05 Jun 2017 Controversial Google Donations Must Be Explained
Shareholder Proposal Asks Google Parent Company for Logic Behind Questionable Grants
Investor Alert: Alphabet Inc. Shareholders Urged to Vote for Proposal #10 to Promote Transparent Corporate Philanthropy
Mountain View, CA / Washington, D.C. – At this week’s Alphabet Inc. shareholder meeting, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project (FEP) is asking investors in Google’s corporate parent to approve FEP’s shareholder proposal that asks the tech giant to address both reasons and reputational costs related to its charitable donations.
“To the extent Alphabet uses its investors’ money to fund charitable causes, it should fund those endeavors that provide a benefit to the communities and initiatives germane to the company or that create general goodwill. In that way, those funds will increase shareholder value. Increased shareholder value is, in and of itself, a social good,” said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “It is hard to see how donations to groups such as the Clinton Foundation and the Center for American Progress fit within that paradigm.”
FEP’s Proposal #10 on the Alphabet Inc. proxy asks the company to “provide an annual report… disclosing: the company’s standards for choosing recipients of company assets in the form of charitable contributions; the business rationale and purpose for each of the charitable contributions, if any; personnel participating in the decision to contribute; the benefits to society at-large produced by company contributions; and a follow-up report confirming the contribution was used for the purpose stated.” Citing questionable donations made by Google in the past, it notes that “[c]urrent disclosure is insufficient to allow the company’s Board and shareholders to evaluate the use of corporate assets by outside organizations.”
In his prepared comments for the Alphabet meeting, Danhof cites the company’s donation to the Center for American Progress (CAP), noting that CAP “wrote the blueprint for the Obama Administration’s expansion of executive power. Now, with President Donald Trump in office, Alphabet has lodged complaints about the very same use of executive power that may have been designed and endorsed because of the company’s decision to fund CAP.” He also highlights Alphabet’s support of the Clinton Foundation, which is now reportedly under FBI investigation.
The full text of FEP’s proposal and Alphabet’s response to it are available on pages 68 and 69 of the company’s proxy statement, which is available for download here. The text of Danhof’s prepared statement in favor of Proposal #10 can be found here. FEP comments after the meeting will be available here after the meeting.
Danhof added: “Conservative investors and potential investors should be alarmed that Alphabet has seen fit to fund such extreme groups as the Clinton Foundation and CAP. It makes little sense for a company to donate to organizations that 50 percent of its investors and customers would likely oppose. Those two groups definitely fit the bill.”
Alphabet’s shareholder meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at 9:00am Pacific/12:00pm Eastern at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. It will be the fourth time FEP – the nation’s leading proponent of free-market investor activism – has participated in an Alphabet Inc. (then Google) shareholder meeting and the third time it will have had a proposal presented to company investors. Wednesday’s meeting will be the seventeenth corporate shareholder meeting FEP has participated in during the 2017 shareholder season.
FEP presented similar proposals advocating charitable transparency at the Apple and General Electric shareholder meetings earlier this year. At past Google meetings, FEP sought greater corporate transparency with proposals on reporting the return on investment for the company’s alternative energy projects and disclosing conflicts of interest regarding board member investments and company goals. It also took Google to task for ignoring the Easter holiday and restricting gun sales on its shopping platform.
Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group — focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Since 2014, its representatives have participated in around 100 shareholder meetings to advance free-market ideals in health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and other important public policy issues. FEP’s Employee Conscience Protection Project strengthened protections for the political beliefs and activities of over five million workers at 13 major U.S. corporations. FEP’s questioning of Boeing’s and General Electric’s support for the Clinton Foundation helped trigger an FBI investigation into the Foundation’s activities. Executives put on the spot by FEP at ABC News (Disney), the Washington Post and CNN (Time Warner) meetings acknowledged media bias.
FEP activity this year has been covered by media outlets such as theÂ New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Drudge Report, Business Insider, National Public Radio and SiriusXM. FEP’s work was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley Strassel’s 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 60,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for email updates here. Follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements. To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at @NCPPRMedia.