November 30, 2022

Leftist Proposal at Defeated at Annual Meeting of Aetna Investors

Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:
National Center for Public Policy Research Exposes New York State and Local Retirement System Shareholder Resolution as Politically-Motivated Intimidation Tactic

Free Enterprise Project Halts NY Comptroller’s Effort to Defund the Chamber of Commerce


Avon, CT / Washington, D.C.  – At today’s annual meeting of Aetna shareholders held in Avon, Connecticut, the major health insurer’s investors followed the National Center for Public Policy Research’s advice and rejected a shareholder resolution from a liberal activist organization that was designed to prevent the company from working with free-enterprise oriented groups.

Specifically, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project advised Atena’s shareholders to reject a resolution from the Comptroller of the State of New York, Thomas P. DiNapoli, filed as trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the administrative head of the New York State and Local Retirement System, that was a direct attack on Aetna’s potential affiliation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Aetna’s investors voted down the proposal.

“Today, we scored a major victory for free speech and free enterprise,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “The NY Comptroller’s office, buoyed by the resources of the New York State and Local Retirement System, is working tirelessly to pressure corporate America to end all of its associations with conservative and free market groups. Whether it is the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Charles and David Koch or the American Legislative Exchange Council, the political left and its allied organizations are spending a small fortune to intimidate corporations from working with groups that expand freedom and try to reduce government interference with business. Today, we stopped one attack against the Chamber of Commerce. But many more are coming.”

At the meeting, Danhof spoke out against the NY Comptroller’s efforts by stating, in part:

The NY Comptroller is part of a broad network of liberal organizations that use corporate America as a pawn to try to silence speech and defund the free enterprise movement. This network files dozens of resolutions annually complaining about a lack of transparency and accountability regarding corporate lobbying and political activity. However, these groups never – and I mean never – express concern about the billions of corporate dollars that go to fund liberal causes and politicians. And that’s the point – the NY Comptroller and its ilk abhor corporate speech when it may skew right, but remain silent when it flows freely to leftist causes.

Today’s proposal asks the company to turn over lists, to name names. This is intimidation in its highest form. The proponent complains about a company donation from five years ago to the Chamber of Commerce. For trying to reduce government regulations and red tape so that Aetna may better serve its customers and the health care industry, the NY Comptroller wants to silence the Chamber because it claims the group is controversial. Well what about Aetna’s donations to Planned Parenthood – I guess the NY Comptroller doesn’t think that’s controversial.

The full text of Danhof’s remarks at the Aetna meeting, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.

The NY Comptroller’s complete shareholder resolution can be found on pages 65 of Aetna’s proxy statement – which is available for download here.

“Conservative organizations and free market leaders need to stand up and recognize the enormous amount of money and resources that the left is using to try and pressure corporations from working with them,” said Danhof. “Liberal agitators dominate the shareholder activism arena. Using intimidation to silence conservative free speech and embarrass free-enterprise minded groups is a great fundraising tool for the left. And disturbingly, corporations are often willing participants in this politically charged charade.”

“At the Free Enterprise Project, we employ our resources to defend the movement when and where we can, but our war chest is dwarfed by the left’s deep pockets. Other conservative and free-enterprise leaders must realize these imminent dangers and join the fight,” added Danhof.

Today’s meeting marks the fifth time this year that the Free Enterprise Project has helped usher defeat of a leftist shareholder proposal.

At yesterday’s annual meeting of Discovery Communications shareholders, National Center chairman Amy Ridenour urged the company’s investors to reject two liberal proposals: one aimed at instituting affirmative action in board hiring and the other aimed at requiring the company to self-impose unnecessary green energy regulations. Discovery’s investors overwhelmingly rejected both proposals.

Two weeks ago at the annual meeting of UPS shareholders in Wilmington, Delaware, Ridenour spoke out against a Walden Asset Management Proposal designed to force the shipping giant to sever ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council and other free market causes. Again, the shareholders soundly rejected the proposal.

