Corporate Boards Rebuff Conservative Shareholder Activism
Washington Times (05/20/22) Salai, Sean
The boards of several top U.S. companies rebuffed efforts by conservative shareholders to separate them from woke politics. Investors at AT&T (T), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Home Depot (HD), and Mondelez International (MDLZ) opposed conservative-led measures at their annual meetings this week on the recommendations of their boards. Activists from the National Center for Public Policy Research, which acquires stock in U.S. companies through its Free Enterprise Project (FEP), presented proposals at AT&T and JPMorgan Chase this week. One item in the AT&T proxy statement urged having "an independent and unbiased third party" conducting a nondiscrimination audit of the company's Senior Executive Diversity Council and identity-based Employee Groups, which conservatives claim cultivate bias against whites. Investors followed an AT&T board recommendation in the proxy statement to vote against this proposal. "Our philosophy of diversity, equality, and inclusion, and the programs that emanate from that philosophy, encompasses all segments of society, including those who do not identify as racially diverse," says the board recommendation. A proposal in the JPMorgan Chase proxy statement calls for changes in the board of directors' selection process to include members with diverse perspectives. Shareholders defeated the proposal following the board's declaration in its proxy statement that JPMorgan Chase already has "a robust director recruitment process," and that "the Board's recruitment process has resulted in the election of three women directors in the past four years, one of whom is a person of color." Shareholders also repudiated a request from the American Civil Rights Project for managers to retract "up to 10 illegal, racially discriminatory policies adopted by JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s officers and directors" that favor people of color. Meanwhile, the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) proposed resolutions that Home Depot and Mondelez require that each CEO be "an independent member of the board" to certify transparency with shareholders about their political activities. "For example, Home Depot will not, as its website claims, have electricity at all its facilities that will be generated 100% by renewables by 2030," said the NLPC's Paul Chesser. Shareholders at both companies rejected the resolutions after their boards dismissed them as unnecessary. Among those concerned about the embrace of progressive agendas at companies is Brad Anderson, co-chair of the conservative Job Creators Network's Boardroom Initiative. "This is a problem that isn't going to end until we can reign corporate boardrooms back in line and make sure they're held to the fiduciary duty they were hired to uphold," he said.
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