Ecolab, investor clash on political contributions

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 1, 2012 - 4:33 PM

A proposal to limit such gifts without prior shareholder approval goes to a vote Thursday.

An investor in Ecolab Inc. is pressing the St. Paul-based company to provide more information to shareholders on its political contributions and give them more of a say on where the funds go.

NorthStar Asset Management Inc. said in documents filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it believes some contributions by the company and its political action committee are at odds with Ecolab's stated values.

"Many of those [contribution] decisions appear to have reflected the personal values of the management team, rather than the expressed values of Ecolab," the filing said.

The filing named five politicians who received money, including Minnesota Republicans Michele Bachmann and John Kline. The documents pointed out that, among other things, both Bachmann and Kline opposed hate crime legislation, the repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell that was aimed at reducing discrimination in the military, and the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. Their positions are at odds with Ecolab's nondiscrimination policies and publicly stated commitments to protect the environment, NorthStar said.

The SEC filing encourages shareholders to vote for a proposal by NorthStar at the company's annual meeting Thursday. The proposal would change the current practice of disclosing previous contributions without prior shareholder approval to allowing a shareholder vote on anticipated contributions.

Ecolab's board has recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal. In the proxy statement, it says political contributions are subjected to a "substantial review."

The proxy also says that Ecolab's political action committee is funded by voluntary contributions from employees and that its contributions are determined by a board made up mostly of executives from the company's business units.

Susan Feyder • 612-673-1723

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