Outcome: Successfully Withdrawn
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January 2010 legalized the use corporate funds to pay for ads supporting or opposing candidates directly and to contribute to state or local elections.
In July 2010 Pentair donated $100,000 to MN Forward, a group created in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to collect donations by corporations (Wall Street Journal (8/7/10) to influence the outcome of 2010 state races. MN Forward focuses on economic policies and appears to ignore a candidate’s other positions in making endorsements and contributions. MN Forward has made campaign contributions to a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and full parenting rights for same-sex households. This triggered demonstrations, petitions, boycotts and considerable negative publicity for Target and Best Buy, which also made significant contributions to MN Forward.
The shareholders believe this example illustrates the risks posed by corporate political expenditures, whether made directly or indirectly, and the serious reputational consequences that could negatively affect the company and shareholder value.
Corporate political spending is of increasing concern to investors and corporations. Over 75 S&P 500 companies now disclose political expenditures on their website, including half of the S&P 100. Shareholder resolutions urging such disclosure averaged more than 30% in favor of the resolution in 2010, indicating strong investor concern.
In the aftermath of Citizens United, we believe the Board should review Pentair’s policies and practices regarding political spending and report results to shareowners, with particular attention to the potential risk of such contributions to our company’s reputation and competitiveness. As long-term shareholders of Pentair, we support transparency and accountability regarding direct and indirect political contributions to candidates, political parties, political organizations or ballot referenda; independent expenditures; and electioneering communications on behalf of a federal, state or local candidate.
The shareholders request that the independent members of the Board of Directors provide a comprehensive report on Pentair’s:
- Policies and procedures for political contributions and expenditures (direct and indirect) made with corporate funds, and the process for assessing their potential impacts on the company’s public image, sales and profitability;
- Monetary and non-monetary contributions and expenditures (direct and indirect) used to participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, and used in any attempt to influence the general public, or segments thereof, with respect to elections or referenda. The report shall include the following:
- An accounting through an itemized report that includes the identity of the recipient as well as the amount paid to each recipient of the Company’s funds that are used for political contributions or expenditures as described above; and
- The title of the person or persons in the Company who participated in making the decisions to make the political contribution or expenditure.
The report shall be disclosed to shareholders by Sept 2011.