As an investor, Friends Fiduciary’s position on proxy votes for greater disclosure, transparency and accountability by corporations on these expenditures is starting to get traction. Kate Monahan, Shareholder Engagement Manager, was recently quoted in an article on this important, and now timely, issue.
Friends Fiduciary has been working for greater transparency since 2013 through dialogues with companies and with shareholder resolutions when those dialogues have been unsuccessful. Companies have long wanted to keep such spending – and the purposes for it – in the dark. While FFC takes the position that lobbying is a legitimate business activity, we also note that it comes with potential risks. There are risks for political spending as well, as we have seen recently with a number of consumer facing corporations racing to distance themselves from politicians who have continued to falsely claim that the recent presidential election results were not legitimate.
While we are grateful that other investors – and even some companies – are starting to recognize the business and reputational risks of these expenditures and the need for board level oversight to ensure consistency with business interests, there are still a number of larger investment companies and mutual funds – like Vanguard – that are lagging on these important issues of corporate transparency and accountability. At Friends Fiduciary we will continue our leadership on these issues.