Category: Shareholder Activism

Shareholders

All eyes seem to be directed toward Rome last week as the Pope weighed in on climate change. As anticipated, there has already been a lot of spinning by the whirling dervishes of the zealous variety– doubling down on their over-the-top, pre-release spin.

Yes, it’s a given both sides of the climate-change debate are spinning, but as your writer is on the skeptical end of the spectrum it seems the other end is receiving the majority of media coverage. Skeptics? We’re castigated as “deniers,” “Republicans,” and, of course, “anti-science.” Ouch! No worries, however, as we skeptics have grown accustomed to ad hominem attacks, not to mention pseudo-science, false claims of a scientific consensus agreeing on human-caused global warming, and accusations we’re performing the bidding of Faux News. Hoo boy, as Boris Badenov used to say.

Allow me a bit of schadenfreude when I report the consistent defeat of so-called religious-based shareholder activism deployed against oil and gas companies – on which more below. I take pleasure in these persistent defeats not because I dislike my loyal opposition as much as they dislike skeptics but because I’m convinced the best way to lift the poor from poverty and incumbent disease, hunger and illness is cheap and readily available fuels. It’s not about winning an argument from my point of view inasmuch it’s about enabling the world’s poorest to attain self-sufficiency, health, and comfort – mostly because I recognize the world’s poverty has been halved in the past 20 years, largely due to affordable fuels.

And yet… Elizabeth Douglass at InsideClimate News reports religious shareholders are persistent in their failed efforts to deep-six economically the companies in which they invest. Douglass trots out the usual suspects: Timothy Smith of Boston-based Walden Asset Management; Sister Patricia Daly of the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J.; and Rev. Michael Crosby from the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order in Milwaukee. Daly and Crosby, notes Douglass, “have worked together for years as active participants in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a New York group whose members manage more than $100 billion in assets.” Douglass continues:

For the past few years, several climate resolutions at Exxon have won more than a quarter of the shareholder vote, and sometimes nearly a third. The vote count reached a remarkable level of backing for proposals opposed by management, according to Heidi Welsh, executive director at the Sustainable Investments Institute, a Maryland-based nonprofit that provides impartial analysis of social and environmental policy shareholder resolutions.

(more…)

Our religious shareholder activist buddies in As You Sow and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility can welcome Neil Young in their ill-advised battle against genetically modified organisms. Seems ol’ Shakey – as Young is known to his friends, family and hardcore fans – has released a song that could’ve been written from all the GMO falsehoods and scare tactics spread by AYS and ICCR, including:

More than 60 percent of all processed foods available today contain GE ingredients such as soy, corn, or canola; and because in the U.S. there is no mandate that GE food be labeled, most consumers are most likely unknowingly consuming them. ICCR members call on food and beverage companies to apply the precautionary approach in decision making until such time as science can rule out any harmful side-effects and further advocate for the consumers’ right to know through proper labeling of GMO ingredients in all products. Moreover, seed and chemical companies are asked to monitor and disclose potential health effects, particularly unknown allergenic effects; environmental impacts of GMOs; and respect for and adherence to seed saving rights of traditional agricultural communities. – ICCR

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals that have had their DNA modified by laboratory processes to have specific characteristics. When the first genetically modified (GM, also known as genetically engineered, GE) crops were introduced, the biotechnology industry claimed they would increase crop yields, decrease pesticide use, improve nutrition, and more. However, in the fifteen years since GMOs were first commercialized, they have delivered negligible benefits and raised significant environmental, public health, and food security concerns. (more…)

ArchieFrankensteinCover250The left’s war against genetically modified foods continues apace. Last week, the nonprofit Green America outfit boasted a victory over The Hershey Company, which has agreed to use “simpler ingredients” in its addictive Hershey’s Kisses Milk Chocolates and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars. Yes, “Frankenfood” fearers, the delicious GMO-derived sucrose of Hershey’s chocolate soon will be replaced with an identical product coincidentally known as sucrose.

Finally, the “Sugar, Sugar” bubblegum world imagined by The Archies in 1969 has been realized as “Sucrose, Sucrose.” You might still be my candy, girl, but you’ve got me wanting to lecture you in basic science and economics. Just as most candy Easter bunnies are only air wrapped in chocolate, the Green America triumph is a hollow victory. (more…)

cummings275widthOne should always worry when dollar signs replace the letter “S” in discussions related to campaign finance and theology. For example, the title of Auburn Theological Seminary’s inaugural entry in its Applied Theology Series, “Lo$ing Faith in Our Democracy,” leaves little doubt there’s an unhidden agenda lurking within.

Auburn Theological is a seminary for continuing education for clergy. It doesn’t grant degrees, but seems to fancy itself a think tank of sorts. If the “scare dollar sign” in its Applied Theology title doesn’t give it away, perhaps the funding of the project will. According to the seminary’s website, the study “was funded in large part” by the Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF), which is “rooted in the Jewish tradition and committed to democratic values and social justice.”

Along with As You Sow and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, NCF is at the forefront of religious shareholder activists pushing progressive agendas, including remedying the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. (more…)

WalmartOn Friday, June 6, shareholders of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., will gather at the Bud Walton Auditorium on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville, Ark. Among them will be As You Sow member Zevin Asset Management, which is pushing a resolution demanding the retailer issue annual reports on its policy, lobbying and membership expenditures. All of this, of course, is intended to embarrass Walmart in the same-ol’ name-and-shame game employed so often by shareholder activists advancing a progressive agenda.

