As Citizens Protest 3M meeting, Investors Challenge Company Leaders on Political Spending
May 8, 2012
Contact: Mary Boyle – Common Cause (202) 736-5770
MINNEAPOLIS – Institutional shareholders and citizen activists challenged Minneapolis-based 3M Corp’s, political spending on Tuesday, urging the company to end its political giving and disclose its expenditures on lobbying.
As investor representatives inside 3M’s annual shareholders’ meeting spoke in favor of two political spending measures on the company’s proxy, activists outside rallied in support of political spending reform at the manufacturing giant.
“It’s time for 3M corporate leadership to stop using our company’s general treasury money as a political slush fund. There needs to be accountability,” said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota and a 3M proxy holder.
Dean noted that a recent study from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management indicates that corporate political spending correlates negatively to long term shareholder value. “There is no reason for our company to engage in this practice,” he asserted.
Trillium Asset Management, a Boston based investment firm, filed a resolution on 3M’s 2012 proxy asking that the corporation refrain from political spending. “Our proposal seeks to ensure that 3M protects itself from the reputation damage that can be incurred from spending corporate general treasury funds to influence electoral politics,” said Shelly Alpern, a Trillium vice president who spoke at the meeting. “In recent years 3M has engaged in political spending activity that, in the opinion of the proponents, has courted unnecessary risk to its brand and reputation as a civil leader.”
Trillium’s shareholder resolution asks that the corporation refrain from political spending, whether direct or indirect via Super PACs or other third-party vehicles.It is the first political spending resolution of its in kind since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January 2010 opened the door for corporations to use their treasuries to support or oppose political candidates.
Trillium has filed a similar resolution at Bank of America in advance of its shareholder meeting in Charlotte, N.C. later this week.
Outside the 3M meeting people marched in support of the Trillium proposal, carrying signs which read “3M Stick to Business” and “Post Its – Not Politics.” The diverse crowd was organized by advocacy organizations Common Cause, Public Citizen, Take Action Minnesota, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy and the Service Employees International Union.
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court lifted a century-old ban on the use of corporate treasury funds for political purposes. Shareholders are increasingly concerned that such funds, which can be funneled to SuperPACS, trade associations and other organizations for political use — often without proper oversight or board and shareholder knowledge — could create a risk to shareholder value.
“We have had enough of 3M and major corporations giving their customer’s hard earned dollars to organizations like ALEC and Minnesota Forward, and to politicians that protect tax breaks for the 1% and cut public services,” said Harrison Bullard, Vice-President of SEIU Local 26 and President of the SEIU AFRAM MN Chapter.
The “Shareholder Spring” actions that Common Cause and its allies are conducting this week in Minneapolis and Charlotte are part of a larger umbrella of activities under the 99% Power banner. 99% Power is a broad coalition that includes workers and retirees, families fighting foreclosure and the unemployed, students, immigrants and environmentalists.
The 3M proposals on lobbying transparency and the cessation of political spending are part of a separately-coordinated wave of shareholder proposals at more than 100 companies this year.
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Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard.
Trillium Asset Management, LLC is the oldest independent investment advisor devoted exclusively to sustainable and responsible investing. With over $1 billion in assets under management, Trillium has been managing equity and fixed income investments for high net worth individuals, foundations, endowments, religious institutions, and other nonprofits, since 1982. A leader in shareholder advocacy and public policy work, Trillium’s goal is to deliver both impact and performance to its investors.
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