In 2016, the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund) reached agreements with six major corporations to voluntarily disclose their political spending, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced today. The latest agreement is with J.M. Smucker Co., which has adopted the Fund’s request that it publicly report all direct and indirect corporate political spending.
“In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, investors have been left in the dark on how and where corporate dollars are spent on political causes,” DiNapoli said. “I believe shareholders have the right to know where their money is being spent. I applaud J. M. Smucker Co. for agreeing to voluntarily disclose its political spending. Transparency is vital so investors can determine whether political spending is consistent with enhancing the company’s profitability.”
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. The shareholder proposals filed by the Fund ask companies for comprehensive and public reports that list their corporate 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.
As a result of the agreements, the Fund withdrew the shareholder proposals it had filed for consideration at each company’s annual stockholders’ meeting.
In addition to the six agreements this year, DiNapoli’s requests for transparency went to a vote at seven other companies and received the following support: Nisource Inc. (50.3%); NextEra Energy Inc. (43%); Western Union Co. (41.7%); The Travelers Companies Inc. (35%); Express Scripts Holding Co. (30.5%); American Airlines (28%); Aetna Inc. (25%); Wynn Resorts (14.6%); and Johnson & Johnson (9.5%).
DiNapoli has taken other steps in an effort to increase the transparency of corporate political spending, including calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission to enact regulations that would require corporations to disclose. DiNapoli’s letter was one of the more than one million requests for political spending disclosure that have been sent to the SEC.
To date, the following 34 companies have adopted or agreed to adopt political spending disclosure procedures pursuant to an agreement with the Fund or after a significant shareholder vote in support of the Fund’s proposal:
J.M. Smucker Co.
Coca Cola Enterprises
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 estimated assets of $178.1 billion as of March 31, 2016. 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.