American Baptists urged to contact Congress in defense of shareholder-proposal process

VALLEY FORGE, PA (4/25/17)—As a founding member of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) committed to socially responsible investing, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) urges American Baptists to contact their Congressional representatives by phone or email to request that they defend the right of shareholders to file proposals with companies. Because a House Financial Services Committee hearing will take place tomorrow regarding a bill that would stifle the filing of shareholder proposals, ABHMS requested in writing today that the committee defend the filing of such proposals.

“ABHMS has a strong history of managing its investments in ways that consistently provide strong financial returns. And we’ve done so while using our voice to influence corporate leaders to broaden their view of risks and consider the social and environmental impacts of corporate decisions,” says Michaele Birdsall, ABHMS chief financial officer and treasurer. “The idea that our voice, along with the voices of other investors, would be considered too small to count while efforts are underway to prop up institutions considered ‘too big to fail’ flies in the face of our democratic and Christian values.”

The legislation would prevent most investors from filing shareholder proposals with companies regarding key issues on which they want further action, such as board-governance matters, corporate policies or emerging risks, such as climate change.

Shareholders would need to hold a minimum of 1 percent of the company’s outstanding stock for three years to file resolutions. Currently, shareholders holding as little as $2,000 in shares for at least a year can do so. In effect, the nation’s largest institutional investors—including the nation’s largest public pension funds—would be unable to file shareholder resolutions.

The proposal by House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) would undo a shareholder-proposal process that has been in place for a half century. The proposal is part of a larger bill aimed at replacing the Dodd-Frank Act.

ICCR is a 46 year-old, pioneer coalition of more than 300 organizational investors representing faith-based communities, socially responsible asset managers, labor unions and others who engage corporations on the environmental and social impacts of their operations.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with more than 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.