ABOUT ME

Described by the New York Times “a super-specialist” in human rights advocacy, I have over 20 years of experience helping investors, non-profits, universities, communities, and unions use their power to lobby their governments and hold corporations accountable.

At the socially responsible asset management firm Trillium Asset Management, I pioneered the use of shareholder engagement of oil, gas, and mining companies operating in countries racked by conflict and burdened by repressive regimes in Burma (Myanmar), China, East Timor, and Nigeria.  Working with animal rights groups, I helped file the first shareholder resolution at McDonald’s to improve the conditions of farm animals. I also worked with Greenpeace and U.S. PIRG to file the first shareholder resolutions at BP on climate change.

I have considerable experience working with boards of directors and investment committees. I often advise students, administrators, and faculty on how to develop university endowment investment policies. I have consulted to Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, and Catholic Healthcare West (now Dignity Health) on how to express their mission and values through social screening of investments and shareholder engagement on human rights, social justice, and environmental issues. I have also made presentations on divestment and shareholder engagement to the boards of CalPERS and the University of Washington as well as top executives of the World Bank.

I served on the Committee on Socially Responsible Investment of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) where I helped the Unitarian Universalist Common Endowment Fund screen its investments and engage in shareholder activism on LGBT rights, social justice, and climate change. I also helped negotiate between staff and members to write a business resolution on fossil fuel divestment that passed overwhelmingly at the 2014 UUA General Assembly.

As part of the Free Burma movement, I have organized shareholder activism and the use of state and local selective purchasing laws to put pressure on corporations to withdraw from Burma. I co-authored the Massachusetts Burma selective purchasing law with state rep. Byron Rushing and led the grassroots lobbyng campaign to enact it.  Later, I helped defend the law from challenge at the World Trade Organization and in the U.S. Supreme Court.  I also helped found the U.S. Campaign for Burma and served on the Board of Directors and as Executive Director.

At Oxfam America, I founded the work of the agency’s Private Sector Department. I helped communities around the world affected by oil, gas, and mining corporations to secure support from shareholders and directly engage the companies in order to protect their lands and livelihoods.  I also created a coalition of investors that successfully pressed Procter & Gamble to support farming communities by starting to buy Fair Trade Certified coffee for its Millstone brand.

As Co-chair of the Business and Human Rights Group of Amnesty International USA, I have built the capacity of staff and members to put effective pressure on companies to respect human rights. I also help manage Amnesty International USA’s use of a portfolio of stocks for shareholder activism on issues of human rights.

In all of my work, I’ve helped bring many parties to the table to dialogue with top corporate executives. Through careful facilitation, I’ve helped many corporations reach common ground with their critics and address tough environmental and human rights issues.

I have often been brought in by corporations to help them address tough issues. I have made presentations to top management at Procter & Gamble and Newmont Mining. ExxonMobil invited me to speak about social responsibility and sustainability to its elite management training program.

I especially love my role as an advisory board member of both SumOfUs and the Harry Potter Alliance.

I have a BA (Political Science and Economics) from Loughborough University and I hold an MBA (Accounting and Finance) from Boston College.  I also completed the Prince of Wales’s Business and Sustainability Programme, which convenes leaders of business, government, and the non-profit sector to tackle key social and environmental problems.

 

Recent Posts

Shareholders Push New Chevron CEO For Answers on Ecuador

Chevron’s shareholders have never been reluctant to question the company’s management of its liability for its oil pollution in Ecuador. And they do so in significant numbers.

Chevron management often tries to deny this. But the evidence of shareholder dissent is clear. At the May 2017 annual shareholder meeting, then CEO John Watson stated that shareholders had “almost universally supported Chevron management in the Ecuador case.”

Wason’s statement could not have been more untrue. In fact, Watson stated that even as he knew that 39% of Chevron shareholders had voted in favor of a resolution effectively calling on him to be fired as board chair.

Shareholders were crystal clear that Watson had mismanaged Chevron’s liability for its oil pollution in Ecuador. The resolution, supported by 39% of Chevron shareholders, stated:

We believe that inadequate board oversight has led management to mishandle a number of issues in ways that significantly increase both risk and costs to shareholders.  The most pressing of these issues is the ongoing legal effort by communities in Ecuador to enforce a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for oil pollution.

Instead of negotiating an expedient, fair, and comprehensive settlement with the affected communities in Ecuador, management has pursued a costly legal strategy that has led to significant missteps, including moving the case from New York to Ecuador.  In a move without precedent, management has harassed and subpoenaed shareholders who have questioned the Company’s legal strategy.

It is now 2018 and Chevron’s dissident shareholders are back and in even stronger force.

Led by Zevin Asset Management, shareholders have re-filed the resolution asking Chevron to separate the positions of CEO and Board Chair. This is simply good corporate governance. The CEO reports to the board. When a CEO is also board chair, he is in effect his own boss.

In another resolution designed to increase shareholder oversight of wayward managment, Newground Social Investment has re-filed its resolution calling for lowering the percentage of shareholders required to call a special meeting.

This resolution won the support of nearly one-third of Chevron shareholders in 2017. The resolution’s language is also highly critical of Chevron management stating:

Chevron has acknowledged the serious risk from enforcement of the $9.5 billion judgment.  Deputy Controller, Rex Mitchell, testified that such seizures of Company assets “would cause significant, irreparable damage to Chevron’s business reputation and business relationships.”

However, Chevron has yet to fully report these risks in either public filings or statements to shareholders.  As a result, investors have requested that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigate whether Chevron violated securities laws by misrepresenting or materially omitting information in regard to the multi-billion Ecuadoran judgment.

Finally, New York State Common Retirement Fund and Amnesty International USA have re-filed their resolution calling on Chevron’s board to add a member with environmental expertise.

Mindful of Chevron’s enormous liability for its oil pollution in Ecuador, the resolution states:

… appointing an environmental specialist to the board, [an] authoritative figure with acknowledged expertise and standing could perform a valuable role by enabling Chevron to more effectively address the environmental issues inherent in its business. It would also help ensure that the highest levels of attention focus on the development of environmental standards for new projects.

Answering these shareholders will lie with Chevron’s new CEO Michael Wirth who assumes the position in February. It is hoped that, unlike his predecessor John Watson, Wirth will actually ackowledge not only these shareholders concerns but also the existence of this large bloc of shareholders itself.

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