Shareholders Push Back Against FirstEnergy’s* Refusal to Disclose Lobbying Sums
Contact: Lucia von Reusner, Green Century Capital Management, 617-482-0800, firstname.lastname@example.org
May 19, 2015: Concerned about the energy company’s controversial efforts to influence public policy, shareholders are pressuring FirstEnergy at the company’s annual shareholder meeting today to disclose the money it spends on lobbying. The Ohio-based utility company operates several of the nation’s most polluting power plants, and has become notorious for lobbying behind the scenes to freeze or roll-back clean energy legislation. The company is estimated to spend millions on lobbying every year, yet does not disclose this spending to shareholders and has defaulted on previous commitments to shareholders to be more transparent about its efforts to influence public policy.
“FirstEnergy has consistently demonstrated that it does not have the public or its consumers’ interest in mind as it lobbies against clean energy and energy efficiency legislation,” noted Lucia von Reusner, Shareholder Advocate for Green Century Capital Management, the fossil fuel free mutual fund company that filed the shareholder proposal urging FirstEnergy to disclose information about its lobbying activities. “Shareholders deserve to know how FirstEnergy is spending shareholder dollars, and whether the company is acting in the best interest of long-term shareholder value. The company’s refusal to even meet with shareholders to discuss these issues is a huge red flag that all shareholders should be concerned about.”
FirstEnergy has faced criticism from consumers and environmental organizations for lobbying against public health, and clean energy regulations. In the past year alone, FirstEnergy has lobbied to freeze and roll back state energy efficiency and renewable energy targets in Ohio, and unsuccessfully lobbied to push forward a proposal that would have forced customers to bail out its old and inefficient coal-fired power plants. FirstEnergy has also lobbied against proposals that would limit industrial pollutants that threaten public health. The company is often cited for owning several of the most polluting power plants in the U.S., and is lagging peers significantly in terms of renewable energy and energy efficiency investments.
The shareholder proposal was prompted by shareholder concerns that FirstEnergy’s controversial lobbying risks damaging the company’s reputation, goodwill, and social license to operate. The company also defaulted on a previous commitment made in 2007 to disclose its political contributions to shareholders, issuing just one report in 2009 with no updates since. FirstEnergy has refused to respond to Green Century’s requests to meet with the company to discuss these issues, and instead attempted unsuccessfully to persuade the Securities and Exchange Commission to allow the company to remove this shareholder proposal from its proxy statement.
FirstEnergy is facing several other shareholder proposals at its shareholder meeting tomorrow, related to its poor governance processes and performance on climate change issues. These proposals all raise concerns that FirstEnergy’s anti-clean energy efforts are short-sighted and risk undermining long-term shareholder value.
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Green Century Capital Management is the investment advisor to the Green Century Funds and offers two environmentally and socially responsible funds, the Green Century Equity Fund and the Green Century Balanced Fund. Green Century works to curb climate change through fossil fuel free investing, reinvestment in sustainable companies, and advocating with companies to improve their environmental policies and supply chains. Green Century also is the only U.S. mutual fund company owned by environmental non-profits, the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs).
*As of March 31, 2015, neither the Green Century Balanced Fund nor the Green Century Equity Fund owned the securities mentioned. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.
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