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Duke Shareholders Back Improved Disclosure Of Political Donations

Duke Energy building
David Boraks
Duke Energy headquarters in uptown Charlotte

Duke Energy shareholders on Thursday narrowly supported a non-binding proposal that calls for improved disclosures of political contributions to candidates, parties and electoral committees. But it may not affect how Duke reports its political activity.

The resolution got 52% of the votes at Duke's annual shareholders meeting, which was held virtually. Afterward, the company said only that it "appreciates the feedback" and its board will "evaluate our disclosures in light of this feedback."

"There is no specific timetable. We know that providing shareholders with visibility in this area is important, which is why in recent years we’ve expanded our disclosures," said spokesman Neil Nissan.

The shareholder proposal came from the New York State Retirement Fund. It argues that Duke's limited disclosures make it hard for shareholders to assess the risks or benefits of its political activities. The resolution called on Duke to submit a report to the board within 12 months and update it semiannually.

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good
Duke Energy
Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good

During a question-and-answer session after the meeting, CEO Lynn Good said Duke's political activity has "the right degree of oversight, not only from executives, but also from the board." She also defended the company's practices.

"It's important that Duke Energy be involved in the political process. There is no place today - state, federal, local - where energy is not a part of the conversation. And we must be a part of the conversation so that we can bring our subject matter expertise, our experience, the needs of our customers to the table, and we'll continue to do that," Good said.

Nissan said the company recently resumed political contributions after suspending them following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Also at the meeting, shareholders easily elected the board of directors, with all nominees getting votes from at least 88% of shares. The company did not announce the exact votes at the meeting. An activist shareholder group had urged shareholders to remove Good and lead independent director Michael Browning from the board.

Shareholders also supported the pay packages of top executives and rejected a proposal to require the board chair to be an independent director.

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.