What apparently bothers Zevin is Walmart’s exercise of its voice in policy issues directly impacting the company, its shareholders and – most important – its customers. Zevin’s resolution goes even further by requiring Walmart divulge its contributions to such tax-exempt groups as the American Legislative Exchange Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the Business Roundtable. Why? Well – to Zevin and other shareholders cut from the same sackcloth — it’s unseemly that the world’s largest company engages with a group that writes model legislation. Never mind that the company employs more than 2 million people worldwide and donates more than $1 billion each year to charities, it’s the incorrectly perceived unsavory political nature of anything that drifts right-of-center. (more…)

Shortly after filing my blog yesterday, the New York Times’ David Firestone added another wrinkle. It seems liberal billionaires also contribute millions of dollars to voice their strongly held beliefs regarding climate change:

Those who are worried about man-made climate change might be tempted to welcome the news that Tom Steyer, a Democratic billionaire, will spend $100 million this year to fight it. Mr. Steyer plans to put up half the money himself for attack ads against governors and lawmakers who ignore climate change, and will raise the rest from like-minded rich people.

Yet, the religious shareholders filing proxy resolutions from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Tri-State Coalition on Responsible Investment persist in their handwringing over campaign and lobbying monies contributed by libertarian and business-friendly individuals and institutions. Since the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, however, money from the left is just as – if not more – pervasive, according to Alan Suderberg and Ben Weider of the Center for Public Integrity.

Since the Supreme Court loosened rules on political spending in 2010, the Republican Party, boosted by corporate and billionaire backers, has been painted as the biggest beneficiary. But in New Hampshire and a handful of other states in 2012, Democrats flipped the script.

In New Hampshire, groups backing Democrats reported spending nearly $1 million more than their Republican counterparts.

Nonprofits, super PACs, and other non-candidate groups reported spending at least $209 million to influence elections in 38 states, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP) and state elections offices.

Pro-Democratic groups, many associated with unions, outspent their Republican counterparts by more than $8 million, according to the Center’s analysis. (more…)

“A little older, a little more confused,” the late Dennis Hopper once intoned. One month into 2014, the same could be said for this writer. After all, what could be more confusing than members of the religious community employed as willing conspirators in the great organized labor gambit to stifle corporate political speech? Year after year, however, that’s increasingly the case.

For example, the Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility’s recently redesigned website heralds its distaste for corporate participation in the political process:

Unchecked corporate cash in the form of political donations and lobbying expenditures has the power to exert undue influence over public policy and regulatory systems and threaten our democracy. Yet in spite of this power, most S&P 500 companies lack a formal system of lobbying oversight and don’t fully disclose how monies are being spent, particularly through third-party organizations like trade associations. Investors are concerned that lobbying expenditures may inadvertently be diverted to groups advancing agendas contrary to the stated missions of companies, setting up potential conflicts of interest and exposing companies to reputational risk. (more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Friday, December 20, 2013
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ballotAs 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to inventory the year’s proxy resolutions introduced by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. ICCR, a group purportedly acting on religious principles and faith, is actually nothing more than a shareholder activist group engaged in the advancement of leftist causes at the expense of their fellow shareholders and the world’s poorest.

ICCR recently released its 2013 Annual Report. Its “2013 Proxy Season Recap” (pp. 16, 17) presents a snapshot of initiatives ICCR members pursued this past year. The foundations for several categories betray the left’s tenuous grasp of science and economics while, at the same time, displaying a perverse naiveté regarding the potential negative consequences of their respective crusades.

Fortunately, all the worst proposals failed. As noted previously, ICCR shareholder resolutions are drafted by Bruce Freed, president of the George Soros-funded Center for Political Accountability (CPA). Both Freed and ICCR boast huge successes for their resolutions, assertions that rely on extremely fuzzy methodology that excludes abstention votes. (more…)

No! Not the Dark Money!

No! Not the Dark Money!

“Dark money” sounds menacing and foreboding – a financial nomenclature suggestive of gothic masterpieces like “The Raven” and “The Black Cat.” Whereas Poe’s tales actually contain sinister elements, the phrase dark money is employed by activist shareholders much like the villains of countless “Scooby Doo” cartoons devised illusory ghosts, werewolves and vampires. The evildoers wanted to scare those meddlesome Mystery Machine kids from nefarious moneymaking schemes.

The anti-capitalism messages of “Scooby Doo” are repeated by those ominously intoning the perceived evils of so-called dark money in politics. In ordinary political usage, dark money refers to funds raised to finance an election campaign or ballot initiative without any requirement of public disclosure before voters decide the question.

Shareholder activists have torn a well-worn page from the “Scooby Doo” playbook by adopting the tactics of the show’s bad guys. These tactics include attempts to frighten voters with the dark money bogeyman, who lurks behind other pet issues such as genetically modified organisms and fracking (hydraulic fracturing). (more…)

birdsflock“Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together,” wrote William Turner in 1545. If he were with us today, the author might construct an interesting Venn diagram representing the activist birds scheduled to testify tomorrow before the Securities and Exchange Commission. But, rather than briefly overlapping sets of circles, the SEC witnesses for greater corporate “disclosure” comprise one giant bubble of activists seeking to circumvent the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, including Laura Berry, executive director, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Berry joins a gaggle of like-minded individuals who somehow think the country benefits from forcing “publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending,” according to a joint Public Citizen’s Congress Watch/Columbia Law School Public Affairs media advisory. Among Berry’s peeps clamoring for tightening SEC rules are Heidi Welsh, Sustainable Investments Institute; Pat Doherty, Office of the New York State Comptroller; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). (more…)