SAN FRANCISCO, April 14, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- As pressure grows on corporations to continue to speak out forcefully against efforts to restrict voter access to the polls, some shareholders are calling on corporations to reform their political spending practices.
Shareholders of The Home Depot, Pfizer, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have filed proposals calling for an annual review and public reporting about alignment between political spending and corporate values. In separate solicitations for each company that have been posted to the Securities and Exchange Commission's website, investors point to a troubling pattern of support for political recipients whose policy agendas are at odds with the companies' commitments related to healthcare, climate change, diversity and inclusion, and other issues.
None of the three companies are signatories to the corporate statement released in today's New York Times, signed by hundreds of companies and executives, pledging "to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot." Shelley Alpern, Director of Corporate Engagement at Rhia Ventures, which is representing the filer of the JPMorgan Chase proposal, said that the three companies' refusal to sign on to the breakthrough statement is "quite disappointing, but not at all surprising following their opposition to the shareholder proposals."
"Risk to reputation and brand is inherent in all corporate political spending, but for these three companies, we're seeing that risk has transform into actual damage in real time," Alpern said. Numerous media reports have called attention to longstanding corporate support for politicians, party committees, and other electioneering organizations that sought to subvert the 2020 presidential election results and are promoting voter suppression legislation.
But these examples only scratch the surface, say the shareholders. In its communication to Pfizer shareholders, the Tara Health Foundation, the sponsor of the proposal, describes Pfizer's support for a political committee that led efforts to strike down the Affordable Care Act, which has made prescription drugs more accessible for millions of Americans. Tara also estimates that Pfizer Inc. and its employee PAC gave $10.8 million in the 2016-2020 election cycles to opponents of abortion access, despite the company's manufacture of a drug commonly used in medication abortions. "These examples illustrate vividly the disservice Pfizer is doing to its shareholders and broader stakeholders by failing to align its political expenditures with its policies and values," said Dr. Ruth Shaber, president and founder of Tara Health Foundation. "It not enough any more to simply assert that contributions don't imply endorsements of every view held by the recipient. Political contributions have unintended consequences."
The influential proxy advisory firm ISS has recommended a vote in support of the Pfizer proposal to its clients. (ISS's recommendations for JPMorgan Chase or The Home Depot are pending.)
The Tara Health Foundation is the sponsor of a similar proposal at The Home Depot, in its second year on the proxy ballot. Tara's communication to Home Depot shareholders points to funding for politicians who oppose actions to mitigating climate change, protect access to reproductive healthcare, and who have restricted voter access, and challenged the 2020 presidential election results. In 2020, The Home Depot Inc. and its PAC contributed over $200,000 to members of Congress who voted against certification of the 2020 election results.
The case for the JPMorgan Chase proposal is being made by Rhia Ventures, a California-based nonprofit advising the proposal's filer. Political spending by JPMorgan Chase and its PAC has supported politicians who are holding back progress on addressing climate change and who have weakened access to reproductive healthcare, as well as funding opponents of LGBT equality and federal lawmakers who challenged the 2020 election results.
Investors can cast their votes for these proposals before the companies' annual stockholder meetings, taking place on April 22 (Pfizer), May 20 (The Home Depot), and May 18 (JPMorgan Chase). Shareholder proposals rarely receive majority votes, but a strong showing of support can influence corporate policies and behavior.
A similar proposal was recently filed at FedEx by Clean Yield Asset Management. The FedEx annual meeting will take place in the fall.
The texts to the shareholder proposals can be found here:
This is not a solicitation of authority to vote your proxy. Please DO NOT send us your proxy card; Tara Health Foundation is not able to vote your proxies, nor does this communication contemplate such an event. Tara Health Foundation urges shareholders to vote for these proposals following the instructions provided on management's proxy mailing.
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Rhia Ventures is a women-led social impact organization that seeks to create a vibrant US market for sexual, reproductive, and maternal health that produces equitable health outcomes for all.
Tara Health Foundation is a grantmaking foundation that seeks to improve the health and well-being of women and girls through the creative use of philanthropic capital and 100% mission alignment of its assets.