November 15, 2023

Warren, Banking Committee Colleagues Call on SEC to Require Disclosure of Corporate Lobbying Expenditures to Increase Transparency and Fight Dark Money

“A company’s lobbying activity is of material importance to its investors, and it is past time for the SEC to require strong disclosure rules to ensure that investors have access to that information.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. —  Today, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown  (D-Ohio.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and John Fetterman (D-Pa.) sent a letter to Gary Gensler, Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), urging him to issue rules requiring public companies to disclose their lobbying expenditures. Corporate lobbying expenditures are reaching record highs, but public companies are not currently required to report information on the details of their lobbying to the SEC. 

“In 2022, total federal lobbying expenditures reached $4.1 billion – the highest since 2010. Amazon and Meta spent almost $20 million each to influence decision-making in Congress and across government agencies, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – which counts companies like JPMorgan Chase, Alphabet, and Chevron among its members  – spent $79.4 million,” wrote the senators. “While these figures are staggering, they provide little insight into the interests that companies spend millions each year to advance. This lack of transparency erodes the ability of everyday investors to make informed decisions about where to invest their money – and where their money goes once they have invested.”

Specifically, the senators are requesting that such rules require disclosure of lobbying strategy, the aggregate amount of direct or indirect contributions to registered state and federal lobbyists, and any material risks related to or arising from lobbying strategies and expenditures.

“In the absence of strong lobbying disclosure rules, investors are largely kept in the dark regarding the policy campaigns they are indirectly funding. This raises concerns that investors may be funding lobbying activities that are counter to the stated missions of the companies they’ve invested in, that are counter to their own beliefs, or that may even erode the value of their investment,” the senators continued. 

“A company’s lobbying activity is of material importance to its investors, and it is past time for the SEC to require strong disclosure rules to ensure that investors have access to that information,” the senators concluded. 

Senator Warren has led the push for the SEC to issue disclosure rules that increase transparency, fight dark money, and protect investors:

  • In September 2023, Senator Warren, U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) led 23 of their colleagues in a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler, urging the SEC to quickly release a final, strong climate disclosure rule.  The SEC’s regulatory agenda suggests it will finalize the rule in October 2023.
  • In March 2023, Senators Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Representatives Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and 47 of their colleagues sent a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler, urging him to protect investors and finalize a strong climate disclosure rule without further delay. The rule would require public companies to disclose details about their emissions and climate-related risks. 
  • In January 2023, Senator Warren delivered a keynote speech at a virtual event with the American Economic Liberties Project, Confronting the Crypto Challenge: Learning From a Meltdown, U.S. about the importance of strong rules and enforcement in the crypto market to prevent fraud, protect investors, and root out illicit financial activity. Senator Warren highlighted the important actions that the SEC and other regulators have taken to bring the crypto ecosystem into compliance with the law, and called on Congress to ensure that regulators have the resources and authority they need to double down on the fight to protect consumers, investors, and national security.  
  • In September 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Warren called out giant fossil fuel companies and their trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, for lobbying to weaken the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) proposed climate risk disclosure rule, which would require companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions.