by James Hyatt

The shareholder resolution addressing political contribution policies at Home Depot Inc. was soundly defeated, the company said in an 8K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Home_Depot_FeatureThe filing said the resolution received 49.2 million for votes; against votes totaled 932.2 million, while there were 138.8 million abstained votes and 239.5million “broker non-votes.”

The vote in favor constituted 5 percent of votes cast, not including abstentions and broker non-votes.  Under Securities and Exchange Commission rules, a shareholder proposal that meets or exceeds a 3 percent threshold can be resubmitted the following year.

The company had said at the annual meeting the proposal was defeated, but hadn’t announced the actual tally.

Some observers have suggested the scope of the resolution, offered by NorthStar Asset Management, a Boston money management firm, might serve as a model for proposals at other companies, given that the SEC staff had told Home Depot it couldn’t omit the resolution.

One corporate watchdog group, the Center for Political Accountability, which promotes more disclosure of contributions by corporations, has expressed reservations about the NorthStar effort to secure shareholder approval of corporate political spending.

Bruce Freed, the Center’s founder, wrote in a column in April that the proposed vote might be hard to interpret as meaningful, given the wide range of political races and issues to which a company might contribute.

And he asked whether, ‘if resolutions like the one at Home Depot fail to get a significant vote, will companies feel less of a need to engage shareholders on the issue of political spending.”

Valentina Judge, the Center’s associate director, said the group’s annual meeting resolutions this year have shown “very solid results,” with eight resolutions receiving more than 40% of the votes.  And 85 companies in the S&P 500 universe have signed on to the Center’s campaign for disclosure and oversight of corporate political spending.

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