Duke Energy

Duking it out: The pitfalls of corporate political activity

March 4, 2011: 1:22 PM ET

As Duke Energy takes heat over private meetings it had with its regulator, corporate boards should expect tough questions from shareholders on political activities this proxy season.

Duke Energy CEO James Rogers

By Eleanor Bloxham, contributor

Political activity and agitation are in the spotlight on multiple fronts across the globe, and despite advance warnings from investors, the issue remains off the radar for U.S. corporate boards.

Last week, for the first time in four years, TIAA-CREF, a financial services organization with over $450 billion in assets under management, updated its policy statement on corporate governance. The statement includes a section on political influence in which TIAA-CREF argues that political spending may pose "risks to shareholders, including the risk that corporate political spending may benefit political insiders at the expense [of] shareholder interests."

This statement is reflective of  growing concern by many investors in the wake of the Citizen's United Supreme Court decision, in which the Court ruled that the government cannot prohibit companies from spending on political elections. More

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