How do we respond to last month’s stunning election result? It is not yet clear if President-elect Trump will make good on his most outlandish campaign plans — to exclude minorities, claim more police power, and cut social lifelines. But there is already reason to believe that Americans will have to push back in the name of a just society and healthy planet.
Resistance is the trending word for this moment. As citizens, we can contribute to a constructive political response — joining with allies, building power, and creating sanctuaries for vulnerable people.
Zevin Asset Management believes that investors also have a role defending our people and our values. If you are fortunate enough to have money in the markets, you can and should use your investor voice to help shape the next four years and beyond.
At Zevin, we are intensifying our shareholder advocacy to move the companies in our portfolios toward social justice. In meetings, letters, and SEC filings, we push big firms to take responsibility for their social impacts and, in the process, enhance value for investors.
Our recent work at AT&T is one example of our broader efforts with U.S. companies. This fall Zevin filed two shareholder proposals urging the telecoms giant to protect civil rights and promote equal economic opportunity — regardless of who controls the White House:
- We are shining a light on AT&T’s Hemisphere program, a giant database of customer calls which AT&T runs as a lucrative business line, charging law enforcement agencies upwards of $1 million for bespoke searches and analytics. AT&T says that it follows the law and hands over customer data only when police present a legal demand. But why does AT&T retain more call data than peer companies like Verizon and Sprint? Why does the company allegedly force law enforcement agencies to keep Hemisphere a secret? At AT&T’s annual meeting next year, Zevin will push for answers on this risky business and for an explanation of the gap between the company’s responsible-sounding privacy policies and Hemisphere’s immense scope. (Press release)
- Zevin is also urging AT&T to provide fair and affordable access to the Internet. When it bought DIRECTV, AT&T promised U.S. regulators that it would do more to extend internet access to people who cannot get reliable broadband. Incredibly, 34 million Americans still do not have fixed high-speed internet — mostly communities of color, poor people, the elderly, and rural Americans. Zevin is asking AT&T to disclose a timeline for providing broadband to low-income customers, many of whom would qualify for government subsidy. AT&T should seize the opportunity to connect potential customers with the digital economy and show regulators — currently reviewing its proposed acquisition of Time Warner — that it can be trusted to keep its promises. (Press release)
AT&T reaps the benefits of America’s stubborn telecoms oligopoly; it is only fair for the company to answer for its impacts on customers and communities.
But issues like these will become even more urgent under an administration that seems likely to grow programs such as Hemisphere and cut services for poor people. AT&T illustrates a stark choice that may soon confront all of corporate America: enable a destructive agenda or help build a strong and diverse society.
In this time of political resistance, we will keep challenging companies to show us where they stand.
Join us at www.zevin.com for updates on these issues and the rest of our shareholder advocacy.
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