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New CPA-Zicklin Index Reveals Surge in Number of Top Companies with Strong Political Disclosure Policies 

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 —The number of large American companies ranked highest for their political disclosure and accountability policies and practices grew by more than 150 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to an annual benchmarking study released today.

Sixteen companies share the top five scores and set a high standard for overall political disclosure and accountability. In 2012, six companies were identified as top corporate leaders. The Index rated the top 200 companies in the S&P 500.

With the newcomers that have achieved this standard italicized, the corporate leaders are: Merck, Qualcomm, and United Parcel Service, all with an overall score of 94.3 out of 100; AFLAC, CSX, and Microsoft, 92.9; Noble Energy and Gilead Sciences, 91.4; Conoco Phillips, Exelon, JP Morgan Chase, Time Warner, and Wells Fargo, 90; and Intel, PG&E, and Yum! Brands, 88.6.

These findings are contained in the third annual CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Accountability and Disclosure, released today by the Center for Political Accountability in conjunction with the Carol and Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research. The Zicklin Center is located at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Following is a link to the Index: 2013 CPA-Zicklin Index

“A strong cross-section of the top tier of American business has established political disclosure as a corporate mainstream practice, and we’re very encouraged to see this strong  trend gaining momentum,” said Bruce Freed, CPA president.

“From financial services giant JP Morgan Chase to the transportation, communications, rail, and energy sectors, the newest companies which are resoundingly saying ‘no’ to hidden spending are diversified and industry leaders. The 2013 CPA-Zicklin Index makes this clear,” Freed added.

William S. Laufer, a professor at The Wharton School and director of its Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research, said, "It is heartening to see corporate political disclosure and accountability emerge as powerful proxies of good governance and, now, as a competitive advantage. Each year the CPA-Zicklin Index marks the progress of a new norm adopted by many of the most admired, respected, and best-managed companies."

The CPA-Zicklin Index is based on a survey of information publicly available on company websites. It provides the data underlying the following findings, some of them surprising:

·         Even in a legal environment that permits secret spending, 150 out of 195 companies (78 percent) studied for two consecutive years get improved scores for disclosure of political spending and accountability. On average, these companies improved their final scores by about 13 points from 38.2 to 50.7.

·         Companies showing the greatest improvement from 2012 to 2013 are Noble Energy, boosting its overall score from 5.6 to 91.4 on a scale of zero to 100; CSX Corporation, raising its overall score from 8.3 to 92.9; and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, receiving a score of 80.0, up from 2.8.

·         Almost 70 percent of companies made some voluntary disclosure of direct political spending. This includes 53 percent that disclose their contributions to candidates, parties, and committees, and another 17 percent that say their policy is not to engage in such political spending. No 2012 data is directly comparable.

·         Fifty-seven percent of companies are opening up about their payments to trade associations, often a conduit for secret political spending. This includes 43 percent that make some disclosure of their payments to trade associations, and another 14 percent that say they ask trade associations not to use their payments for political campaigns. In 2012, the overall figure was 41 percent. That included 36 percent that made some disclosure, and five percent that restricted their payments.

·         More than a third (35 percent) of the companies disclosed their payments to or had a policy against giving to nonprofit 501(c)(4) groups, often labeled “dark money” conduits when they make independent expenditures without disclosing donors.  In 2012, just about a quarter did the same. 

While many leading companies have changed their policies in favor of transparency and accountability, the Index also highlighted others that lag behind.

The Index is an increasingly recognized benchmarking study. It has won mention in the New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Reuters, Bloomberg, Politico, the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Among specialty publications, it has been noted in Business Ethics Magazine, BNA Money and Politics Report, Corporate Counsel, Political Activity Law Blog, The Conference Board Governance Center blog, Inside Investor Relations magazine and Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Monitor. Leading corporate campaign finance counsel have cited it favorably, as has a senior executive for Altria Client Services Inc.

Because the Index examines policies and practices published on corporate websites, its accompanying report does not make any judgments about a company’s political spending or whether its disclosure is complete. The report is entitled The 2013 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Accountability and Disclosure: How Leading Companies Navigate Political Spending in the Wake of Citizens United.

***

The Center for Political Accountability (CPA) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that was created to bring transparency and accountability to corporate political spending. It was formed to address the secrecy that cloaks much of the political activity engaged in by companies and the risks this poses to shareholder value. Since 2003, CPA has become a recognized national leader, spearheading a highly visible and effective campaign for corporate political disclosure.

The Carol and Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at The Wharton School works to sponsor and disseminate leading edge research on critical topics in business ethics.


Archive:

2012 CPA-Zicklin Index

2011 CPA-Zicklin Index

 

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