New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today released a statement on behalf of the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund) to fellow Amazon shareholders in advance of the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting on May 26, 2021. The statement calls on shareholders to vote for the Fund’s shareholder proposal seeking an independent audit of the company’s practices related to civil rights, racial equity, diversity and inclusion, and how they affect the company’s business.
The Fund’s statement also encourages Amazon shareholders to vote against the members of the company’s Nominating and Governance Committees in response to the lack of racially diverse directors on Amazon’s board.
“Amazon says it supports the fight against racial injustice, but so far it’s failed to live up to that commitment,” DiNapoli, Trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, said. “In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and other Black men and women, and the racially charged attacks on voting rights, companies that don’t live up to their public statements and help address equity, diversity and inclusion put themselves and their investors at risk of damaged reputations and financial losses. It’s past time for Amazon to take a hard look at how it is addressing racial justice in its operations, just like other major corporations have.”
Despite its stated commitment to combatting racial inequity, Amazon continues to face complaints, including accusations of racial bias in its hiring practices, the use of footage from its Amazon Ring home surveillance system to identify Black Lives Matter protesters and the sale of products that promote hatred.
Although Amazon has said it is taking steps to address these issues it has not disclosed to investors and stakeholders its process for completing this internal review and whether its efforts are working, which is why DiNapoli and the Fund believe it is necessary to have an independent review led by auditors with experience in rooting out discrimination.
Earlier this year, Amazon sought approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to block DiNapoli’s proposal from a vote at its annual meeting. The SEC staff disagreed with the company and sided with DiNapoli and the Fund, effectively allowing the vote to go forward.
In line with DiNapoli’s recent announcement of the Fund’s updated voting guidelines, the Fund also plans to vote against members of the Nominating and Governance Committee on Amazon’s board of directors because of the absence of racial diversity on the company’s board. Just one of the 10 directors nominated is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
Statement to Amazon Investors
DiNapoli’s Statement on the Fund’s Amazon Shareholder Proposal
Securities and Exchange Commission Filing
The Fund’s notification to the SEC of its intent to urge investors to vote in favor of its proposal
About the New York State Common Retirement Fund
The New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third largest public pension fund in the United States with estimated assets of $247.7 billion as of Dec. 31, 2020. The Fund holds and invests the assets of the New York State and Local Retirement System on behalf of more than one million state and local government employees and retirees and their beneficiaries. The Fund has consistently been ranked as one of the best managed and best funded plans in the nation. The Fund's fiscal year ends March 31.