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Corporate Political Spending Disclosure Rule Should Be a Key Factor in Senate Confirmation of SEC Nominees

March 15, 2016


Corporate Political Spending Disclosure Rule Should Be a Key Factor in Senate Confirmation of SEC Nominees

Senate Banking Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing Today

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lawmakers who ask questions today of two nominees for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) should ensure that the nominees support a proposal to require publicly held companies to disclose their political spending, the Corporate Reform Coalition said today.

The call comes as the U.S. Senate Banking Committee takes up the long-delayed confirmation hearing for two people nominated to be SEC commissioners, Hester Pierce, a Republican, and Lisa Fairfax, a Democrat.

For the sake of a functioning and accountable corporate democracy, the SEC must issue a rule requiring disclosure of corporate political spending, the Corporate Reform Coalition maintains. Political spending information is relevant to investors, and they have demanded action.

Many members of the banking committee have spoken out on this matter, including Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Those lawmakers recently organized a sign-on letter to the agency calling on it to work on the regulation. The letter garnered 44 signatures.

The federal government spends more than $128 billion annually on student aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. Yet even as for-profit schools benefit from taxpayers’ largesse, many of them target students – particularly people of color, low-income individuals and veterans – using fraudulent recruitment practices. Many of these schools provide an inferior education with low-quality programs, few support services, and abysmal graduation and job placement rates. Some students at such schools drop out after they realize the extent of their school’s misrepresentations. Other students graduate with a worthless degree. In either case, the school’s wrongdoing leaves students with significant financial obligations to the federal government that they cannot repay.

This Senate support is accompanied by robust and overwhelming backing from those the SEC is charged with protecting: investors. A record number of public and retail investor comments – more than 1.2 million – have come into the agency. Supportive comments have come from five state treasurers, 70 major major foundations, more than 100 major individual investors and a bipartisan group of former SEC commissioners and chairs.

The Corporate Reform Coalition looks forward to the new commissioners being responsive to the demand from investors and making this matter a priority.