ESG in 2021 – The Role of Board Oversight of Corporate Political Spending

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Environmental, social and governance (or ESG) issues have been hot topics and buzzwords in corporate governance for well over a decade and these issues have increasingly grabbed the attention of corporations and their boards of directors. However, the unprecedented events that marked 2020 and that have continued into 2021 have brought front and center the need for corporate boards of directors to take their oversight of ESG issues seriously. Pressure from institutional investors, such as BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, has contributed to such increased focus and urgency, but so has pressure from environmental groups, employees, customers, and other corporate “stakeholders.” For example, State Street has announced that it will start voting against the boards of companies that underperform their peers when it comes to ESG standards.1

In light of the riots and attack on the U.S. capitol on January 6, 2021, and the role that certain politicians played in such event and the circumstances surrounding it, it is clear that the boards of directors of U.S. corporations need to put a spotlight on another item in their ESG oversight—political activity, political donations, and lobbying activities.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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