Huffington Post: Bank of America Targeted By Protesters And Investors As SEC Weighs Political Spending Rule
WASHINGTON -- As the Securities and Exchange Commission considers requiring corporations to disclose their political spending to shareholders, a coalition of institutional investors and public interest groups are seeking to make next week's Bank of America shareholder meeting a flashpoint for getting corporate money out of politics.
Consumer watchdog Public Citizen and a host of activist groups are planning protests around several major shareholder meetings in the coming months, but the Bank of America meeting Wednesday will be among the most prominent. At the meeting, Trillium Asset Managment, a firm that manages $1 billion in environmentally friendly investments, will present a resolution that would bar the company from making contributions to politically oriented groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. BofA has given money to ALEC, but the Chamber is more secretive about its members, and it is not clear whether BofA has contributed to the Chamber or not.
In recent years, significant percentages of shareholders at some large companies have voted to require their firms to provide increased disclosure about the extent of their political donations, although none of these resolutions have passed to date. And Trillium views its more aggressive proposal to get BofA to end all political spending as intimately connected with a campaign pressuring the SEC to require disclosure.
"For the better part of the last decade, we've seen consistent and increasingly strong shareholder votes on political spending proposals," said Shelley Alpern, Vice President of Shareholder Advocacy for Trillium. "A growing number of investors consider this area to be a material factor in evaluating the financial worth a company and the strength of its governance mechanisms. Investors will be better off when the SEC requires disclosure from all publicly traded companies. Companies deserve a level playing field and investors need the information."
Trillium's efforts to push BofA's money out of politics coincide with a major protest of the meeting being organized by a host of good government and consumer-rights groups, including National People's Action, The New Bottom Line, Rainforest Action Network, North Carolina Coalition Against Corporate Power, Common Cause, Action North Carolina, Jobs with Justice, Right to the City and Unity Alliance. Organizers anticipate significant turn out from east coast Occupy enclaves in New York, Atlanta, Ashville, N.C., and Charlotte, N.C. -- BofA's headquarters. Another institutional investor, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Pension Plan, will initiate a separate vote that would force BofA to disclose its political spending at the same meeting.
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