Posts tagged with: Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

RL-logo-wit1Earlier this month, religious shareholder activists from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, Mercy Investment Services and the Sisters of Mercy nabbed headlines by attempting to force Ralph Lauren Corp. to conduct a needless and politically driven human-rights risk assessment of offshore vendors.

The ICCR effort is another “name and shame” tactic intended to publically embarrass a company refusing to play ball with a left-leaning organization. According to the Huffington Post, the nominally religious shareholders’ proposal is …

… backed by the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund, an investment fund for the national trade union center, that urged Ralph Lauren to assess human-rights risk throughout its supply chain. The company’s board of directors told shareholders to vote the proposal down. (more…)

With the mountain of books and articles that have been written about business ethics, one wonders why nothing much has been written on what we might call shareholder ethics. I’m thinking of religious shareholder activists such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. As it turns out, these groups trade on the moral status of their respective members to further agendas seldom related to matters of religious faith.

Instead, the clergy and religious in shareholder activist groups dedicate themselves to temporal causes of a distinctly left-of-center stripe, including stifling corporate political speech in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. According to Acton’s Rev. Robert Sirico:

Every annual meeting season, we watch as a small group of activist groups on the left such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility submit proxy resolutions that demand disclosures of corporate public policy expenditures. This is done, these groups claim, in furtherance of a more ‘just and sustainable world.’ In fact, such resolutions are designed to first bully corporations into disclosing lobbying activities and then promptly turn the tables by conducting aggressive campaigns in the press to shame them. (more…)

253877_5_Acton’s president and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, recently wrote a piece for Real Clear Religion about corporations and social justice activism. He warns that the religious left’s attempts to stifle free speech in corporate boardrooms  would certainly negatively impact our political life.

Every annual meeting season, we watch as a small group of activist groups on the left such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility submit proxy resolutions that demand disclosures of corporate public policy expenditures. This is done, these groups claim, in furtherance of a more “just and sustainable world.” In fact, such resolutions are designed to first bully corporations into disclosing lobbying activities and then promptly turn the tables by conducting aggressive campaigns in the press to shame them.

But the religious underpinnings for such arguments are spurious. The argument always goes that corporations have money and the poor and disadvantaged (always “disenfranchised” from the political process) do not. Therefore, according to this logic, it follows that it’s unfair that corporations are allowed to make public policy expenditures to unduly influence the political process. Curiously, opponents of such spending are often themselves corporate entities (albeit non-profit entities) that spend large sums of money to voice their own opinions. (more…)

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…)

chevron-ran-clean-up-ecuador-oilIn 2005, religious shareholder activists of various stripes jumped aboard the bandwagon filing resolutions against Chevron for an environmental disaster it allegedly caused. Chevron asserted its innocence, but the activist shareholders put the squeeze on:

Chevron’s Ecuador environmental disaster, considered by experts to be the worst oil-related ecological problem on the planet and currently the subject of a high-stakes law suit estimated to cost the company upwards of $6 billion, will be high on the agenda of the company’s 2006 annual shareholder meeting with the filing of three new resolutions asking Chevron’s management to take various steps to protect human rights, the environment and shareholder interests.

The resolutions were filed by institutional and socially responsible investors, including the New York State Common Retirement Fund, Trillium Asset Management, Amnesty International USA and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which together own more than $1 billion in Chevron shares. The resolutions increase the pressure on the California-based oil major to address the widespread toxic contamination left by Texaco (now Chevron) in the Ecuadorian Amazon during a 20-year period that began in the early 1970s.

This story has a twist, however. Over at the National Review, Kevin Williamson reports Chevron beat the rap on the $6 billion judgment rendered against it by an Ecuadorean court several years ago. Seems the judge who established the original fine was in cahoots with a cadre of nasty elements. (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…)

Harvard students a century or so ago joked that Professor Irving Babbitt’s distaste for Jean-Jacques Rousseau was so fervent that he checked under his bed each evening to make sure the 18th century French philosopher wasn’t hiding there. In this humorous vein, one could apply the same fear held by progressive activists for the dreaded brothers Koch – Charles and David. Not only do activists check under their respective beds, but as well their closets, attics, basements, cookie jars and cupboards for signs the billionaire libertarians are funding candidates and causes with which liberals disagree.

The Koch brothers have endured their fair share of progressive brickbats, including from such religious shareholder groups as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment. However, the facts run counter to ICCR and TSCRI handwringing, according to OpenSecrets.org as reported by Mark Tapscott in The Washington Examiner:

OpenSecrets.org tallied the top donors in federal elections between 1989 and 2014. Koch Industries — privately owned by the Evil Koch Bros — is on the list, to be sure, but doesn’t appear until the 59th slot, with $18 million in donations, 90 percent of which went to Republicans….

So who occupies the 58 spots ahead of the Evil Koch Bros? Six of the top 10 are … wait for it … unions. They gave more than $278 million, with most of it going to Democrats. (more…)

GM-corn-mIn Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, Matthew Dalton reported that the European Union likely will approve a genetically modified organism for only the second time in the past 15 years. The EU is poised to grant E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company permission to grow 1507, a DuPont-developed GMO corn.

DuPont first sought approval in 2001 for 1507 … After positive safety reviews and several decisions by the European Court of Justice criticizing the European Commission for delaying its decision, the commission is now close to approving the crop…

The crop ‘meets all EU regulatory requirements and should be approved for cultivation without further delay,’ DuPont said. (more…)

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…)

As noted here and here, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility Executive Director Laura Berry was one representative of several groups asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to adopt new corporate political disclosure rules in October. Ms. Berry was joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and numerous other liberal/progressive advocates who wanted to put up regulatory roadblocks to corporate political speech guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

The SEC, however, determined it would not proceed with stifling free speech despite what the Washington Post described as

A groundswell of support … with retail investors, union pension funds and elected officials at the state and federal levels writing to the agency in favor of such a requirement. The idea attracted more than 600,000 mostly favorable written comments from the public — a record response for the agency. And with Mary Jo White’s arrival as SEC chairman in April, the initiative’s supporters hoped for action.

‘But she obviously did not really recognize the significance of this,’ said Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, which has pioneered the push for political spending disclosures. ‘She is not looking at investor protection and corporate governance broadly. You do not see those as primary drivers of her agenda.’ (more…)