The first-ever shareholder vote on child sexual exploitation online received a 34-percent vote at Verizon’s annual meeting today, estimated at representing more than $50 billion in stock.
Speaking at today’s annual meeting, the proposal’s lead filer Tracey Rembert, director of Catholic Responsible Investments at CBIS, had this to say about today’s vote:
“The innovations and technologies our company is rightly proud of, have also had the unintended consequence of making it easier to commit sexual crimes against children. Email accounts, digital advertising exchanges, wireless data, cloud storage, online user content — they all help facilitate child sexexploitation. And Verizon depends upon all of them for revenues.
“Child sex abuse material is a societal problem, but it is almost entirely manifesting and growing in the ICT sector. We believe that Verizon needs to demonstrate to investors that it is properly assessing the risk to children and itself from this growing threat.”
Michael Passoff, CEO of Proxy Impact and resolution co-filer, had this to say about today’s vote:
“As technology speeds up, our kid’s safety slows down. The digital playground is not always a safe place for kids. This is an exceptional vote for a first-year resolution, it’s clear that shareholders want Verizon to be a leader in making the world safer for our children.”
The resolution was filed by CBIS, Proxy Impact, the Maryknoll Sisters, the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, and the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey.
Understanding Shareholder Votes:
Shareholder resolutions are non-binding and consequently do not “win” or “lose” regardless of the vote. They do have to meet U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s vote thresholds to be eligible to be resubmitted the next year. These thresholds (based on total For vs. Against votes) are 3% support the first year, 6% the second year and 10% the third and following years. Shareholder resolutions were designed to be a formal communication channel with management and are best assessed as how they influence management. In this sense, even modest votes can have a significant impact based on their ability to educate management and other investors to the potential risk and opportunities related to the issue being raised.