August 23, 2011
To: Elizabeth Murphy
Re: File No. 4-637, Petition to Require Public Companies to Disclose to Shareholders the Use of Corporate Resources for Political Activities"
As a shareholder in many publicly traded companies, I urge you to require companies to inform shareholders about expenditures for political activities. The companies may be spending my money on activities that I oppose, or that I believe are detrimental to the interest of the company's own shareholders. However, since I don't know how my money is being spent, I can't communicate to the company the logic behind why I think the expenditures may be misguided. My training in economic theory may have provided a different prospective that I could bring to bear.
In addition, I think there is a moral issue at stake. If the company is spending my money in ways that I would find to be ethically objectionable I need to be able to sell my shares instead of indirectly supporting political activities that I find to be unethical. However, if I don't know how the money is being spent I can't prevent my money from indirectly supporting political activities that I find unethical. I would hope the SEC would go even further and allow shareholders to vote on the political activities undertaken by companies, and for shareholders to be able to vote on whether their proportion of the money that is being spent on political activities should be instead be distributed to them as dividends so they can decide for themselves which political activities they wish to support.
Corporate executives should not have the power to spend shareholders money on political activities that the shareholders do not support, and to hide those expenditures from the shareholders. There can be no accountability without disclosure.
Andrew Weiss Ph.D.