On the one-year anniversary of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund), announced today the filing of eight shareholder proposals requesting companies to comprehensively disclose their political spending. The Comptroller has filed disclosure proposals with: Twitter Inc., DISH Network Corp., The Progressive Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Las Vegas Sands Corp., Ulta Beauty Inc., VeriSign Inc., and Hanesbrands Inc. Since the filings, the Comptroller has reached an agreement with the clothing maker, Hanesbrands.
“The increased polarization of our political discourse and the January 6 attack on the Capitol show just how risky it can be for companies to fund political agendas,” DiNapoli said. “Corporate accountability is a priority for our pension fund and, since the Citizens United ruling, we have focused on increasing sunlight on political spending. In the current climate, with our democracy itself under attack, corporations have to question whether any spending on political causes is in shareholders’ interests. I commend Hanesbrands for taking this step toward transparency.”
The maker of Hanes and Champion apparel and footwear agreed to disclose all of its political spending, including payments to trade associations and other tax-exempt organizations that could be used for electoral purposes in an annual report. In response to the agreement, the Fund withdrew its shareholder resolution with the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company. Previously, the 2021 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability, which gauges companies’ transparency around political spending, gave Hanesbrands a score 7.1 out of 100, ranking it in the bottom tier of companies in the S&P 500.
In 2021, Comptroller DiNapoli was successful with all five of his political spending disclosure shareholder proposals. CMS Energy Corporation, Molson Coors Beverage Co., and FirstEnergy Corp. agreed to disclose their political spending. At Duke Energy Corp. (52%) and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (53%), the fund’s political spending proposals won majority shareholder support. Duke Energy Corp. has since taken action to address the Comptroller’s proposal for disclosure.
Additionally, in September 2021, DiNapoli sent letters to 16 other companies asking for political spending disclosure. This includes letters to Dollar General Corporation, Nasdaq Inc., and Textron Inc. The Fund is currently engaging with these companies and with those where it has filed shareholder proposals and expects to announce additional agreements to disclose political spending in the weeks ahead.
Since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling striking down certain restraints on corporate political spending, DiNapoli has made it a priority to engage the Fund's portfolio companies on disclosing their political spending. The proposals filed by the Fund ask companies to publicly report monetary and nonmonetary contributions and expenditures (direct and indirect) to any campaign for or against a candidate or to influence the public with respect to an election or referendum.
Comptroller DiNapoli’s Political Spending Disclosure Engagements
Since 2010, the Comptroller DiNapoli has filed 169 shareholder proposals on political spending disclosure and 49 major corporations have adopted or agreed to adopt such disclosure, including Bank of America Corp., Delta Airlines and PepsiCo Inc.
New York State Common Retirement Fund
The New York State Common Retirement 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 assets of approximately $267.8 billion as of Sept. 30, 2021. The Fund has consistently been ranked as one of the best managed and best funded public plans in the nation.