20 May 2016 Leftist Proposal Defeated at Annual Meeting of Aetna Investors
National Center for Public Policy Research Exposes New York State and Local Retirement System Shareholder Resolution as Politically-Motivated Intimidation Tactic
Free Enterprise Project Halts NY Comptroller’s Effort to Defund the Chamber of Commerce
Avon, CT / Washington, D.C. – At today’s annual meeting of Aetna shareholders held in Avon, Connecticut, the major health insurer’s investors followed the National Center for Public Policy Research’s advice and rejected a shareholder resolution from a liberal activist organization that was designed to prevent the company from working with free-enterprise oriented groups.
Specifically, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project advised Aetna’s shareholders to reject a resolution from the Comptroller of the State of New York, Thomas P. DiNapoli, filed as trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the administrative head of the New York State and Local Retirement System, that was a direct attack on Aetna’s potential affiliation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Aetna’s investors voted down the proposal.
“Today, we scored a major victory for free speech and free enterprise,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “The NY Comptroller’s office, buoyed by the resources of the New York State and Local Retirement System, is working tirelessly to pressure corporate America to end all of its associations with conservative and free market groups. Whether it is the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Charles and David Koch or the American Legislative Exchange Council, the political left and its allied organizations are spending a small fortune to intimidate corporations from working with groups that expand freedom and try to reduce government interference with business. Today, we stopped one attack against the Chamber of Commerce. But many more are coming.”
At the meeting, Danhof spoke out against the NY Comptroller’s efforts by stating, in part:
The NY Comptroller is part of a broad network of liberal organizations that use corporate America as a pawn to try to silence speech and defund the free enterprise movement. This network files dozens of resolutions annually complaining about a lack of transparency and accountability regarding corporate lobbying and political activity. However, these groups never – and I mean never – express concern about the billions of corporate dollars that go to fund liberal causes and politicians. And that’s the point – the NY Comptroller and its ilk abhor corporate speech when it may skew right, but remain silent when it flows freely to leftist causes.
Today’s proposal asks the company to turn over lists, to name names. This is intimidation in its highest form. The proponent complains about a company donation from five years ago to the Chamber of Commerce. For trying to reduce government regulations and red tape so that Aetna may better serve its customers and the health care industry, the NY Comptroller wants to silence the Chamber because it claims the group is controversial. Well what about Aetna’s donations to Planned Parenthood – I guess the NY Comptroller doesn’t think that’s controversial.
The full text of Danhof’s remarks at the Aetna meeting, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.
The NY Comptroller’s complete shareholder resolution can be found on pages 65 of Aetna’s proxy statement – which is available for download here.
“Conservative organizations and free market leaders need to stand up and recognize the enormous amount of money and resources that the left is using to try and pressure corporations from working with them,” said Danhof. “Liberal agitators dominate the shareholder activism arena. Using intimidation to silence conservative free speech and embarrass free-enterprise minded groups is a great fundraising tool for the left. And disturbingly, corporations are often willing participants in this politically charged charade.”
“At the Free Enterprise Project, we employ our resources to defend the movement when and where we can, but our war chest is dwarfed by the left’s deep pockets. Other conservative and free-enterprise leaders must realize these imminent dangers and join the fight,” added Danhof.
Today’s meeting marks the fifth time this year that the Free Enterprise Project has helped usher defeat of a leftist shareholder proposal.
At yesterday’s annual meeting of Discovery Communications shareholders, National Center chairman Amy Ridenour urged the company’s investors to reject two liberal proposals: one aimed at instituting affirmative action in board hiring and the other aimed at requiring the company to self-impose unnecessary green energy regulations. Discovery’s investors overwhelmingly rejected both proposals.
Two weeks ago at the annual meeting of UPS shareholders in Wilmington, Delaware, Ridenour spoke out against a Walden Asset Management Proposal designed to force the shipping giant to sever ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council and other free market causes. Again, the shareholders soundly rejected the proposal.
And earlier this year at the annual meeting of Disney shareholders, Danhof spoke out against a Zevin Asset Management proposal that took issue with Disney’s affiliation with the National Restaurant Association. The proposal was summarily defeated.
The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. Today’s Aetna meeting marks its thirteenth shareholder meeting of 2016.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.