Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Corporate lobbying

Not many people this side of the Atlantic seem to have picked up on a rather interesting little spat over corporate funding of lobby groups. At US health insurer WellPoint there's a shareholder resolution which calls on the board to

report, updated semi-annually, on all company political donations, including a) An accounting through an itemized report that includes the identity of the recipient as well as the amount paid to each recipient of the Company’s funds that are used for political contributions or expenditures; and b) the title of the person or persons in the Company who participated in making the decisions to make the political contribution or expenditure.

So far, so uncontroversial. There's been a big push lately in the US by some shareholders for greater disclosure of corporate funding for lobby groups. There was even a push at News Corp. Interesting stuff that many in corporate governance would regard as relatively uncontroversial, if somewhat new territory.

So what's with the Wall Street Journal's extremely aggressive editorial on the subject (here) which broadens out into a full-on attack on unions and others from seeking disclosure of what companies doing? The language is pretty full-on, accusing "the left, unions and activists" of seeking to "intimidate companies from exercising their free-speech rights". It claims this is of a camapaign to demonise the multi-billion corporate lobbying industy. Why all the fuss over this? Why now? It's baffling.

In other, entirely unrelated news, Change to Win Investment Group - which is attacked in the WSJ editorial - continues to be one of the most vocal shareholder critics of the governance of News Corp, and has raised public concerns about the impact of the hacking scandal.

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