Commentary on Corporate Governance, Investing and Political Accountability
Watch this trend closely — could be a freight train pounding through Corporate America in proxy season 2008 and beyond. (“Last year, a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey found that 85 percent of shareholders agreed that the ‘lack of transparency and oversight in corporate political activity encourages behavior’ that threatens shareholder value. Commissioned by the CPA, the March 2006 poll was the first examination of shareholder attitudes on corporate political spending. It also found that 94 percent of respondents supported disclosure and 84 percent backed board oversight and approval of “all direct and indirect [company] political spending.”)
With giant Fidelity changing its position on the issue, other mutual fund managers — and especially those in the advisory companies that cast the actual proxy vote on behalf of millions of fund owners — are finding courage and common sense to either vote “yes” on transparency and disclosure or “withold” votes and put the finger on the scale of the side of those investors voting “yes.” Good for Fidelity, Franklin Templeton, Vanguard, PIMCO,and T Rowe Price. The three top mutual fund families in the USA are Fidelity, Vanguard and American (Capital Research) — if you are a mutual fund owner in any of these complexes, you can voice your concern and let proxy vote-casters know that you are watching and these issues matter to you!
And you can track progress or lack of in corporate disclosure and transparency on political contributions through the excellent work of the Center for Political Accountability. (See Web site –http://www.politicalaccountability.net )
Editor – AC
Disclosure – portions of our retirement accounts are invested in “American Funds” – we see the parent Capital Research folks doing a better job of communicating on governance issues, but they have quite a ways to go on political disclosure positions re: companies in their portfolios.