Monday, March 18, 2013

Pension fund seeks more BB&T disclosure on political spending

At their upcoming annual meeting, BB&T shareholders will get to vote on what has become for them a very familiar ballot item.

For the fourth year in a row, the Massachusetts Laborers' Pension Fund is asking shareholders to support a proposal that would make the Winston-Salem-based bank provide semiannual disclosures on political spending. The request, on which shareholders get to vote at the meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., next month, seeks disclosure on spending to influence legislation and public opinion on political issues and to participate in campaigns in support of, or against, candidates.

Bank of America shareholders are also set to vote at their annual meeting on a proposal that would ban the use of the bank's corporate funds for political purposes.

BB&T's board is asking shareholders to vote against the request. In the bank's 2013 proxy statement, the board says the company doesn't use corporate funds as contributions to political candidates, parties or committees. Rather, the board says, the company sponsors political action committees, "which allow associates to pool their financial resources to support federal and state candidates who support effective legislation important to BB&T and its shareholders.

"In light of BB&T’s policy prohibiting the use of corporate funds for political contributions, the fact that BB&T already provides all legally required disclosures regarding political contributions and the fact that much of this information is already publicly available, this proposal is duplicative and unwarranted and would cause the corporation to expend unnecessary time and resources without providing any additional benefit to shareholders."

But Barry McAnarney, executive director of the pension fund, which owns 15,650 shares of BB&T, told the Observer Monday that he would like more spending-related disclosure from the bank. For one, the pension fund wants BB&T to provide details on any payments it might make to trade associations, he said.

McAnarney said some corporations in recent years have found themselves the subject of news stories focused on to which causes they've given money. In the proxy statement, the pension fund argues that "Gaps in transparency and accountability may expose the company to reputational and business risks that could threaten long-term shareholder value."

The pension fund also says "publicly available data does not provide a complete picture of the company's lobbying or political expenditures."

Depending on the situation, some political contributions -- whether to liberal or conservative causes -- can have an adverse effect on a company's bottom line, McAnarney said.

"We just want people to be transparent," he said. "I’m a full believer that transparency only helps in organizations."

So far, BB&T shareholders don't think the additional disclosure is necessary. They've voted down the pension fund's previous requests in 2012, 2011 and 2010, a fact that BB&T notes in the 2013 proxy statement.

6 comments:

Skippy said...

Be careful whiberals, you may not like what you find..

Jif said...

That's the point Skippy...make these banks own up to what they are doing. If I am giving you millions of dollars and you are actively supporting causes that are trying to put me out of business, of course I want to know. If so I can take my business somewhere else. Regardless of what the issue may be. That's capitalism right?

Huh?!? said...

So the bank is trying to say that donating to a PAC is not donating to a candidate?? Wow, they must think people are reaaaallllly stupid. What do you have to hide?

B Green said...

If you don't like the current transparency, you can sell your shares.

InsideTrader75 said...

Probably donated to Obama....wouldn't want that to come out, crash a stock price real fast.

Kate Smith said...

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