And earlier this year at the annual meeting of Disney shareholders, Danhof spoke outagainst a Zevin Asset Management proposal that took issue with Disney’s affiliation with the National Restaurant Association. The proposal was summarily defeated.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. Today’s Aetna meeting marks its thirteenth shareholder meeting of 2016.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.


Aetna Won’t Turn Down ObamaCare Bailout

Aetna Joins Other Health Insurance CEOs in Declining to Refuse a Taxpayer Bailout Under ObamaCare

Denver, CO/Washington DC – After quizzing from the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Justin Danhof, Aetna CEO Mark T. Bertolini on Friday joined other health insurance CEOs questioned by the National Center in refusing to pledge to reject a taxpayer bailout of his company should ObamaCare continue to fail to perform as advertised.

“When I asked Mr. Bertolini whether Aetna would reject any taxpayer money that may flow to the company through ObamaCare’s risk corridor provisions, he attempted to deflect the issue with a canned, wonky answer that talked about reinsurance provisions that had nothing to do with my question. However, in the end, his implication was clear that the company would of course take the money if it becomes available,” said Danhof. “It is a shame that an industry that lobbied for this monstrosity now has its major players poised to rip off the taxpayers – many of whom are seeing their premiums rise and choices decrease.”

Danhof continued: “I attempted to get Mr. Bertolini off of his prepared script by asking him a follow-up question about the company’s future lobbying. Since the risk corridor provisions are set to expire in three years, I asked if the company would pledge to not lobby for their extension at that time. Bertolini did not make that commitment. Instead he said his goal was to personally work to make sure that this feature of ObamaCare works better and that taxpayer funds aren’t needed to keep it viable,” said Danhof. “However, the easiest way to remove the taxpayers from the equation is to do what we asked and not take the money in the first place.”

A complete transcript of the exchange between Danhof and Mr. Bertolini is here; an audio recording of the exchange is here.

The National Center’s David Hogberg, Ph.D., commented further: “When Mr. Bertolini said, ‘Should the exchanges attract mostly sicker people, these tools are necessary to help prevent large spikes in premiums, which create large spikes in subsidies,’ Mr. Bertolini suggested that the exchange might attract mostly sicker people, but the evidence shows that’s not a hypothetical anymore. Gallup surveys show that exchange enrollees report their health to be worse than most Americans. Additionally Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina said that the 18-34 age group in its exchange plans had more medical claims that usual. This suggests taxpayers are on the hook for a big bailout this year, and it’s unfortunate that Aetna wouldn’t forego it.”

“In theory Mr. Bertolini is correct: the ObamaCare risk corridors exist to limit premium hikes,” said Hogberg. “In practice it doesn’t seem to be working out that way. So far we’ve seen that Ohio is set for an average premium increase of 13 percent next year, while Virginia and Washington state are facing increases just under 9 percent. It’s a testament to how badly designed this law is that even with the added taxpayer money from risk corridors, policyholders are facing big premium hikes.”

Dr. Hogberg added: “We asked about the risk corridors, but Mr. Bertolini seemed to give us an answer about both those and the reinsurance part of ObamaCare. Those are two different things. Risk corridors limit the profits and losses while reinsurance provides protection for insurers who enroll a lot of high-risk individuals.”

Danhof and Hogberg both have attended health insurer shareholder meetings this year, including Wellpoint, Humana, and now Aetna to ask about bailouts. So far, every health insurance company CEO has said his company will take bailouts. National Center President David Ridenour is attending UnitedHealth’s shareholder meeting in Las Vegas today, June 2.
The National Center has also attended the shareholder meetings of all the major U.S. pharmaceutical companies this year, most recently, last week at Merck.

The National Center has attended 41 shareholder meetings so far in 2014 (8 of which are major health care companies) and 33 in 2013. It began attending shareholder meetings in 2007.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, three percent from foundations, and three percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.