Campaigns

Vanguard

Shareholders are calling on the major mutual fund company Vanguard to support political spending disclosure at the companies in which it invests. As the largest manager of retirement savings in the country, Vanguard should support shareholders who are calling for big companies to disclose their political spending, but instead it either abstains from voting or votes against disclosure resolutions.

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Background
For the last decade, investors have been filing shareholder resolutions at individual companies and seeing promising responses from many who are interested in increasing their transparency. Without a uniform rulemaking, though, others are allowed to continue to keep shareholders and the public in the dark about how they spend in politics. Even those who do disclose may not do it the same way as other corporations, making it hard for investors to actually use the information to make corporate comparisons.

How do mutual funds fit into this picture? The major ones, like Vanguard and BlackRock, have incredible power in corporate elections; power accumulated from the millions of retirement savings accounts they manage. With the volume of shares they control, the major mutual funds can and should support shareholder resolutions calling for political spending disclosure. Instead, Vanguard, specifically, either votes against or abstains from voting for these resolutions at the companies where its clients’ savings are invested. The weight of the major mutual fund vote means that many times resolutions fail to get majority support without it.

In September, the CRC sat down with Vanguard’s founder, John C. “Jack” Bogle to talk about the public comment he submitted to the SEC on the petition for a rulemaking requiring companies to disclose their political spending.

 

Watch Vanguard’s founder Jack Bogle talk about a shareholders right to information like a company’s political spending.

The gravity Jack Bogle continues to hold within the investment community is immense, and we should heed his words about shareholder rights. The SEC should make strides on the political spending disclosure rule. Until the rule is finalized, though, mutual funds should not hamper the efforts of shareholders calling for disclosure at individual companies.

For more information on engaging with Vanguard email rcurley@citizen.org. 

SEC Political Spending Disclosure Rule

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Fed up with corporations spending unlimited amounts of secret money to meddle in politics? Tell the SEC to shine light on corporate spending

Background

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC came down in 2010, corporations have been allowed to spend unlimited undisclosed amounts of money to influence American elections and in turn affect policy outcomes. Noting the danger of “dark money” for both American democracy and the shareholders of the companies that are spending in secret,  a strong coalition of diverse allies have been working together since the decision to bring corporate spending in politics into the light.

In 2011 a bipartisan committee of leading corporate and securities law professors filed the first petition requesting a rulemaking at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requiring all public companies to disclose their political expenditures. This rulemaking was placed on the agency’s agenda in 2013 by the agency’s former chair Mary Schapiro, but it was removed by chair Mary Jo White in 2014. Additional obstruction occurred when Congressional Republicans inserted a policy rider into the past two appropriations bills that prohibits the SEC from finalizing–though not from working on–the rule.

Since the original petition was filed 1.2 million comments on the petition, an all-time record, have come into the SEC.

For more on the historic campaign for corporate political spending disclosure check out Public Citizen’s report.