New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced that NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) has agreed to disclose its corporate political contributions in the wake of majority shareholder support for the New York State Common Retirement Fund’s (the Fund) shareholder resolution. The Fund holds shares of NiSource valued at approximately $14.6 million. DiNapoli and the Fund also announced that they are calling on several other companies to adopt transparency regarding their corporate political spending.
“When corporations spend investors’ dollars on political causes they can put themselves, and our investments, at risk,” DiNapoli said. “While Citizens United removed certain restrictions on corporate political spending, the ruling left the door open for investors to demand information on how and where our money is being spent. Companies like NiSource are to be commended for respecting shareholders’ interest in protecting our investments.”
For the 2017 proxy season, the Fund has filed political spending shareholder proposals at the Allstate Corp., CONSOL Energy, Eli Lilly and Co., Equifax Inc., Express Scripts, Textron Inc., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Mattel Inc., NextEra Energy, Occidental Petroleum, Western Union co., and Wynn Resorts. It will file the request at several more companies in the coming weeks.
DiNapoli made disclosure of corporate political spending a priority following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. The Fund’s proposals ask companies to make public and comprehensively report 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.
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 such expenditures. 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, 35 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:
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 $184.5 billion as of Sept. 30, 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.