ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York's comptroller has dropped his lawsuit against Qualcomm Inc. after the wireless technology company agreed to disclose more information about its political spending.
The lawsuit filed Jan. 2 in Delaware sought a court order to inspect company records, saying the San Diego-based corporation rebuffed previous requests for the information. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is sole trustee of New York's pension fund for public workers, which has 5.5 million Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) shares valued at $359 million.
The company said Friday that it will post online its contributions to political candidates and political parties, political spending to trade associations and nonprofit social welfare organizations, and contributions to influence ballot measures.
“Qualcomm agrees with the New York State Common Retirement Fund that increased transparency for election-related activities by corporations is very beneficial,” said Paul Jacobs, chief executive and chairman. “While Qualcomm has been developing a new policy on disclosure of political expenditures for some time, engaging with the Common Retirement Fund has been helpful.”
According to the comptroller's office, Qualcomm spent more than $4.5 million on lobbying last year. That figure was based on data compiled by OpenSecrets.org, which showed the company spent more than $6 million on lobbying in both 2010 and 2011.
“Qualcomm's disclosure policy sets a high standard for transparency in corporate political spending disclosure and the company deserves praise for its actions,” DiNapoli said. “This is a significant milestone in greater transparency in corporate political spending.”
The New York pension fund and other members of the Council of Institutional Investors sent letters to 430 companies in 2010 asking that they disclose political contributions made with corporate funds. In the past two years, the fund filed 27 shareholder resolutions asking for disclosures, reaching agreement with 11 companies, 10 of those including language on indirect political spending, comptroller spokesman Eric Sumberg said. “We have not filed suits against any other companies at this time, but we are reviewing all of our options,” he said.
The lawsuit said corporate political activity has risen sharply since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 removed restrictions on it. The suit also cited recent studies, including one from Strategic Management Journal in 2012 that indicates that spending in general “is negatively correlated with enterprise value.”
Qualcomm has posted the policy statement on its website, which says all political expenditures with company funds or resources will promote the company's interests, without regard for the political preferences of officers or executives. A related financial report for its 2012 fiscal year shows $78,000 in California state and local political contributions, $161,000 in federal political action committee contributions, $90,000 to social welfare organizations, $1.84 million to trade associations and $1 million to the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.