Corporate God-Flies Fail Miserably on 2015 Proxy Resolutions
Acton Institute Powerblog

Corporate God-Flies Fail Miserably on 2015 Proxy Resolutions

The Manhattan Institute’s latest Proxy Monitor hit laptops this week, revealing the nature and source of the 2015 proxy resolutions. It seems the corporate “God-flies” at religious shareholder organizations such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility account for 29 percent of all shareholder resolutions submitted to the nation’s top 250 publically traded companies. This percentage is second only to the corporate gadflies – identified by the report’s author, James R. Copland, as “individuals and their family members who repeatedly file common shareholder proposals at multiple companies” – and two percentage points ahead of labor-affiliated investors.

Copland reports the number of shareholder proposals aimed at requiring disclosure of companies’ political spending has decreased, and those proposals that were submitted in 2015 met the same fate as in previous years – defeated by wide majorities:

Whatever the reason for the drop in the number of shareholder proposals related to political spending, support for these proposals remains tepid. No such proposal has received majority shareholder support over board opposition in the ten years covered in the ProxyMonitor.org database.

To date in 2015, shareholder support for these proposals has averaged 22 percent, in line with historical trends. Although this percentage is up marginally from 2014, when such proposals received just over 20 percent support, the variation is largely attributable to a different mix of proposal types and sponsors than to a shift in shareholder support. In 2014, six proposals called for either a prohibition on corporate political spending or a 75-percent shareholder vote to authorize corporate political spending—proposals which, in contrast to proposals oriented only around disclosure, receive low-single-digit support. No such proposals have been introduced in 2015. In addition, in 2014, seven shareholder proposals were sponsored by individuals, with varying provisions; these individual-sponsored proposals received, on average, the support of less than 10 percent of shareholders. To date, there have been no individual-backed shareholder proposals relating to political spending or lobbying introduced at a Fortune 250 company in 2015.

Despite the significant drop in shareholder proposals pertaining to political spending, ICCR reports 58 different companies it targeted with resolutions intended to curtail or require public reporting of lobbying efforts and political contributions. For its part, AYS thumps its collective chest:

 “The flood of corporate political activity proposals continues unabated, and not just about elections,” said Heidi Welsh, Executive Director of the Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2) and co-author of the report [“Proxy Preview”]. “A broad coalition of investors wants companies to tell stockholders and the public more about so-called ‘dark money’ spent both in campaigns and on lobbying by groups that use corporate money and don’t say where it comes from,” added Welsh.

In other words, AYS and ICCR continue to waste the time and money of corporations in which they invest year-after-year with bothersome resolutions that stand no chance whatsoever of gaining a majority of votes. This works as well to the detriment of other shareholders who simply want to recognize a reasonable return on their investments. This arrogant political fervor isn’t supposed to be how Christians are supposed to treat one another, much less nuns, priests, clergy and other religious.

Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.