Posts tagged with: Activist shareholder

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.

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senior-prom-gameIt’s prom season, the time of year when plenty of high school kids eagerly anticipate an invitation to the year’s biggest formal event. It’s no different for the member organizations of religious shareholder activist groups As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Both groups have their tuxedos pressed and dresses tailored for this summer’s highly anticipated climate encyclical from Pope Francis, the progressive left’s version of netting either Kate Upton or Ryan Gosling as prom dates.

In the meantime, ICCR and AYS – who, quite frankly, don’t seem to really care what Pope Francis or any of his predecessors have to say about any topic unless it fits progressive dogma – continue their crusade against fossil fuels while they await the Pope’s invitation to the big dance.

It seems both groups wish to hobble corporations in the name of global warming. Just last month, for example, ICCR released its latest paper, “Invested in Change: Faith-Consistent Investing in a Climate-Challenged World.” From the document’s Executive Summary: (more…)

1333630489130_3671856Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, those of us of a particular bent loved the word “freedom.” The word was featured in the lyrics of many popular songs of the era, and the case could be made that hippies were called freaks as a pun on their oft-chanted “free” mantra. Heck, there was even a band named Free, which captivated the zeitgeist with a classic song about a man angling for a little “free” love with a woman too savvy to succumb so easily.

Free speech also once was all the rage. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin’s infamous seven words and all that, am I right? So, what happened? When did the hippies, yippies, liberals and progressives transition from fetishizing all things related to freedom to checking under their beds every night for a missing Koch brother? (more…)

Divestment-600-AEA-1Your faithful correspondent last week exposed the fossil-fuel divestment endgame of religious shareholder activists. As You Sow President Danielle Fugere sees her group’s activities as awareness-raising exercises for climate change, but AYS’s alignment with environmentalist and divestment firebrand Naomi Klein suggests they’d settle for nothing less than nationalizing oil companies. This week, I’m happy to report another group frequently called to task in this space, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, opposes the AYS divestment onslaught. Reporting in last week’s Wall Street Journal, Gregory J. Millman writes:

An organization of faith-based and socially responsible investors is pushing back against the call for divestment from fossil fuel companies. At its Winter Conference Wednesday, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, which claims 300 member organizations controlling $100 billion in invested capital, called instead for more shareholder engagement with such companies.

“Divestment is one step but a blunt instrument that leaves investors with no voice at corporate tables,” said Laura Berry, executive director of the ICCR.

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The 2014 proxy shareholder season is over, and left-of-center religious investment groups such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow are crowing about victories and announcing their plans for next year. For example, ICCR notes in its latest issue of The Corporate Examiner:

While virtually every company participates in lobbying of some sort, companies often make undisclosed expenditures to third-party trade associations which then use that money in ways that can run counter to a company’s publicly-stated positions. After sustained engagement with ICCR members, VISA left the controversial model legislation group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has implemented board-level oversight of its lobbying activities. Amgen agreed to disclose its membership in trade associations along with the amounts the trade associations spend from its fees for lobbying. Accenture has significantly expanded its public lobbying disclosure. A resolution calling for lobbying disclosure at Emerson won 41.6%.

Political spending by corporations is also an issue for investors. Hess committed to fully disclosing its trade association memberships and the names of the tax exempt organizations to which it makes contributions, as well as the portion of those payments that is used for political activities. EQT adopted a political contributions transparency policy. A resolution on contributions at Emerson won 47% of the vote. (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…)

Actress-Journalist America Ferrera

Actress-Journalist America Ferrera

A bit of honesty, please. The premium network Showtime is airing an original series, The Years of Living Dangerously, which pits such intrepid reporters as Hollywood B-list hotties Jessica Alba, Olivia Munn and America Ferrera against climate-change “deniers.” The May 19 episode featured Ms. Ferrera attempting to grill The Heartland Institute’s James Taylor (full disclosure: Taylor is a professional colleague and cigar buddy) on his efforts to roll back renewable energy standards on a state-by-state basis. On this, more below.

In the meantime, clergy, nuns and other religious shareholders are rending their respective garments over lobbying and political contributions performed by companies in which they invest. Never mind the religious shareholders directly benefit from corporate lobbying and political donations, what really matters to them is whether the companies’ efforts kowtow to the progressive agenda.

Witness the following religious groups and their 2014 shareholder resolutions submitted to the following companies: (more…)

Scarlett-Johansson-sodastream-super-bowlEnough time has passed for this Denver Broncos fan to address a kerfuffle surrounding this year’s Super Bowl. I’m writing, of course, about Hollywood siren and liberal activist Scarlett Johansson, who appeared in a Super Bowl SodaStream commercial to the chagrin of international charity Oxfam for which the otherworldly beauty served nine years as official spokesperson.

Oxfam, listed in the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility’s 2014 Proxy Resolutions and Voting Guide “Guide to Sponsors,” told Johansson she had to choose between her gig with the charity or serving as pitchwoman for the company that markets a home-beverage carbonating product. Oxfam’s rationale was that SodaStream operated one of its 22 facilities worldwide in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and Oxfam favors a two-state solution to the perpetual conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I don’t know about readers of this site, but I know that when it comes to matters of major geopolitical importance this guy’s a sucker for international beverage boycotts.

In this regard, Oxfam employs much the same tactics as ICCR when it pushes its shareholder resolutions at companies regardless the consequences to the very same people they’re attempting to assist. (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…)

Readers following my series of blog posts on shareholder proxy resolutions submitted by religious groups such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Council of Corporate Responsibility already know these resolutions have little to do with issues of faith. In fact, an overwhelming majority of these resolutions concern corporate speech and attempts to stifle it.

Your shareholders want to know more about your political spending. Really.

Your shareholders want to know more about your political spending. Really.

AYS and ICCR – as well as a host of other religious shareholders – submit proposals drafted by Bruce Freed, head of the Center for Political Accountability. Freed’s CPA and the Wharton Business School’s Zicklin Center, readers will recall, issued its annual index late last month. My last post detailed in part the wrongheadedness of shareholders pushing a political agenda at the expense of their fellow shareholders. However, I anticipate most readers require a bit more than your lowly scribe’s word that the CPA-Zicklin Index not only inflates the results of its shareholder resolutions but as well operates on behalf of groups more interested in shutting down corporate political speech.

The Center for Competitive Politics, a First Amendment nonprofit think tank located in Alexandria, Va., brings more firepower to arguments I’ve already made regarding the efforts of CPA and the proxy shareholders for whom Mr. Freed drafts resolutions. Regarding the CPA-Zicklin Index, CCP issued a statement by CCP Chairman Brad Smith, former Federal Election Commission Chairman:

To look at the CPA-Zicklin Index as a measure of ‘best corporate practices’ is like asking a wolf to describe ‘best practices’ for sheep … Corporations have an obligation to do what is in the best interest of their shareholders, not comply with the demands of a non- profit that opposes speech by the business community. (more…)