Investors that manage about $155 billion in assets have written to four drug companies that market contraception,complaining about their indirect support of U.S. lawmakers who have voted to end federal support for birth control.
The letters to Merck & Co., Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Bayer AG were prompted by a May 31 Bloomberg News story detailing those companies’ membership in Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the trade group for the drug industry. Phrma, in turn, gave $4.8 million in 2010 to Republican-leaning nonprofits that helped elect 23 lawmakers, all of whom later voted to limit access to birth control and reduce federal funding for it.
Each company “is financing candidates that are actively working against its shareholders’ interests,” said the investors, which include Trllium Asset Management of Boston, Domini Social Investments of New York and Zevin Asset Management of Boston.
House Republicans have voted to end funding for Title X, which provides contraceptives and other family-planning services for lower-income individuals, and to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, for which contraception accounted for one-third of its patient visits in 2010, compared with 3 percent for abortion procedures.
According to Internal Revenue Service records, Phrma donated $300,000 in 2010 to the American Future Fund and $4.5 million to the American Action Network, which represented its largest contribution in at least three years. The two Republican-leaning nonprofits spent $27 million to help candidates in the 2010 election, according to the Federal Election Commission.
“We recognize that companies belong to trade associations in exchange for a variety of important and valuable services,” the investors wrote. “However, we have consistently raised concerns when trade associations take actions that are contrary to their members’ interests. The Bloomberg story presents a case in point – perhaps the clearest case of a trade association using its members’ payments against those same members’ best interests.”
Company officials have said that they do not tell Phrma how to spend the money they pay the organization.