John Deere Executives Challenged Directly Over Company Support for Cap-and-Trade; Challenge Part of a Comprehensive “Pro-Liberty” Strategy to Combat CEOs Who Seek to Profit from Big Government

John Deere executives were challenged at its annual stockholder meeting by representatives of the National Center for Public Policy Research Wednesday.  The confrontation came over John Deere’s membership in the pro-cap-and-trade lobby group the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), and John Deere’s support for cap-and-trade legislation.

Tom Borelli, director of The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project, and Deneen Borelli, a full-time fellow of the National Center’s Project 21 leadership group for conservative African-Americans, asked John Deere CEO Samuel Allen to justify the company’s lobbying for climate restrictions that would hurt the company’s customers, stockholders, and the U.S. economic climate generally.

They also warned Allen that in light of new SEC guidance on disclosure of climate change-related risk, a failure to fully disclose the business risk of cap-and-trade legislation could expose the company to lawsuits.

Allen defended the company’s involvement, claiming farmers could benefit from cap-and-trade.  (The Obama Administration argues farmers would benefit from federal government “allowance revenues” under cap-and-trade, while others, including the anti-cap-and-trade American Farm Bureau, say cap-and-trade “will mean higher fuel and fertilizer costs, which puts [U.S. farmers] at a competitive disadvantage in international markets with other countries that do not have similar carbon emission restrictions.”)

Deneen Borelli sees the risk of a “green bubble” even if some farmers were to profit from government emissions credits as the Obama Administration argues: “I’m outraged by Allen’s justification of the trading aspect of carbon credits where farmers could potentially benefit.  Given our current economy, the last thing we need is to expose farmers and the country to another Wall Street risky derivatives trading scheme.”

Tom Borelli adds: “Allen dismissed the American Farm Bureau’s opposition to cap-and-trade by glibly saying other groups support the legislation.  It’s a bad sign for investors when a CEO is so out of touch with his customer base.”

The Borellis have attended the stockholder meetings of other USCAP members, getting Caterpillar CEO James Owens to admit to his stockholders that his company had not done a cost-benefit analysis of the costs of cap-and-trade before lobbying for it.

The National Center for Public Policy Research in 2007 organized a letter signed by some 70 national organizations and prominent individuals, including a former U.S. attorney general, calling on Caterpillar to withdraw from USCAP.

Caterpillar withdrew from USCAP this year.

An audiotape of the Borellis’ questioning of General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt during GE’s 2009 annual stockholder meeting drew significant cable and print media coverage after GE cut off the microphone of Deneen Borelli and a likeminded questioner.  In the hubhub that followed, LA Weekly reported that GE’s Immelt “personally issued a GE ban” on advertising with the parent company of the Hollywood Reporter, which had covered the stockholder meeting story extensively.

In an article published by on Wednesday, Tom Borelli explained the National Center’s strategy in challenging these and other CEOs directly: “CEOs see big bucks in big government… Because CEOs can represent as much of a risk to liberty as elected officials, limited government advocates need a voice in the boardroom.”

The National Center For Public Policy Research is a conservative, Constitution-respecting, free-market non-profit think-tank established in 1982.  It is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters, and receives less than one percent of its revenue from corporate sources.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.