Investors pressure Aetna to disclose political funding

Aetna is facing pressure to disclose how much money it has donated to political and lobbying organizations by investors with a combined $922 billion in assets.

After Aetna released its 2011 political contributions report a few weeks ago, investors representing unions, state pension funds and other groups started pushing the insurer to publicly disclose direct and indirect contributions to political and lobbying groups, as well as trade associations and other tax-exempt organizations, the Hartford Courant reported.

The 25 investors, including the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, are particularly interested in two payments--$3 million to the conservative American Action Network and $4 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce--that Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini characterized as "educational activities," according to Asset International's Chief Investment Officer.

"Aetna's effort to characterize millions in political donations it made in 2011 as 'educational' activities is a red flag for shareholders," New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the pension fund for the state's workers, said in a statement, Bloomberg reported.

Regardless of whether the contributions were meant for lobbying or educational purposes, UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust Chairman Robert Naftaly said, "We still don't know what the $7 million bought the company or its investors."

In response to the public pressure, Aetna spokesperson Cynthia Michener said the company has received the letter and will respond directly to the investors, noted Bloomberg.

To learn more:
- read the Hartford Courant article
- see Asset International's Chief Investment Officer article
- check out the Bloomberg article