Conference Board study

Companies Challenged over Membership in ALEC and Heartland Institute

Walden Asset Management spearheads a letter-writing campaign by shareowners urging corporations to review their memberships in the controversial organizations.

Tim Smith of Walden Management was instrumental in getting Bank of America to quit ALEC.

SocialFunds.com — Following the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January, 2010, the years-long campaign by investors to pressure corporations to disclose their direct political contributions was expanded to include payments to activist trade associations like the US Chamber of Commerce. Sustainable investors and other governance advocates recognized that inconsistencies between a company’s stated position on sustainability issues and the lobbying activities of trade associations left it exposed to reputational and business risks.

Following a number of highly publicized incidents, investor concerns have now widened to include corporate membership in partisan More →

BofA to Quit ALEC?

Last summer, a cousin who is a stockbroker, sent me a link from a group called Social Funds.  (http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/3592.html

As I’ve followed the corporate defections from ALEC and Heartland, Walden Management kept coming up in the conversation. I’ve not found a great deal about them that is not in the Social Funds article linked to and shown above.  Hadn’t really given them much thought lately as the exodus of corporations from ALEC and fellow cabal member Heartland had quieted down.

Well, the same folks who organized the large BofA protest at the BofA Shareholder’s Meeting here in Charlotte earlier this year, are apparently looking at keeping up the pressure on BofA and organizing a follow-up protest.  As I was going through my archives to review the process that they used to organize their protest–a very effective process, by the way–I ran across some notes I had that mentioned Walden Management.  Having just heard some rumors during last Saturday’s “Who is Controlling your Politicians” rally about the relationship between Bank of America and ALEC, I decided to look up Walden Management to see if perhaps they knew anything about this.

I spoke with Tim Smith, identified in the Social Funds article as Walden’s “Senior Vice President and Director of ESG Shareholder Engagement for Walden Asset Management, (who had) urged the companies “to examine safeguards and processes in place to ensure that membership in and support for organizations that influence public policy do not undermine” their reputations.

(The letter was signed by 41 investors with approximately $25 billion in assets under management.)

I reached Tim Smith by telephone late this afternoon and asked him about the rumor I had heard,  He confirmed to me that BofA will be leaving ALEC in 2013 “for budgetary reasons”.  Tim told me that he had sent out an e-mail to someone involved in the exposing ALEC movement that he worked with, notifying him/her about Walden’s success with BofA.  (Talk about timing!)  He said he would send me a copy of the e-mail, but I suspect that the 5:00 bell rang before he could do it.

For whatever reason, there is no mention of this anywhere that I can find on the internet, despite his assurance that he had notified people yesterday.  And that is why I am calling this a rumor as I have not seen any written confirmation at this moment–just the word of the person who apparently worked to secure this incredibly great action.

Living in Charlotte, Bank of America is a subject of great interest as it has been the target of numerous protests by a number of different groups, most notably the Pushback Network (Brigid Flaherty), Occupy Wall Street, and the Occupy groups in North Carolina–Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Greensboro, Asheville, Durham, Raleigh, Carrboro…all the way out to Occupy Wilmington (NC) on the coast.

As Bank of America is of such great interest in Charlotte— and should be of interest to all following the ALEC Insurrection– I thought I would go public with this as a “rumor” until I get written confirmation.

My personal thanks to Tim Smith at Walden Management for his efforts to use the power of their portfolio to communicate with the shareholders of many corporations involved in ALEC and the Heartland Institute. 

As for Social Funds, I’ve got to find out more about their socially responsible investment management,