Human Capital & Careers

NYC Pensions to Companies: Reveal Political Payouts

Among the companies being asked to fess up about their contributions: Halliburton; Duke Energy; Charles Schwab; DTE Energy; Wal-Mart; and United Te...
David KatzFebruary 25, 2008

Acting on behalf of New York City’s Pension Funds, William C. Thompson, Jr., the city’s comptroller, is asking ten of America’s biggest companies to disclose their political contributions in a report submitted to their audit committees.

Thompson submitted the resolution to: Halliburton Corp.; Duke Energy; Charles Schwab Corp.; DTE Energy; Wal-Mart; United Technologies; Devon Energy; Computer Sciences Corp.; Entergy Corp.; and Union Pacific. United Technologies has already has agreed to adopt the proposal.

The Pension Funds are asking the companies to reveal all political contributions and outlays made directly or indirectly with corporate funds to political candidates, parties, committees, and other political entities.

Companies that adopt the measure would put together a report that includes: an accounting of the company’s funds used for political contributions; identification of the people who made the political contributions; and a copy of the company’s internal guidelines governing political contributions. The report must then be presented to the company’s audit committee and posted on the company’s website.

Patrick Doherty, director of corporate social responsibility in the comptroller’s office, denied that the funds had a partisan purpose in taking the action. (Thompson is a Democrat, while New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a trustee of two of the pension funds, is an Independent.)

While political contributions may often be used to further corporate interests, they sometimes inappropriately are doled out to candidates solely to benefit senior management, Doherty told “If a contribution was being made with corporate money that would have the net effect of benefiting not the company, but the individual officers of the company, that would be something we would not look favorably on,” he said.

Thompson filed the request on behalf of the New York City Employees Retirement System; the Teacher’s Retirement System for the City of New York; the New York City Police Pension Fund; the New York City Fire Department Fund; and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System. “The pension funds believe that companies must ensure transparency and accountability in any contributions to political activities,” he said.