Menendez Joins Colleagues in Urging SEC Nominees to Support Rule Requiring Public Companies to Disclose Political Spending

Menendez Joins Colleagues in Urging SEC Nominees to Support Rule Requiring Public Companies to Disclose Political Spending


WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today joined a group of Senate Banking Committee members in urging the newly-named nominees for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to support a requirement that publicly-held companies disclose their political spending to shareholders, and pressed the nominees to work to put such a rule into action should they be confirmed to the Commission.

The letter, sent to nominees Lisa Fairfax and Hester Pierce, was signed by Senate Banking Committee members Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, corporate political spending has gone unchecked,” the Senators wrote. “When it comes to spending on political activity, only roughly 2% of all public companies in the United States make such disclosures, and they do so voluntarily. We support a disclosure policy that requires companies to be held accountable to shareholders and brings transparency to corporate political spending.”

“As former Supreme Court Justice Brandeis said, ‘sunlight is the best of disinfectants,’” they continued. “Given how invested members of the Senate, former SEC officials, and the American public are on reforming our system, we hope that you will weigh seriously the importance of this issue when evaluating your positions as SEC Commissioner Nominees and advocate strongly that the Commission prioritize its implementation.”

The SEC has received a record one million public comments pushing for such a rule. Additionally, both Democratic and Republican former SEC Chairs have spoken out in favor of a political spending disclosure rulemaking, and have blasted the SEC’s failure to act under current Chair Mary Jo White. Former GOP Chair William Donaldson joined Schumer, Merkley and Menendez on a call last week to urge the new nominees to prioritize a political spending disclosure rule if their nominations are confirmed.

The full text of the letter follows below.

Dear SEC Commissioner Nominees:

We, as Democratic Members of the Senate Banking Committee, congratulate both of you on your nominations as the potential successors to Commissioner Luis Aguilar and Commissioner Daniel Gallagher at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Throughout the nomination process you will be asked about many different topics and asked to support a variety of different issues that fall within the Commission’s purview. While we may not have the same position on all of the different issues you will be asked to consider, we all agree and believe strongly in a rule that requires public companies to disclose their political spending and hope that you both will similarly be strong supporters of a corporate political spending disclosure rule and work diligently on its implementation should you be confirmed as Commissioners.

Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, corporate political spending has gone unchecked. When it comes to spending on political activity, only roughly 2% of all public companies in the United States make such disclosures, and they do so voluntarily.[1] We support a disclosure policy that requires companies to be held accountable to shareholders and brings transparency to corporate political spending.

The SEC has received more than 1 million public comments in favor of political spending disclosure, including from leading academics in the field of corporate governance, investment managers and advisors, and a number of State Treasurers. In particular, we agree with the views of former SEC Chairmen William Donaldson and Arthur Levitt and former Commissioner Bevis Longstreth, who wrote in a May 2015 letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White that the SEC’s failure to act “flies in the face of the primary mission of the Commission, which has since 1934 been the protection of investors.”[2]

As former Supreme Court Justice Brandeis said, “sunlight is the best of disinfectants.” We support disclosure policy that holds public companies accountable to shareholders and brings greater transparency to corporate political spending. We believe this is consistent with the SEC’s requirement for public companies to disclose material information to its investors.

Given how invested members of the Senate, former SEC officials, and the American public are on reforming our system, we hope that you will weigh seriously the importance of this issue when evaluating your positions as SEC Commissioner Nominees and advocate strongly that the Commission prioritize its implementation.

Sincerely,

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