The city comptroller is putting pressure on some of the Fortune 500 companies that the city’s pension funds invest in.
Last week, Comptroller William Thompson called on shareholders in eight of the nation’s biggest companies to vote on a resolution to create corporate policies that forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“This is a human rights issue,” said Thompson. “We invest our funds in these companies, but these companies should be inclusive to all people.”
Both the New York City Employees Retirement System and the Teachers Retirement System asked the comptroller to sponsor the resolution. These funds have $450.4 million and $276.4 million invested in these companies respectively.
By putting forth this resolution, each of the companies are required under the Securities and Exchange Commission Act to distribute the resolution to all of their stockholders worldwide, to put the resolution on their proxy ballot for their annual meetings, and to give proponents of the resolution time at the annual meeting to submit proposals and speak on their behalf.
At least two companies have moved in the last week to avoid these requirements by amending their equal employment opportunity and harassment policies to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
As a result, the comptroller has agreed to withdraw the resolution from Dynegy, Inc., a power company.
American Electric Power told City Limits on Friday that it is in the process of following Dynegy’s lead.
The other companies targeted are El Paso Corporation, Reliant Energy, JCPenney Company, TXU Corporation, Georgia-Pacific and Ingram Micro.
If these companies choose not to alter their policies, the trustees of NYCERS and the Teachers Retirement System must then decide whether to continue investing in them. “Our responsibility as fiduciaries of the pension fund is first and foremost to ensure that there is a high enough return to pay the beneficiaries,” said Department of Finance Commissioner Martha Stark, chair of NYCERS. “However, as stockowners in these companies, we will use all of the powers that we have to enhance these companies’ performances, and we believe that companies that don’t discriminate will earn more.”