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January 19, 2012
Shareowner Activists Urge Siemens to Quit Chamber of Commerce
    by Robert Kropp

CtW Investment Group writes to the German industrial conglomerate, stating that its position on the Chamber's board is at odds with the trade association's efforts to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The CtW Investment Group, an organization that works with labor union pension funds on issues of effective shareowner activism, has called on Siemens AG to end its relationship with the US Chamber of Commerce. The German industrial conglomerate is a member of the Chamber's board.

In a l etter to Siemens, CtW stated, "Siemens has undoubtedly come a long way since its record foreign-bribery settlement with US authorities in 2008," when the company agreed to pay a $1.6 billion fine under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). In December, 2011, eights former executives were indicted by US authorities for their roles in the bribes.

According to CtW, "The Chamber has embarked on an expensive and controversial campaign to curb the power of the FCPA, which critics charge would create massive loopholes that will set back decades of progress in the global struggle against corruption." As part of its "expensive campaign to curb the power of the FCPA," CtW noted that the Chamber hired Michael Mukasey, the Attorney General in the George W. Bush administration, to lobby Congress on the issue. In October, the Chamber published a paper detailing its recommendations for weakening a statute that it claims has "had a chilling effect on US business because many companies have ceased foreign operations rather than face the uncertainties of FCPA enforcement."

CtW's letter also notes that it has engaged with Siemens over its relationship with the Chamber for two years. At the company's annual general meeting (AGM) last year, CtW asked the company "to address the profound disconnect between Siemens's environmental model and the Chamber's aggressive campaign to derail the United States government's efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions."

Ctw plans to reintroduce its concerns over Siemens' relationship with the Chamber at this year's AGM, to be held on January 24th.

The Chamber's efforts to undermine regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions led to the widely-publicized defection of several major corporations in 2009. Nike resigned its position on the Chamber's board, while Apple quit the Chamber entirely.

In 2010, Tim Smith of Walden Asset Management wrote to 35 companies that sit on the Chamber's board, noting that "the Chamber is obstructing progress as it speaks out and lobbies against positive policy solutions addressing climate change."

The CtW Investment Group works with pension and benefit funds sponsored by unions affiliated with Change to Win, which collectively hold over $200 billion in assets.


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