fb tracking

Big Bank Shareholders Demand Greater Lobbying Transparency

More than One-Third of Wells Fargo Shareholders Voted for Lobbying Disclosure Proposal at Company Annual Meeting After Similar Strong Shows of Shareholder Support by Goldman Sachs and Bank of New York Mellon Investors

Washington, D.C. — Wells Fargo held its Annual General Meeting last week where shareholders voted in significant numbers to back a proposal calling for stronger transparency of the bank’s lobbying spending on the federal and state level, as well as lobbying payments to trade associations and “dark money” groups that decline to disclose their donors or detail their lobbying activities.

“This strong vote by Wells Fargo shareholders shows investors realize how risky it is for big banks to hide some of their lobbying spending while pretending to be transparent,” said Jon Golinger, Democracy Advocate for Public Citizen. “Sudden bank failures and PR crises have revealed the reputational risks when banks say one thing publicly but lobby for another behind closed doors. That misalignment can damage investor value.”

Preliminary vote totals indicate that 35.35% of Wells Fargo shareholders voted at the company meeting on April 30, 2024 to support Item 12, to require a new “Transparency in Lobbying Annual Report” despite strong opposition from the Wells Fargo Board of Directors. According to The Conference Board, shareholder support of 30% or more of a proposal indicates an “issue meriting board attention.”

The Wells Fargo vote follows similar strong shareholder votes for lobbying transparency last month at Bank of New York Mellon and Goldman Sachs. At the Bank of New York Mellon, 38% of shareholders supported the lobbying disclosure proposal; at Goldman Sachs, 39% of shareholders supported a similar proposal.

The Wells Fargo lobbying disclosure proposal requests that the company provide an annual report to shareholders disclosing its policies and procedures governing lobbying, payments used for direct or indirect lobbying as well as grassroots lobbying communications, membership in and payments to tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation, and the board and management’s decision-making process for making those lobbying payments.

This work is aligned with a broader campaign led by Public Citizen and the Corporate Reform Coalition to strengthen corporate lobbying disclosure by requiring all U.S. companies to fully inform investors about their spending on lobbyists. Last November, five U.S. Senators – Senators Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, John Fetterman, Jon Tester, and Tina Smith – sent a letter to the Securities Exchange Commission urging it “to use its existing authority to issue rules requiring disclosure of corporate lobbyist expenditures to shareholders.”