Southwest Airlines Co.
The Kroger Co.
Reynolds American Inc.
R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company
Marriott International Inc.
Yum! Brands Inc.
About the New York State Common Retirement Fund
The New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third largest public pension fund in the United States, with $176.8 billion in assets under management as of March 31, 2014. 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.
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