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Left-wing activism rampant in corporate shareholder proposal process: Report

A Securities and Exchange Commission process for approving shareholder proposals favors a left-wing bent in corporate policies, claims a watchdog, citing audits from 2018-2022.

FIRST ON FOX: The Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) shareholder proposal approval process has been disproportionately pushing U.S. corporations' policies toward left-wing activism, according to a new report from Consumers' Research that published audits from 2018-2022. 

In December 2022, William Hild, the executive director of Consumers' Research – a nonprofit consumer research group – proposed a shareholder suggestion to ExxonMobil. Among five proposals submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for review, Hild's was the only one the SEC allowed ExxonMobil to exclude from its proxy materials sent to shareholders for their consideration. 

This raised questions for Consumers' Research about how political leanings affect these proposals.


"The long term consequences of this that we're already seeing is pushing corporate America in a more and more woke direction, where they are much more worried about catering to woke activists and woke politicians than to their own customers and to their shareholdersm" Hild told Fox News Digital in an interview this week.

The report, which audited over 1,000 shareholder proposals from 2018-2022, found that 64% of the conservative-aligned proposals requested for No-Action were granted, while liberal-aligned proposals were granted No-Action relief by the SEC 52% of the time.

During that period, there were 1,063 shareholder proposals aligned with liberal interests, 101 categorized as neutral, 87 aligned with conservative interests, and two with unknown alignment submitted.

"If conservative and liberal shareholders are not playing on the level playing field, what that means is there's a left-wing tilt to all of corporate America, because these proposals are very costly for the corporations to fight," Hild said. "They usually never lose a vote on them. What ends up happening is if it looks like they're going to lose, they start to capitulate and negotiate with their proposers."

"For example, Exxon has taken a net-zero pledge now, which means that they're going to spend money and time and focus to try and reduce their carbon output to zero by 2050, and that is a direct result of shareholder lobbying when it came through shareholder proposals," he added.


When a shareholder submits a proposal to be included in a company's proxy materials for a vote at the company's annual general meeting or special meeting, the company may seek guidance from the SEC on whether it can exclude the proposal. The company typically provides reasons for exclusion based on SEC regulations, such as if the proposal falls under certain exempted categories or if it violates SEC rules.

Receiving a No-Action letter allows the company to exclude the shareholder proposal from its proxy materials without facing potential legal consequences from the SEC for doing so. 

"As a result, conservatives have essentially ceded the ground to leftists," the report noted.

Companies that received No-Action letters for left-wing investor proposals include Black Rock Inc., Alphabet Inc., Amazon Inc., AT&T Inc., Best Buy Inc., Autozone Inc., Comcast Corporation, Exxonmobil Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's Corporation, Pfizer Inc., among others. 

On Tuesday, BlackRock announced that it is partnering with a third proxy advisory firm to give its clients a wider range of investment counsel as critics suggested the mammoth asset manager is trying to make up for allegations that it leans into ESG (environmental, social, governance) tenets more than its fiduciary responsibilities merit.


In a release obtained by Fox News Digital on Monday, BlackRock officials said the firm remains committed to providing its clients with choices that support their growing range of investment preferences via its Voting Choice program.

"We continue to innovate and provide more choice to our clients who wish to take a more direct role in the proxy voting process," Joud Abdel Majeid, global head of BlackRock Investment Stewardship, said in the release. 

BlackRock declined to comment to Fox Business for this story. 

Meanwhile, some companies are pushing back against such agendas. Earlier this year, Ohio-based asset management company – Strive Asset Management – announced a new non-woke, anti-ESG shareholder-focused retirement plan for small businesses.

In addition, Major retailers Target and Dick's Sporting Goods will both face criticism over "woke" policies at their respective shareholder meetings on Wednesday, as activist investors ramp up pressure on companies amid raging culture wars in corporate America.


The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a conservative think tank, plans to present proposals for a vote at each company, aimed at preventing the boards from making hyper-political decisions in the future, arguing that they have taken controversial positions at shareholders' expense.

Fox Business has reached out to the SEC for comment.

Fox News' Breck Dumas and Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report. 

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