The SRI Service Award is one of the most prestigious awards given in the corporate governance industrial complex… and this one is for work in the field of Sustainable, Responsible, Impact investing. No one has to excuse themselves for working in SRI. Like motherhood and apple pie, SRI is inarguably good… although there are still a few who think the earth is flat and climate change is a hoax.
It doesn’t take much to nominate. No justification is required… but you can bet those with the most nominations will be widely discussed at the upcoming SRI Conference (see coverage of past conferences). I submitted the name of one of my heroes, Julie Goodridge, and since I’ll miss the Conference this year, I’ll tell you why after I tell you a little more about the Award.
SRI Service Award: Deadline
Nominations are due October 14, 2016. The four persons receiving the most SRI Service Award nominations will appear on the final ballot. Voting will occur during the SRI Conference and the award will be presented on November 11, 2016, as one of the Conference highlights.
SRI Service Award: Nomination
As indicated above, nomination is simple. Here’s mine, per the suggested format:
I Nominate: Julie Goodridge
Her / His Organization: NorthStar Asset Management
My Name: James McRitchie
My Organization: Corporate Governance (aka, CorpGov.net)
Email your nomination to James Griffitts at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax it to 720-221-0470.
SRI Service Award: Background and Rules
Please see the 2016 SRI Service Award Nomination Form for background, previous award winners, and the original instructions on submitting a nomination. Here’s the main rule to keep in mind:
Only one nomination per nominee will be accepted from a nominee’s employing organization. The four persons receiving the most nominations will appear on the final ballot.
Since there is only one award per year and they’ve only been given out since 1991, there are many more deserving persons than awards. Of course, I’d love it if Julie Goodridge, and that would take many more nominations than mine. Of course, you can always nominate someone else. Just give it some though and be ready to support them
SRI Service Award: Why Julie Goodridge?
Defending the Legal Right of Shareholders
First, I have a personal reason to nominate Julie, since she was instrumental in rallying support of the SRI community for John Chevedden and I when we were sued by several companies a couple of years ago for merely submitting proxy proposals. They were basically SLAPP suits, bypassing the SEC’s no-action process in favor of dragging us into court and attempting to intimidate us with the threat of companies being awarded enormous sums by way of their legal expenses. While they had an army of high paid attorneys, we had none. Judge Mark L. Wolf’s order, in the case of Omnicom helped put us somewhat more at ease:
dealing with this matter on declaratory judgment on an expedited basis, when, as here, EMC has not presented all of its arguments to the SEC first, would be essentially reversing the statutory scheme and not be in the interests of the administration of justice… In addition it would abet what I regard as an inappropriate practice of depriving the SEC of the opportunity to perform its proper role of considering all the grounds that in this case have been argued to me and giving informed advice.
I also have in mind Mr. McRitchie’s last argument, that permitting — or where there’s a legitimate discretion or abetting an end run around the SEC deprives shareholder of a relatively inexpensive opportunity to get claims dispute resolved in their favor and by forcing them into court keeps them from really, as a practical matter, having an appropriate opportunity to have their positions evaluated on an informed basis as the SEC’s in a better position to do quickly and relatively inexpensively.
However, we felt better going into the hearing on the Chipotle Mexican Grill lawsuit knowing the SRI community, thanks primarily to Julie Goodridge and Mari Schwartzer of NorthStar Asset Management, had our back. See SRI Funds & Advisors Send Open Letters on Lawsuits Against Shareholders. I don’t expect any additional SLAPP type suits for many years. Our defense can be used by anyone. Since the lawsuits, Julie and I have gone on to co-sponsor a few resolutions at companies like Alphabet and Facebook.
Winning the Right Same-Sex Marriage
Julie was the lead plaintiff in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, which resulted in the Massachusetts becoming the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, and was influential in Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.
Julie and NorthStar have initiated many proxy proposals over the years. Here’s just a few of the one’s I know about:
- In 2009, Julie began filing proposals at PepsiCo aimed at getting them to establish a sustainable water policy. Although the proposal failed to win a majority vote, PepsiCo worked with her to develop a policy declaring the global right to “safe, affordable potable water for personal and domestic use.” PepsiCo went on to win won a Stockholm Industry Water Award for its work to reduce water consumption. Wouldn’t it have been nice for PepsiCo to share that prize with Julie?
- Sixteen years ago, long before the real estate-based financial crisis, NorthStar targeted Household International in Florida for engaging in predatory lending by notifying low-income residents they were “pre-approved” for a line of credit.
- See a more extensive list on the NorthStar website.
One of my favorite categories of NorthStar proposals is one they label “Congruency between Political Contributions and Company Values.” I’d call them a series of proposals to address corporate hypocrisy. I discussed a similar strategy by Zevin Asset Management, which filed for a report on the wide gap between what funds say and how they vote their proxies on environmental issues in a post entitled Give Thanks: SEC Allows Shareholders to Hold Mutual Funds to Account.
The work of Julie Goodridge at NorthStar, Sonia Kowai of Zevin Asset Management and attorney Sanford Lewis have inspired me to buy shares in several mutual fund management companies so that I can file similar proposals.
SRI Service Award: Conclusion
I’ve given you my opinion as to why I think Julie Goodridge is worthy of the SRI Service Award but I realize there are plenty of well-qualified individuals worthy of nomination. Make your nominations by October 14, 2016 and be ready to make your case as well as listening to the opinions of others at The SRI Conference in Denver.