Starbucks shareholders to vote on political giving ban

Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:28pm EDT

* Starbucks recommends investors vote "no"

* Part of broad activist push for more political contribution disclosure

* Lobbying disclosure proposals at Visa, Accenture won 30-40 pct support

By Lisa Baertlein

March 20 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp investors are scheduled to vote later on Wednesday on a proposal to reverse its current policy of allowing political contributions - an idea that is opposed by the world's biggest coffee chain.

The vote at Starbucks comes two years after its chief executive, Howard Schultz, organized scores of fellow CEOs to boycott campaign contributions until lawmakers came up with a plan to fix the nation's financial woes.

Despite Schultz's earlier support for a boycott on political contributions, the Seattle-based company's directors recommended that shareholders vote "no" on the proposal from investor John Harrington. They said it would hobble Starbucks' ability to promote public policies needed to deliver strong results and could put the company at a "marked disadvantage" with competitors.

Starbucks' corporate policy allows contributions to state or local candidates, political action committees or state ballot measures.

Over the last three years, Starbucks made no direct political contributions and did not operate a political action committee, according to the annual report to shareholders. It did pay dues to trade organizations that lobbied lawmakers.

Starbucks is one of 125 companies to face shareholder proposals over the last two years related to political spending, according to a March 7 report by the Sustainable Investments Institute, which tracks political spending and corporate governance issues.

In votes held this year, 37 percent of Visa Inc's voting shareholders and 31 percent of those of Accenture Plc supported proposals to disclose contributions for lobbying, according to filings from both companies.

The vote by Starbucks investors will take place at the company's annual general meeting in Seattle.

Shares of Starbucks, which hit an all-time high of nearly $62 in April 2012, were up 0.5 percent at $57.12 on Wednesday afternoon.

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