Category: Shareholder Proxy Resolutions

It’s all over but the chanting, which seemingly will continue unabated until religious shareholder activists bring energy companies to heel. What the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility hyperbolically billed as “a watershed year” trickled into a puddle of disappointment yesterday for shareholder activists’ climate-change resolutions.

The chanting began outside Dallas’ Morton E. Meyerson Symphony Center and the Chevron Park Auditorium in San Ramon, Calif., prior to the annual shareholder meetings conducted, respectively, by ExxonMobil Corp. and Chevron Corporation. Real chanting, dear readers, which admittedly isn’t equal to Abbie Hoffman attempting to levitate the Pentagon, but it does indicate a certain religious zealotry applied to the contested scientific theory of manmade global warming:

2016 is a watershed year for the fossil fuel industry, in particular, oil and gas giants ExxonMobil and Chevron. Pressure is building in the wake of last year’s historic agreement at COP21 in Paris, where nations of the world, global corporations and leading investors achieved consensus on the need to limit global warming to below 2-degrees celcius to avoid catastrophic planetary impacts. Pending investigations by 17 State Attorneys General is also intensifying public pressure for action. The Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si’, continues to grow in significance, and has done much to underline the clear moral imperative to address the 2 degree warming scenario.

Simultaneously, fossil fuel companies face both a moral and business imperative to rethink their long-term business strategies, as these company face impending regulation that will soon force them into compliance. Faith-based and values investors and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility have been pressing for this transition for nearly 40 years. This year, proponents of shareholder proposals at both Exxon and Chevron (both on May 25) will be making their cases at the annual meetings of both companies in the hope that shareholders will broadly join them in pressing the companies to change.

Would that the priests, nuns, clergy and other religious affiliated with ICCR exert similar spiritual and physical energy toward championing what philosopher Alex Epstein calls “the moral case for fossil fuels.” Instead, they increase their carbon footprint immeasurably by traipsing around the globe in their buses and planes in efforts to pull the plug on cheap and plentiful energy while lecturing the rest of us on the evils of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and energy-company lobbying. At the same time ICCR extols the imperative of limiting global warming to 2-degrees C by deploying measures that will increase costs – especially for the poor for whom higher prices devour a greater percentage of household assets – while making little to no difference on global temperatures. (more…)

By now, readers should be aware of the campaign waged against the Competitive Enterprise Institute led by Al Gore and a cadre of attorneys generals with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the top of the rogues’ gallery. The subpoena goes so far as to demand CEI produce “all documents or communications concerning research, advocacy, strategy, reports, studies, reviews or public opinions regarding Climate Change sent or received from” such specifically named think tanks as the Acton Institute, The Heartland Institute and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as well as industry organizations the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Oil & Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute.

It’s the latest volley from the left – including religious shareholder activists’ often successful efforts to force corporations withdraw financial support and cede membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council – to stifle any whiff of opposition when it comes to the hypothetical, manmade catastrophic climate-change theory. ALEC, in fact, joins Acton and many other groups named in the subpoena, and leaders from these organizations have joined CEI in a strongly worded full-page advertisement that appeared in the New York Times last week:

This abuse of power is unacceptable. It is unlawful. And it is un-American.

Regardless of one’s views on climate change, every American should reject the use of government power to harass or silence those who hold differing opinions. This intimidation campaign sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the rights of anyone who disagrees with the government’s position – whether it’s vaccines, GMOs, or any other politically charged issue. Law enforcement officials should never use their powers to silence participants in political debates.

For those who haven’t been shocked out of complacency by this latest, blatant abuse of politically empowered legal authority marshaled in an effort to shut down free speech and exchange of scientific public policy, allow your writer to recap briefly. U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker – one member of Gore and Schneiderman’s lawyerly goon squad, which also includes AGs from California, Connecticut, District Of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington State – issued a subpoena to CEI in late March. (more…)

olive garden
Your writer lives beyond the outskirts of Midland, Michigan, a small Midwestern town that is buoyed fortuitously by a Fortune 50 company. It’s a nifty place: Population around 50,000, a plethora of parks and bike trails, three rivers converging west of town, relatively low crime rate, and plenty of establishments of both the local and national variety in which to dine out. One of these eateries is the Darden Restaurants, Inc. chain Olive Garden. Can’t say I’ve ever dined there, but I’ve noticed the parking lot is always full whenever I drive past on my way to the movie theater or book store, which must indicate something positive. Then there are these little nuggets of info: Darden reports $6.7 billion in sales each year, largely accountable to its 1,500 Olive Garden casual-dining restaurants, which serve 320 million meals annually.

