For Release: April 26, 2016
Contact: Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or cell (703) 477-7476 or [email protected]
Free Enterprise Project to Present Liberty-Based Shareholder Resolutions at Annual Meetings of Corporate Titans General Electric and Coca-Cola
National Center for Public Policy Research Calls on General Electric Investors to Support its Religious Freedom Proposal
National Center's Proposal to Coca-Cola Exposes Beverage Giant's Leftist Leanings and Extremist Activities
Jacksonville, FL / Atlanta, GA / Washington, D.C. - At tomorrow's annual meeting of General Electric shareholders in Jacksonville, Florida, and at the annual meeting of Coca-Cola shareholders in Atlanta, Georgia, the National Center for Public Policy Research will present two different shareholder proposals aimed at advancing religious liberty and corporate transparency, respectively.
"As corporate America continues to engage in very public political and civic issues, the National Center's Free Enterprise Project stands ready to take the fight to liberal CEOs who work with leftist politicians and media personnel to reduce liberty," said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. "Whether in the name of political correctness or for short-term praise from the mainstream media, corporate leaders are using their bully pulpits to reduce individual liberty and quash what were once considered basic freedoms. Tomorrow, we are going to stand up to the leaders of General Electric and Coca-Cola for their roles in reducing liberty."
Tomorrow, Danhof will present the National Center's religious liberty-based shareholder proposal to General Electric's shareholders in Jacksonville, Florida. The very timely proposal takes the company's CEO Jeff Immelt to task for his opposition to state-level religious freedom laws. Starting last year with Indiana and Arkansas - and more recently in Georgia - states are working to restore basic religious freedoms that have been eroded through statutes and case law. However, corporations such as General Electric have been opposing such measures by falsely claiming these efforts amount to legalized discrimination.
"General Electric has been a leading voice in the anti-religious liberty choir," said Danhof. "Obviously unfamiliar with how religious freedom laws work, GE CEO Jeff Immelt specifically opposed Indiana's law on the basis that it would encourage discrimination against homosexual individuals. Apart from being completely wrong, Immelt is completely hypocritical. GE does business, and thereby pays local taxes, in nations where homosexuality is actually outlawed. Where is his concern for those citizens?"
The National Center's proposal drives GE's hypocrisy home by noting that:
...the Company might also consider a congruency analysis between its stated corporate values and Company operations in certain regions, which raises an issue of misalignment with those corporate values, and stating the justification for such exceptions.
For example our CEO expressed deep concern that state-level religious freedom laws might lead to anti-homosexual bigotry saying, "the impact of laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration in Indiana and proposed laws in other states could have a very negative impact." Yet, the Company maintains operations in high-risk regions where homosexual acts are criminalized.
The proponent believes that General Electric's record to date demonstrates a gap between its statements and its actions. The requested report would play a role in illuminating and addressing the factors accounting for this gap.
The National Center's complete shareholder resolution, and General Electric's response to it, can be found on pages 60 and 61 of the company's proxy statement - which is available here.
General Electric engaged the outside law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP to petition the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to block the National Center's proposal. However, the National Center's legal team prevailed in convincing the SEC that its proposal was so significant that the company's shareholders should have a say in the matter.
The entire legal exchange between General Electric's law firm and the National Center, along with the SEC's decision, can be downloaded here.
Also taking place tomorrow is the annual meeting of Coca-Cola shareholders which will be held in Atlanta, Georgia. At that meeting, Demetrius Minor, a member of the Project 21 black leadership network and a minister, will present the National Center's shareholder proposal, which is focused on some of the company's far-left actions that may harm long-term investors.
"There is a mismatch between some of Coca-Cola's capitalist rhetoric and its actions - many of which are quite liberal from a policy perspective. Coca-Cola has damaged the free-market movement on many occasions, including when the company left the American Legislative Exchange Council at the behest of liberal extremists," said Danhof.
The proposal also points to other examples of Coca-Cola's leftist bent, noting:
Coca-Cola [claims to] support policies that promote fair competition through reduced discriminatory regulation.
However, some of Coca-Cola's political donations and policy activities run counter to these stated corporate values.
For example, the Company donated to President Barack Obama's 2013 inaugural campaign despite the fact that his Administration's policies resulted in the U.S. corporate tax rate becoming the highest in the developed world. Additionally, in 2014, the Company contributed to a political party that then tried to advance legislation to raise taxes on sugary drinks.
The National Center's complete shareholder resolution, and Coca-Cola's response to it, can be found on pages 92 and 93 of the company's proxy statement - which is available here.
The National Center's Free Enterprise Project is the nation's preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers' rights and many other important public policy issues. Tomorrow's General Electric and Coca-Cola meetings mark its fifth and sixth shareholder meetings of 2016.
Project 21 has been a leading voice of black conservatives since its founding in 1992. Its volunteer members come from all walks of life. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked for the use of Project 21.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.