Conservative Groups - Human Rights
Seven of NCPPR’s 2018 resolutions continue a theme raised last year, suggesting that companies should review their policies “related to human rights to assess areas where the Company needs to adopt and implement additional policies” and report by December. After five omissions and two withdrawals, it appears that none will come to votes. The supporting statements contend the companies are violating conservatives’ free speech rights and inappropriately promoting liberal causes. For example:
- It said Apple is censoring certain groups and inappropriately collaborating with the Southern Poverty Law Center. The resolution referenced Apple's decision to stop the use of its platform by alt-right groups following the neo-Nazi gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, and asserted such actions were akin to earlier censorship of the NAACP.
- It contended Coca-Cola does not respect free speech rights because it has supported the Human Rights Campaign and the Southern Poverty Law Center--which NCPPR says work against “religious freedom.”
- It asserted Goldman Sachs has a relationship with the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for American Progress and that these groups hold extremist views.
SEC action and withdrawals:
- Amazon.com successfully challenged the proposal at the SEC, arguing Ridenour failed to provide sufficient proof of his stock ownership.
- The SEC staff agreed with Apple’s contention that the resolution duplicated a proposal it received first from Jing Zhao asking for a human rights committee (covered in this report under Human Rights).
- NCPPR withdrew at Coca-Cola after noting that the company’s charitable giving policy states it is aligned with its business priorities, but Coke also had challenged the resolution, saying it was moot.
- It also withdrew at Goldman Sachs, saying it was satisfied that Goldman’s philanthropic giving standards are appropriate—but the firm had argued at the SEC that the proposal contained false and misleading statements and impugned Goldman’s reputation given its assertions about the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for American Progress, while also arguing it was moot given its current human rights policy.
- Home Depot has successfully argued the proposal is ordinary business because of its focus on a specific charitable group, the Human Rights Campaign, not on broader human rights issues. The proposal’s resolved clause is identical to one in a resolution the proponent filed and withdrew in 2015 after a similar SEC challenge from the company. NCPPR said that it withdrew this year after the company agreed to insert the following language into its Political Activity and Government Relations Policy: “Participation in the PAC is strictly voluntary, and neither participation in the PAC nor personal political affiliation will have an effect on one’s employment with Home Depot.”
At Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, both companies told the SEC a similar proposal raises ordinary business issues. That resolution asked for a report “and prepared at reasonable cost, detailing the known and potential risks and costs to the Company caused by pressure campaigns from outside organizations that seek to dictate the Company’s free speech and freedom of association rights.” The companies’ ordinary business arguments prevailed at the SEC.