It turns out that a couple of weeks ago, while most of us were focused on Syria’s violent crackdown, the Republican primary campaign, anti-American rioting in Afghanistan, possible war with Iran, and a vigorous debate of contraception in the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission did something important.
In response to the contentious debate over net neutrality, the SEC ruled that internet providers like AT&T could no longer avoid resolutions from shareholders challenging the corporations’ position on this issue. The Nathan Cummings Foundation, as part of our corporate engagement work, has called on companies to commit to supporting an open internet (in which richer websites can’t buy preferential treatment from internet providers) for their wireless broadband networks. And so Kerpen, of the notorious Americans for Prosperity, wagged his finger at us.
The truth is, Kerpen and his friends don’t want shareholders to assert themselves in the business of the companies whose shares they hold. These publicly held corporations want the benefit of investor dollars without the hassle of investor dissent.
Kerpen’s outrage is driven by fear. He understands the power informed, mobilized shareholders can wield. It’s a power that the funders of his organization desperately want to keep to themselves.
Today most shareholders – including many of the largest organizations in the social change world – do not assert these rights despite owning huge numbers of shares in important companies. This is a vast, untapped well of influence. As all of us look to do more with less, I will urge more and more of you to explore the opportunities associated with this emerging tactic.
Our response to Kerpen was published on the Fox News website. You can read it here.