Kansas City Southern – Political Spending (2015)
Outcome: Successfully withdrawn following the company’s commitment to provide strong reporting of its political spending, both direct and indirect.
Resolved, that the shareholders of Kansas City Southern (“KSU” or “Company”) hereby request that the Company provide a report, updated semiannually, disclosing the Company’s:
1. Policies and procedures for making, with corporate funds or assets, contributions and expenditures (direct or indirect) to (a) participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, or (b) influence the general public, or any segment thereof, with respect to an election or referendum.
2. Monetary and non-monetary contributions and expenditures (direct and indirect) used in the manner described in section 1 above, including:
a. The identity of the recipient as well as the amount paid to each; and
b. The title(s) of the person(s) in the Company responsible for decision-making.
The report shall be presented to the board of directors or relevant board committee and posted on the Company’s website within 12 months from the date of the annual meeting.
As long-term shareholders of KSU, we support transparency and accountability in corporate spending on political activities. These include any activities considered intervention in any political campaign under the Internal Revenue Code, such as direct and indirect contributions to political candidates, parties, or organizations; independent expenditures; or electioneering communications on behalf of federal, state or local candidates.
Disclosure is in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision recognized the importance of political spending disclosure for shareholders when it said, “[D]isclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” Gaps in transparency and accountability may expose the company to reputational and business risks that could threaten long-term shareholder value.
Publicly available records show that KSU contributed at least $700,331 in corporate funds since the 2004 election cycle. (CQ: http://moneyline.cq.com and National Institute on Money in State Politics: http://www.followthemoney.org)
Relying on publicly available data does not provide a complete picture of the Company’s political spending. For example, the Company’s payments to trade associations used for political activities are undisclosed and unknown. In some cases, even management does not know how trade associations use their company’s money politically. The proposal asks the Company to disclose all of its political spending, including payments to trade associations and other tax exempt organizations used for political purposes. This would bring our Company in line with a growing number of peer companies, including CSX Corp., Norfolk Southern Corp. and UPS Inc., which support political disclosure and accountability and present this information on their websites.
The Company’s Board and its shareholders need comprehensive disclosure to be able to fully evaluate the political use of corporate assets. We urge your support for this critical governance reform.