Corporate Accountability

Overview HCAN’s Work More Resources


For years our democracy has been slowly overtaken by corporate interests. We must demand that individuals, not corporations, be the ones served by our government and that decisions that affect us all not be made based on corporate profits.

In the aftermath of the 2010 elections, the Citizens United ruling and the $86 million that insurance companies laundered through the Chamber of Commerce, HCAN and other organizations are working even harder to demonstrate the way that major corporations with narrow interests are dominating America’s political life. Opponents of health care reform being what we see as wholly owned subsidiaries of the insurance companies is illustrative of this dangerous dynamic. Shining a light on the specific ways that corporations have established and maintained their influence is a key part of our overall strategy to ensure quality, affordable health care for all.

HCAN’s Work on Corporate Accountability

HCAN’s aggressive insurance accountability project works nationally and at the grassroots level to end the insurance companies’ stranglehold on our health care and our politics. From the start of our “If insurance companies win, you lose” campaign in 2009, HCAN has been driving a consistent anti-corporate agenda that exposes the corrosive role of corporate money in election campaigns, issue advocacy and lobbying. We have demanded greater transparency to show how corporate actors use their overwhelming financial resources in Washington to stack the deck against working and middle class families and small businesses.

Here are some of the ways we’ve been fighting back:

  • In 2010 and 2011, HCAN put the health insurance industry on the defensive at eight annual shareholder meetings around the country by confronting executives about their fiduciary responsibilities to avoid unnecessarily risking their business reputations by spending huge sums of money on political activities. HCAN activists appeared both inside the meetings and outside at rallies. At the Coventry Health Care annual meeting there was a resolution on political giving, which was reinforced by our activists both inside the meeting via formal questions and outside the meeting through a large and raucous on-site rally.  The Aetna annual meeting was delayed for a period of time after HCAN activists began to demand greater disclosure of political giving post-Citizens United ruling, including the laundering through third party groups. And, finally, after HCAN’s 2010 infiltration, in 2011 WellPoint changed how they run their meetings by limiting questions to a strict two minutes, using planted questions and limiting those who can gain access to the microphones. HCAN’s 2010 shareholder meeting successes laid the groundwork for the 2011 activities: At CIGNA’s 2010 meeting, HCAN won the first public admission that the company laundered money through the Chamber of Commerce to oppose reform, followed by similar admissions in May at WellPoint and UnitedHealth. At WellPoint’s 2010 meeting, shareholders approved the State of Connecticut’s “say on pay” proposal that the AFL-CIO and HCAN supported to help rein in outrageous CEO compensation. (See press release, this Philadelphia Inquirer article and this Wall Street Journal article for examples of the impact.)
  • The corporate accountability theme came to a head in January, 2011, when HCAN led the organizing of events to expose the enormous hidden role that the Koch Brothers are playing in our national and state politics. The Koch Brothers and their corporate allies are spending unprecedented amounts of money to elect politicians who will promote greater corporate freedom and increased profits for insurance companies, polluters, banks and mortgage companies. This is an attempt to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans by buying our democracy and taking control of our civic and economic life. HCAN helped organize a protest in Palm Springs at their conservative fundraising and strategy meeting. Other involved organizations included Courage Campaign, Common Cause, AFSCME, California Nurses Association, CA State Labor Federation, CA Coalition for Civil Rights, CREDO and, among others. (Press release from partner the Other 98%.)
  • HCAN and the Other 98% followed up that effort with a November 2011 action in which more than 1,000 marched in front of the Washington, DC conference center hosting the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity conference and fundraiser. Again, a coalition of groups were involved in this successful effort to shine a light on the organization and individuals behind efforts to squash the health law. See this Forbes report of the action. The Other 98% also produced a compelling video of the events.
  • We are leading the effort among health care reform organizations to expose and publicize the outrageous imbalance of money and power in health care. Media coverage of these efforts has been excellent (See this Washington Post article for an example.) Our own Huffington Post articles about these abhorrent practices receive significant attention as well. See Ethan Rome’s recent articles, “Occupy the Kochs and Stop the Corporatization of America” and “A Tale of Corporate Greed and Political Collusion.”

HCAN continues to research and publish a variety of mediagenic reports that highlight profits and CEO salaries, and that consistently reveal the corrosive role of money, politics and lack of transparency in our country’s health care industry. Specific reports that highlight the role of money in our system are:

Analysis Shows Health Insurers Pocketed Huge Profits in 2010 Despite Weak Economy

Breaking the Bank: CEO’s from 10 Health Insurers Took More than $1 Billion in Compensation, Stock From 2000 to 2009

Insurance Giants Reap Big Profits By Shedding Members, Spending Less on Medical Care

More Resources