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SEC’s Aguilar Says Companies Should Report Political Spending

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission should require companies to disclose their spending on political campaigns, said SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar.

“Investors are not receiving adequate disclosure, and as the investor’s advocate, the Commission should act swiftly to rectify the situation,” said Aguilar, a Democrat on the five-member commission, in remarks prepared for a Washington securities-law conference today. “Withholding information from shareholders is a fundamental deprivation that undermines the securities regulatory framework.”

Aguilar said that the 2010 Supreme Court decision that permitted undisclosed corporate campaign spending has left shareholders “often in the dark as to whether the companies they own, or contemplate owning, are making political expenditures.” He pointed out shareholders at 50 companies requested in 2011 that political spending be put up for stockholder votes.

“Those issues are obviously getting a lot of attention,” SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro told reporters today. She said most large companies already disclose some information on political involvement and the agency will consider public petitions on whether to require such disclosures “at some point.”

A study released in October by the Washington-based Center for Political Accountability found that 55 members of the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index voluntarily disclosed to shareholders direct political spending. In November, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System approved guidelines calling on companies in which the largest U.S. public pension invests to disclose their political contributions annually.

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