28 Feb 2022 Wall Street Journal Highlights FEP’s Shareholder Activism at Disney
Shareholder season is underway for 2022, and the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project (FEP) is in the thick of things – and being recognized for its work!
FEP has already participated in meetings for the retailer Costco and drug store chain Walgreens, among others. Apple is coming up this Friday. And the Wall Street Journal mentioned FEP’s shareholder proposal to be presented and voted upon at the annual meeting of The Walt Disney Company’s shareholders on March 9.
In the WSJ article, “Shareholder Voices Poised to Grow Louder With SEC’s Help,” the newspaper of record for investors led with a shout-out to FEP:
A Walt Disney Co. shareholder wants the board to study the company’s workplace training, arguing it could discriminate against white employees.
Reporter Richard Vanderford explained how the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has changed its policies in a way that makes it easier for proposals to survive attempts by company management to omit them from proxy statements. Vanderford noted:
[T]he SEC’s move allows shareholders to shine an unwelcome spotlight on U.S. corporations as they head into the busy proxy season, the time between mid-April and mid-June when many public companies hold their annual meetings.
“The changes,” Vanderford reported, “mean that shareholders have a new avenue to scrutinize and potentially influence companies.”
The Journal article described how FEP’s shareholder proposal is premised on the idea that “the company’s antiracism training discriminates against white employees.” In fact, FEP’s proposal asks for the Disney board of directors to “commission a workplace non-discrimination audit analyzing Disney’s impacts, including the impacts arising from Disney-sponsored or -promoted employee training, on civil rights and non-discrimination in the workplace, and the impacts of those issues on Disney’s business.”
The proposal’s supporting statement (found on page 83) points out:
Inequal treatment is discrimination.
This discriminatory instruction and treatment is not limited to a single employee-training program, but has become endemic throughout Disney. This places our Company at significant reputational, legal and financial risk. Under the United States Constitution and laws, discrimination by race, sex and other categories is forbidden regardless of which groups are discriminated against. And a company that actively discriminates against the viewpoints of vast swathes of the American population creates needless reputational, financial, statutory and regulatory risks as well. Thoughtful study and deep remediation are required.
In creating its report, the Board is encouraged to assess whether Company employee-training programs treat any employees or class of employees as inferior to any others, as by overt or implicit signals that some employees or groups of employees will be offered additional mentoring or support programs denied to other employees on suspect grounds; that some employees will receive non-merit-related preferential treatment in hiring or promotion; or that some employees are encouraged to speak about their lived experiences and feelings – including their impressions of the employee-training itself – while others are constrained.
Disney’s annual shareholder meeting will be virtual, and held on Wednesday, March 9 at 1 pm eastern. Shareholders with credentials can access the meeting by clicking here. Shares can be voted in advance of the meeting here.