* Shareholder proposal seeks end to campaign contributions
* Company calls proposal imprudent
* Comes amid time of rising shareholder activism
* Shareholders to meet in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Tuesday
By Scott Malone
May 4 Opponents of corporate political donations
plan to picket 3M Co's shareholder meeting on Tuesday in
a bid to get the diversified U.S. manufacturer to stop making
About 100 protesters are expected to turn out at the meeting
in St. Paul, Minnesota, to support a shareholder proposal that
would prohibit the maker of Post-It notes and films used in
television screens from directly contributing to election
campaigns, according to organizers.
"Their political spending policies continue to risk their
brand and ultimately shareholder value," said Shelley Alpern, a
vice president at Boston-based Trillium Asset Management, which
submitted the proposal, which also asks 3M to ensure that any
trade associations it is a member of not donate its dues to
campaigns. Another measure calls on 3M to disclose how it spends
its lobbying budget.
Directors of the St. Paul-based company urged shareholders
to vote against both proposals, saying the ban on contributions
would "imprudently" limit its ability to advance its interests.
"It is in the stockholders' and company's best interests for
the company to be an effective participant in the legislative
and regulatory process," 3M said in a filing with the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission.
A few hundred shareholders typically attend 3M's meetings.
This year will mark Inge Thulin's first as chief executive.
The Trillium proposal traces back to a 2010 Minnesota
gubernatorial campaign when Target Corp became the
target of a boycott after contributing to a group that funded
Republican candidate Tom Emmer, an opponent of gay marriage. 3M
contributed to the same organization.
Target and 3M both said they backed Emmer for his positions
on business, not social, issues. Target later changed its
contribution policy to assess a candidate's full agenda.
A similar episode unfolded this year when activists
threatened to boycott corporate sponsors of the American
Legislative Exchange Council, the organization behind the "Stand
Your Ground" gun laws that contributed to the controversy around
the fatal shooting in February of teenager Trayvon Martin in
Coca-Cola Co, Kraft Foods Inc and PepsiCo Inc
cut ties with the group, which then dropped its work on
social issues, confining itself to business and economics.
A LIVELY SPRING
It has been a lively year for shareholder meetings.
Shareholders have pushed back against management, most
prominently at Citigroup Inc, where an advisory vote
rejected CEO Vikram Pandit's pay package. More than 40 percent
of AT&T Inc and Honeywell International Inc
shareholders voted to split the chairman and CEO roles -- a
higher-than-average number but not enough to pass the measure.
Even more noise has come from members of the "99 Percent"
movement, who are protesting the influence of money in politics,
low corporate taxes and rising home foreclosures. Last month,
thousands of protesters converged outside Wells Fargo & Co's
annual meeting and about 100 protesters interrupted the
start of General Electric Co's parley.
A similarly large turnout is expected at the Bank of America
Corp meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Wednesday.
Protesters at 3M's meeting plan to take a subdued tone,
picketing outside and asking questions inside.