Despite its widespread popularity, however, Olive Garden is the source of grave agitas among leftist activists behind the Good Food Now! crusade, which includes our old friends over at Green America. This group, readers will recall, is allied with shareholder activists Ceres and the US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing that, in turn, boast affiliations with faith-based investment organizations As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

What has Good Food Now! folk so up in arms, taking to the streets, waving protest signs and whatnot? Could it be serious violations of labor laws or crimes against pasta or a desire for cannoli made from non-genetically modified ingredients? Nah, as ridiculous as those may be they don’t measure against the stated Good Food Now! attempts to squelch Darden’s lobbying against a minimum-wage hike and source its food locally. (more…)

Sister Patricia Daly

Sister Patricia Daly

Divination, bearing false witness and pantheism are three no-no’s of Christianity. You could look it up. I know from personal experience that many of my fellow pewsitters in the Catholic tradition fail in their attempts to obey the strictures of the faith by seeking out tarot cards, Ouija boards, horoscopes and the like. Many of us are guilty also of spreading deceit, bald-faced lies or even incomplete and unsettled facts as ontological truths. This has been a problem for some time with Christians and you could look that up too.

What’s more, while we’re obligated to act as environmental stewards, we’re also called to worship God before we bow down to nature. We acknowledge the need to better ourselves by avoiding fortune telling, lying and Gaia-worship among other sins proscribed by Church doctrine.

That said, it’s distressing to witness members of Catholic religious orders engage openly in manners all of us are instructed to shun. My distress was caused by an essay penned by Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment Executive Director Sister Patricia Daly over at Trust me, it’s a doozy. (more…)

What is it with nuns crusading against corporate lobbying? This fad of recent years has grabbed headlines as orders such as the Sisters of Mercy and the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia gravitated toward political actions as members of shareholder activist group the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Seems there’s nothing alternately cuter or compelling than a nun “speaking truth” to corporate power as the ICCR nuns do each year in their campaign against lobbying and donations to nonprofit organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council.

How any of this has anything to do with Christian praxis or, more specifically, Roman Catholicism is beyond this writer’s comprehension. But the press covers these pointless resolutions which I presume is part of the nuns’ name and shame plan. Somehow, we’re supposed to connect the nonexistent dots between the nuns’ religious authority and proxy resolutions that would require corporations increase transparency of their lobbying efforts. This is merely a smokescreen for forcing companies to abandon ALEC and quit advocating in their own – and their shareholders’ and clients’ – best interests.

For example, The Charlotte Observer reported last week: (more…)

From your writer’s experience covering religious shareholder activism the past few years, the phrase “enlightened engagement in the capital markets” is a trigger warning for a whole lotta hollow slogans to follow. Therefore it wasn’t a surprise to read on the website of Arjuna Capital that the aforementioned “enlightened engagement” is about “sustainability” and “social equity” – euphemistic buzzwords for an agenda that typically threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs, company and shareholder profitability, and drives up costs for consumers. Such is the puffery exercised by Arjuna – an affiliate of religious-based activist group As You Sow – not only on its website, but as well in the recently defeated shareholder resolution the investment group submitted at the Entergy Corporation annual shareholders meeting.

Entergy is an energy company providing Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi residents with 30,000 megawatts of electricity each year, including 10,000 mw generated from nuclear power plants. Entergy serves approximately 2.8 million customers and employs 13,000 workers. It oversees an estimated 15,500 circuit miles of high-voltage transmission lines.

In April, Entergy was ranked 18th overall on Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s 2016 100 Best Corporate Citizens list. In the philanthropy and community support category, Entergy was ranked 4th. No one-time Charlie they, Entergy made the magazine’s list for the past seven years, measured according to 260 performance metrics that include environment, climate change, employee relations, human rights, corporate governance, financial performance, and philanthropy and community support. The press release linked above also notes: “Along with philanthropy, Entergy’s highest-ranked areas are environment, climate change and employee relations.”

So it’s rather interesting that Arjuna’s resolution at this year’s Entergy annual shareholder meeting, which was held Friday, May 6, sought the following: (more…)

BCAM-logo2Boston Common Asset Management bills itself as “a leader in global sustainability initiatives.” Why would an investment portfolio management company label itself with the appellation “Common” when it carries such negative baggage? As it turns out, BCAM embraces “common” as something positive.

From the BCAM website:

Beginning in 1634, the Boston Common served as a common pasture for cattle grazing. As a public good, the Common was a space owned by no one but essential to all. We chose the name Boston Common because, like the Common of old, our work stands at the intersection of the economic and social lives of the community.

Never mind all that John Locke hootie-hoot about private property being the cornerstone of a free society. Please ignore all the papal encyclicals from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum onward that champion private property. Oh, yes, and completely disregard the U.S. Constitution, which codifies private-property rights, and pay no attention to the “tragedy of the commons” which inexplicably is ignored here.

One has to give BCAM credit, however, for consistency. They really, really despise privacy whether it’s property, political donations or corporate lobbying (although it’s also assumed they have no issue with the “penumbra of privacy” suddenly discovered in the U.S. Constitution by members of the Supreme Court after somehow every other legal mind overlooked it for nearly two centuries). Privacy for everything else apparently is subject to eradication in BCAM’s book. (more…)