US - The US$29bn Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System (PA SERS) has backed calls for companies to disclose details of their political donations.
"The shareowners are, of course, the source of assets used to fund corporate contributions, and as such, we believe shareowners are entitled to know what the board-approved contributions policy is, and entitled to see a history of donations," a PA SERS spokesman told Global Pensions.
"Our board believes disclosure can bring a measure of transparency and accountability to the corporate charitable and political contribution process," he said, and added that shareowners would then have a better idea of the guidelines boards used in approving corporate contributions, and who they were made to.
As the elected representatives of shareowners, directors were charged with the broad responsibility of ensuring the company was run in the best long term interests of shareowners, he said: "SERS believes that should include monitoring, assessing and approving corporate political and charitable contributions."
SERS voted earlier in the year to support shareholder proposals calling for disclosure of corporate charitable or political policies and/or guidelines and the corporation’s history of charitable and political donations.
According to the spokesman, it would be impossible to identify whether contributions were money well spent unless shareowners actually knew how the money was spent.
That's why disclosure is so important, he said. We believe that when the information is public, shareowners can then be in a position to make informed judgments about how well - or poorly - the corporate contribution program is being managed.
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