I have always been inspired by the story of Sister Daly — a Catholic nun who purchased stock shares in General Electric and then went to each stockholders meeting to propose more ethical and just business practices. Her practice is now widely used to pressure corporations.
One of the biggest struggles for social justice is reaching those who have the ability to change things. Stockholders get access to C.E.O.s which in itself gives a platform for direct critique of corporate business practices.
But it is just as easy for corporate heads to circumvent and even exclude critical stockholder voices. Many of the boards of directors have now stacked agendas and some have even changed internal policy to avoid the embarrassment of a nun holding the microphone asking about PCBs in the Hudson, or holding up photos of kids killed by U.S. made missiles.
Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, recently assailed for hacking, lying and exploiting people to get stories or crush adversaries, faced a tough stockholder meeting yesterday.
Those attending included Edward Mason, secretary of the ethical investment advisory group of the Church of England, which owns about $6m worth of News Corp shares. “There needs to be decisive action in terms of holding people to account,” he said before the event, noting that it was the first time his group had attended a company annual meeting. At the meeting, Murdoch criticised the church’s investment track record, describing it as “not that great”.
Julie Tanner, assistant director of Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), which represents more than 1,000 Catholic institutions worldwide, was the first at the meeting to question Murdoch’s track record, saying that the “extraordinary scandals” in the UK required corporate overhaul.
I am appreciative of some discussion of how a massive multinational news corporation would deal with internal criticism, especially from some people who have more than a token bit of stock.
I know it seems strange at times, but this is actually where a lot of big shifting changes happen. The global protests against apartheid in South Africa are a pretty good example. The sudden divestment of large universities who were facing informed student/staff/faculty protest campaigns was key a contributing factor to the end of apartheid.
Don’t get me wrong. My money is still on the autocratic media barons who at this moment have hired some smart staff to flip this whole conversation.