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Amazon.com Inc. is asking U.S. regulators to block a shareholder proposal from the New York State Common Retirement Fund that asked the company to conduct an audit on racism and diversity.
The US$226 billion pension plan co-filed a resolution last month calling on the world’s largest online retailer to assess its impact on civil rights, racial equity, diversity and inclusion. The fund cited alleged discrimination of the company’s Black and Latinx workers, their low wages and exposure to dangerous working conditions, including COVID-19, as well as air pollution from distribution facilities located in minority neighborhoods.
Amazon asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to keep the proposal off its proxy at the annual meeting, saying the measure would infringe on the company’s “ordinary business,” according to a letter it sent Monday to the regulator. The appeal for a broad survey “implicates many aspects of the company’s operations that don’t raise significant policy issues,” Amazon said in the letter.
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said Amazon’s decision is disappointing. “It should live up to its public position and lead corporate America in addressing systemic racism by taking a close look in the mirror and examining its own operations to learn how it can improve,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “We look forward to the SEC’s review and hope it will uphold investors’ request to put this to a vote and protect and promote shareholder interest.”
Corporations regularly seek to remove resolutions from ballots. Last month, Citigroup Inc. asked the SEC to block a filing from CtW Investment Group that called for the New York-bsaed bank to perform a racial equity audit.
In seeking SEC approval to exclude the pension’s proposal, Amazon cited its diversity and inclusion policies, pledges to match donations to racial justice groups and goals to double the number of Black directors and vice presidents in the company.
Angie Quennell, a spokeswoman for Seattle-based Amazon, declined to comment beyond the letter. John Nester, an SEC spokesman, also declined to comment.
Other investors that filed the resolution with the New York fund included the Praxis Growth Index Fund, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation and Reynders, McVeigh Capital Management.