Shareholder activists with the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project (FEP) will present proposals at four shareholder meetings this week – CVS Health Corporation, Home Depot, Yum! Brands and Charles Schwab Corporation.
FEP’s shareholder proposals will cover CVS’s penchant for corporate incest by allowing their board of directors to simultaneously sit on the boards of other companies, rescinding Home Depot’s discriminatory racial equity audit proposal passed at last year’s board meeting, a non-discrimination audit analyzing the effectiveness of Yum! Brands so-called anti-racist policies and Charles Schwab’s potential violation of civil rights in failing to protect against viewpoint discrimination and the risk of financial institutions “debanking” customers based on their political viewpoints.
In its proposal to CVS (Proposal #9), FEP has asked that the company adopt a policy, and amend the bylaws, to forbid the company directors from simultaneously serving on the boards of directors of other companies. The practice, while seeming innocent, creates an environment where board members are interchangeable and their allegiance lies not with the company, but with each other. This “corporate incest” is detailed on page 18-25 of FEP’s Proxy Navigator Annual Voter Guide.
“The role of the directors is to provide oversight of management independent of the interests of other companies,” said FEP Associate Ethan Peck. “There is a potential for conflict of interest for directors to oversee management of more than one business at the same time.”
“This kind of corporate incest is by no means rare – it’s overwhelmingly the norm. And it not only enables executives to self-deal and – supposedly – competing companies to cooperate but has also created ideological hegemony in the boardroom that’s necessary for woke corporate activism to have become so mainstream,” added Peck.
FEP’s proposal to Home Depot (Proposal #8) would rescind the racial equity audit passed at last year’s shareholder meeting. This proposal is important because woke, leftwing racial equity audits serve only to distract from the company’s fiduciary responsibility and to further the discriminatory leftist diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) narrative that places surface-level characteristics above merit and creates a divisive workplace culture that puts companies at legal and reputational risk.
“Racial equity audits increase in-company racial division rather than reducing it. They distract leadership and staff from focusing on core business concerns. They promote claims about ‘white supremacy’ in America that many Home Depot employees, shareholders and customers don’t accept,” said FEP Director Scott Shepard, “They sow division among employees and consumers. They’re also expensive: some auditors reportedly charge more than $2,000 per hour.”
“These audits do not help the audited companies: the publication of such reports often triggers more negative news, criticism and boycotts of the company by certain consumers, while also alienating other consumers who disapprove of the company’s decision to conduct such an audit in the first place,” added Shepard. “Such reports may also fuel unwarranted government investigations, employee grievances and meritless discrimination claims.”
Yum! Brands will be presented with an FEP proposal (Proposal #7) calling for the board of directors to commission a racial equity audit analyzing the company’s impact on civil rights and nondiscrimination, and the impacts of those issues on the company’s business. This proposal would evaluate the impact of Yum! Brands so-called anti-racist policies to ensure that employees the company does not consider “diverse” are not subject to workplace discrimination.
“Tremendous public attention has focused recently on workplace and employment practices. All agree that employee success should be fostered and that no employees should face discrimination, but there is much disagreement about what non-discrimination means,” said Shepard. “If the company is, in the name of equity, diversity and inclusion, committing illegal or unconscionable discrimination against employees deemed ‘non-diverse,’ then the company will suffer in myriad ways – all of them both unforgivable and avoidable.”
Charles Schwab Corporation will be presented with an FEP proposal (Proposal #6) that would require the company to evaluate how it oversees risks related to discrimination against individuals based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin or political views, and whether such discrimination may impact individuals’ exercise of their constitutionally protected civil rights. This proposal addresses the issue of financial institutions “debanking” individuals and organizations who espouse conservative opinions or otherwise hold viewpoints that don’t fit the leftwing narrative.
“Financial freedom and freedom of speech are both cornerstones of the American founding. Denying financial services to individuals because of their views is an infringement of both,” said Peck. “And to make matters worse, these are the same companies that have spent millions parading their supposed respect for ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity.'”
More information about these proposals, as well as other key shareholder meetings and proxy votes for this week, can be found in FEP’s weekly proxy votes newsletter.
The Free Enterprise Project’s new Proxy Navigator Annual Voter Guide can be downloaded here.
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