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Companies become more transparent with association donation disclosures

Survey finds more companies in the S&P 500 are revealing their trade association contributions

Companies like to throw around the word “transparency,” and some are actually putting it into practice.

According to a new study by the Center for Political Accountability and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School’s Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research, more companies are opening up about the contributions they give to trade associations and nonprofit organizations. In fact, Reynolds American Inc. and Noble Energy are two of a growing number of companies with in the S&P 500 Index that are disclosing this information that they can legally keep from the public.

According to the report, 84 of the 195 largest companies in the S&P 500 have agreed to reveal their contributions, up from only 70 last year.

“Companies say this is just good governance,” Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountabilty, told Bloomberg. The organization encourages companies to disclose their political spending.

A spokeswoman for Reynolds said the company decided to take this route because a shareholder expressed an interest in becoming more transparent. And according to Noble’s GC Arnold Johnson, his company is committed to doing “business with integrity and transparency and applies this commitment to its stakeholder interactions and public disclosures,” he said in an email to Bloomberg.

The survey results come at an interesting time—when the Securities and Exchange Commission is considering making these types of disclosures a requirement for public companies. Company spending on trade associations and other nonprofit groups has substantially increased since the Citizens United decision in 2010.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however, opposes the possible requirement, claiming these disclosures could set companies up as targets for harassment.

Read more about this story on Bloomberg.  

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Cathleen Flahardy

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