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AT&T says it doesn't have to disclose NSA dealings

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm •  Published: December 6, 2013
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"AT&T is trying to prevent the vital issue of customer privacy from coming before its shareholders. This issue is an important one for customers and shareholders alike and we feel strongly that it should be on AT&T's ballot this spring," said Eric Sumberg, spokesperson for New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

DiNapoli co-signed the AT&T shareholder resolution on behalf of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which holds assets totaling about $161 billion. The fund owns more than 15 million shares of AT&T valued at roughly $517 million.

"Customer trust is critical for any business, but nowhere is it more so than for those corporations that handle our personal data and communications," DiNapoli said.

AT&T shareholders Trillium Asset Management in Boston and Durham, N.C.-based Arjuna Capital/Baldwin Brothers were also part of the revolt, which demands that AT&T publish semi-annual transparency reports similar to those from Microsoft, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Yahoo. The companies disclose the number of government requests for information and whether they comply.

But AT&T noted that those transparency reports don't disclose details about the requests or even separate out the number of National Security Letters companies receive. That information is withheld by the companies because they are barred by the federal government from revealing it, a prohibition many companies are fighting in court.

"In fact, all six Internet companies referenced in the (shareholder's) proposal state that they are not allowed to publicly disclose any such information in their Transparency or Law Enforcement Request Reports," said AT&T. "Therefore, because the proposal is over-broad, it is excludable..."

AT&T also argues that the issue of their disclosure practices with the NSA has not been a topic of "sustained debate over the last several years," a standard they say must be met to require public reporting.

Securities and Exchange Commission spokeswoman Christina D'Amico said the agency declined to comment.

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Follow Martha Mendoza at https://twitter.com/mendozamartha.