New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who is also trustee of the $267.8 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, has filed shareholder proposals with seven companies asking them to comprehensively disclose their political spending.
The proposals are asking the companies to publicly report monetary and nonmonetary contributions and expenditures to any campaign for or against a candidate, or to influence the public with respect to an election or referendum.
“Corporate accountability is a priority for our pension fund,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “In the current climate, with our democracy itself under attack, corporations have to question whether any spending on political causes is in shareholders’ interests.”
The companies the fund is targeting are social media platform Twitter, satellite TV operator DISH Network, insurance firm The Progressive Corp., cruise line operator Royal Caribbean Cruises, hotel and casino operator Las Vegas Sands, beauty store chain Ulta Beauty, and internet company VeriSign Inc.
DiNapoli said a shareholder resolution filed with Hanesbrands Inc. has been withdrawn after the clothing company agreed to disclose in an annual report all of its political spending, including payments to trade associations and other tax-exempt organizations that could be used for electoral purposes.
“I commend Hanesbrands for taking this step toward transparency,” DiNapoli said.
According to the 2021 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability, which gauges companies’ transparency regarding political spending, Twitter, DISH Network, and VeriSign registered a score of 0 out of 100 in the index, where 0 is the least transparent possible and 100 is the most transparent. Ulta Beauty scored an 8.6, while Royal Caribbean and Las Vegas Sands registered scores of 24.3 and 28.6, respectively. Progressive had the highest rating among the companies with a score of 40. And before it agreed to improve its disclosure, Hanesbrands had a score 7.1 on the index. All of the companies’ scores fall well below the average score of 54.1 among all S&P 500 companies.
According to the comptroller’s office, DiNapoli was successful with all five political spending disclosure shareholder proposals he filed in 2021. Those were filed with CMS Energy Corporation, Molson Coors Beverage, FirstEnergy Corp., Duke Energy Corp., and Royal Caribbean Cruises. He also said he sent letters to 16 other companies in September asking for political spending disclosure, including letters to Dollar General Corporation, Nasdaq Inc., and Textron Inc. He added that the pension fund is currently engaging with the companies and that he expects to report additional political spending disclosure agreements in the coming weeks.
DiNapoli said that since a 2010 US Supreme Court decision struck down certain restraints on corporate political spending, he has made it a priority to get more information on the political spending habits of the companies the state pension fund invests in. According to the state comptroller’s office, DiNapoli has filed 169 shareholder proposals on political spending disclosure in that time, and 49 major corporations have adopted or agreed to adopt such disclosures since 2010.