Social activism inside the BofA Boardroom

There's more than one way to skin a (Citizens United) cat:

“Citizens United conferred expanded freedom to corporations and unions to make political donations, but exercising that freedom exposes companies and their shareholders to significant risk,” said Shelley Alpern of Trillium, which filed the proposals at 3M and Bank of America. “Better means exist for those in the business community to express their political and policy preferences that do not divert shareholder resources toward political ends that they may not support and which may cause public controversy.”

This article is somewhat dated, but if I heard the rep from Trillium on the radio a few minutes ago correctly, the proposal to discontinue BofA's political contributions will be voted on today. And it would be a public relations coup for the embattled mega-bank.

A recent review of the academic literature on the correlation between shareholder value and political activity has indicated that there is a negative correlation between the two and that shareholder value may be hurt by firm political activity. (http://www.sec.gov/comments/4-637/4637-8.pdf)

“Given that corporate political spending may indeed have a long-term negative correlation to shareholder value and Target’s firsthand experience with contribution-related backlash, we believe companies should protect against risk and refrain from using treasury funds for political purposes,” said Larisa Ruoff of Green Century. Green Century filed the proposal with Target.

“Neither shareholders nor citizens ultimately benefit from corporate political spending,” said Gary Kalman, Federal Legislative Director of U.S. PIRG. “It’s time for corporations to recognize that fact and refrain from political spending.”

Just because you can do a thing, it doesn't necessarily follow that you should. Consider this: If your political contributions don't help the company, the money's wasted. If your political contributions do help your company, not only is our democracy at risk, but so is our potential for healthy economic growth.

Either way, it's a bad business decision.

Comments

WUNC rocks

And so does Frank Stasio. And it's that time of year, folks.

Believe me when I say, "I know that times are tight and donating money seems hard to afford right now. But I'm beginning to think I can't afford not to."