Lobbying Disclosure – UnitedHealth Group (2012)
Resolved: Shareholders of UnitedHealth Group (“UNH” or the “Company”) request that the Board of Directors (the “Board”) authorize the preparation of a report, updated annually, disclosing:
1. Company policy and procedures governing the lobbying of legislators and regulators, including that done on the Company’s behalf by trade organizations. The disclosure should include both direct and indirect lobbying and grassroots lobbying communications.
2. A listing of payments (both direct and indirect, including payments to trade organizations) used for direct lobbying as well as grassroots lobbying communications, including the amount of the payment and the recipient.
3. Membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.
4. Description of the decision making process and oversight by the management and the Board for (a) direct and indirect lobbying contribution or expenditure; and (b) payment for grassroots lobbying expenditure.
For purposes of this proposal, a “grassroots lobbying communication” is a communication directed to the general public that: (a) refers to specific legislation, (b) reflects a view on the legislation and (c) encourages the recipient of the communication to take action with respect to the legislation. Both “direct and indirect lobbying” and “grassroots lobbying communications” include efforts at the local, state and federal levels. The report shall be presented to the Audit Committee or other relevant oversight committee of the Board and posted on the Company’s website.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporations are considered persons having the right to express opinions on public policy issues. However, corporations can exert significantly greater influence than single individuals or groups and may promote interests unknown and contrary to the interests of their own shareholders.
For example, many companies in the health care industry have told their shareholders they are in basic support of the federal health reform law known as the Affordable Care Act, albeit with a desire for necessary changes. However, many of these corporations are members of groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) and other organizations which are actively working to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.
It is important that our Company’s lobbying positions, as well as processes to influence public policy, are transparent. Public opinion is skeptical of corporate influence on Congress and public policy. Questionable lobbying activity may pose risks to our Company’s reputation when controversial positions are embraced. Hence, we believe full disclosure of UNH’s policies, procedures and oversight mechanisms is warranted.
UNH has spent nearly $23 million from 2008 through Q1 2011 on direct federal lobbying activities, according to public records. These figures may not include its grassroots lobbying to directly influence legislation by mobilizing public support or opposition. Also, not all states require disclosure of lobbying expenditures to influence legislation or regulation and UNH does not disclose contributions to tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation, such as a $50,000 contribution to ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting (http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/08/05/288823/alec-exposed-corporations-funding/).