Proxy Preview 2019 reveals intensified shareholder pressure on corporations across a wide range of ESG issues from climate and political spending to women. Investors with a conscience; we are having a bigger impact every year. Download the report and/or watch webinar here. Continue Reading →
Tag Archives | Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of institutional investors representing $200 billion in invested capital that engage corporations on the environmental and social impacts of their operations, sent a letter yesterday to all U.S. Senators urging them not to pass the Financial CHOICE Act.
The proposed legislation, which passed the House and is currently pending in the Senate, would not only eviscerate critical financial reforms instituted in response to the 2008 financial crash, but would also eliminate the long-standing right of shareholders to exercise their voice regarding the governance of the companies they own. Continue Reading →
Shareholders of Wells Fargo $WFC and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility today announced that they have filed multiple resolutions as a result of fraudulent activities uncovered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Wells Fargo recently reported a $185 million settlement with the CFPB due to widespread and systemic illegal acts of consumer fraud, including setting up two million deposit and credit card accounts for customers without their permission. Continue Reading →
ICCR’s Board of Directors announced that Josh Zinner will be assuming the role of ICCR’s new Chief Executive Officer, effective January 4th2016.
Josh Zinner comes to ICCR with 20 years’ experience as a non-profit leader, coalition-builder and policy advocate. For the past eight years Josh has co-directed the New Economy Project, an organization that works with community groups to promote economic justice – through policy advocacy, litigation, coalition building, shareholder action, community education, and research – and has been at the forefront both locally and nationally in the fight against discriminatory financial practices. Continue Reading →
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a coalition of 300 investors with assets under management of over $100 billion, Calvert Investments and Christian Brothers Investment Services, commend Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) for her introduction of The Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking & Slavery Act of 2015 in the House of Representatives.
The bill was introduced following publication of the State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons report, which called on governments to “set clear expectations for businesses on human rights issues and adopt policies that promote greater transparency and better reporting on anti-trafficking efforts in supply chains.” Continue Reading →
This guest post from Bruce Herbert of Investor Voice provides an overview of a simple majority vote counting shareholder initiative, which seeks to eliminate abstentions from the denominator in calculating votes as well as super majority threshold requirements that have not been approved by shareholders.
“Fair corporate suffrage is an important right that should attach to every equity security bought on a public exchange.”
– U.S. House of Representatives, Securities Exchange Act of 1934 Continue Reading →
It is wonderful to have supportive friends, especially when they represent socially responsible investors and advisors. John Chevedden, Myra K. Young and James McRitchie extend sincere thanks to the following for sending letters of concern regarding their recent lawsuits against us to: EMC Corp, Omnicom, Express Scripts, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.: Continue Reading →
Some have argued that Ralph Nader started socially responsible shareholder activism with Campaign GM, when the group filed shareholder proposals to expand GM’s board to include consumer advocates and empower shareholders to place their board nominees on GM’s proxy ballot (proxy access). According to a recent article in the WSJ, the longtime consumer advocate is now putting together a shareholder-activism group. (Ralph Nader Adds Shareholder Activist to His Portfolio, 1/15/2014) Continue Reading →
Key Characteristics of Prominent Shareholder-sponsored Proposals on Environmental and Social Topics, 2005-2011, released by the IRRC Institute (IRRCi) and researched by Ernst & Young LLP finds environmental and social (E+S) shareowner proposals are gaining increased support from investors at US companies. Download the report, presentation, press release and even replay the webinar from IRRCi’s website. Continue Reading →
Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) released their 2013 Proxy Resolutions and Voting Guide including all member-sponsored shareholder proposals for the upcoming proxy season.
ICCR members are calling on asset owners to help promote corporate responsibility by voting their proxies in support of investor proposals that advance social, economic and environmental justice. Continue Reading →
In the year-end reflections two contributing factors deserve more attention. First, "prophetic warnings" from religious groups on the dangers of subprime loans via shareowner resolutions. Second, a call from Sanford Lewis for boards to revoke implicit policies of "don’t ask, don’t tell" with regard to liability issues.
The current financial meltdown should remind us of the importance and interconnections between ESG issues. Fully a dozen years before Wall Street experts and regulators reluctantly recognized the contribution of subprime mortgages to the current financial crisis, faith-based organizations urged major corrective action. The summer 2008 issue of The Corporate Examiner, a publication of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), carried an extensive review entitled The Buck Stops Here: How Securitization Changed the Rules for Ordinary Americans.
Subprime mortgages came about as a way to extend credit to lower-income people after passage of the federal Community Reinvestment Act in 1977, which encouraged banks to lend money in their local communities. Many ICCR members had pushed for the Act because subprime mortgages can give low income applicants access to home ownership when the cost and terms of conventional mortgages would be prohibitive. However, IRRC members were also on the forefront calling for subprime loans to be used responsibly, with reasonable terms.
As early as 1993, ICCR members filed six resolutions to more closely regulate subprime mortgages. “When our institutional investor members view their holdings through the lens of justice and sustainability, the priorities for action that emerge frequently anticipate market moves. Time and time again, the prophetic voice of faith has allowed our members to anticipate emerging areas of corporate responsibility, in investment policy as well as in social, economic and environmental policy. For more than a decade before anyone else, our visionary members have been expressing concerns related to predatory lending practices, inappropriate underwriting standards and the potential consequences of securitization of debt instruments," says ICCR Executive Director Laura Berry.
If financial markets had paid more attention to ICCR, perhaps we wouldn’t have gotten into the financial meltdown… certainly, it wouldn’t have been as big. Boards and shareowners would do well to pay more attention to this "early warning" system.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of providing editorial and substantive advice to Sanford J. Lewis, Counsel to the Investor Environmental Health Network, on his paper Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: A Poor Framework for Risk Analysis by Both Investors and Directors (HLSCG&FR, 11/15/09) Lewis describes a growing clash between the needs and duties of directors and investors to manage risks, and attorneys who advise “don’t ask; don’t tell,” in order to minimize corporate liability in any possible future litigation. He warns that a strategy based on culpable deniability serves no one well.
Accounting principles for reporting environmental liabilities, for example, include subjective language such as “to the extent material,” “when necessary for the financial statements not to be misleading,” and “encouraged but not required.” At the same time, section 302 of Sarbanes-Oxley requires the CEO or CFO to certify the financial statement “fairly presents” the company’s financial condition, regardless of whether the financial statement is technically in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles.
Directors are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they report only “known minimum” liabilities, they risk violating SOX. However, a "fair presentation," could be used as evidence in court and raise possible settlement costs.
Lewis recommends a principled approach to “prejudicial” information, where a balancing test is used to weigh how prejudicial and how useful information will be. Under federal and state rules, evidence which might be considered prejudicial will nevertheless be found to be admissible in evidence if it is “more probative than prejudicial.” "A similar balancing test should be applied by accounting and securities rulemakers in considering the types of required disclosures to support the needs of investors."
Boards who listened too closely to the advice of their attorney’s may have been ignorant of potential risks but they can hardly be though blameless. We need to move from "don’t ask, don’t tell" to a careful weighing of the evidence and accounting standards that provide for more in the way of disclosure.