Arjuna Capital responds to Facebook apology, after sexist comment from senior executive

Natasha Lamb Issues Public Letter to Facebook VP of Communications and Public Policy

BOSTON (June 12, 2018) – Facebook released information during media interviews yesterday that it had issued a formal apology to Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital, for the conduct of a senior executive following its annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, May 31st. Lamb is a senior principal of a wealth management firm, Facebook investor, and shareholder rights advocate, who has been trying to engage the company on closing its gender pay gap since 2016, and on disclosing information about online content management since 2017. Facebook issued the apology yesterday in anticipation of an opinion editorial in the Financial Times, detailing the incident at its annual meeting, in which Facebook VP of Communications & Public Policy Elliot Schrage made a disparaging comment as an excuse for repeatedly ignored Arjuna Capital’s shareholder proposals.

The full text of Natasha Lamb’s response to Facebook’s apology is copied below:

Dear Mr. Schrage,

Thank you for your apology regarding your comments to me at the Facebook shareholder meeting, as well as your honest acknowledgement that they were correctly interpreted as insulting and offensive.  As a female investor speaking on behalf of Facebook’s shareholders, I was stunned by a tactic that was so clearly patronizing. 

We are engaging with the company because we believe there is a path forward that benefits both the company and its investors.  Yet, our interactions have been limited and management’s responses have been dismissive of our concerns.

In 2016, before our first shareholder proposal on gender pay equity went to a vote, I spoke once with a company representative, and I was assured that there was no gender pay gap at the company.  Yet this assurance was made in the absence of metrics like those being published by Facebook’s peers.  We did not withdraw our proposal for that reason, and have refiled it for two years since.  Facebook saying it pays men and women equally does not address our concerns in the absence of data.  In 2017, there was no dialogue on the issue and this year, in 2018, Facebook’s staff waited until just before the meeting to even reach out on gender pay equity, yet committed to no additional action.

In 2017, we filed a shareholder proposal expressing concerns that fake news propagated over the platform was having an impact on our democracy.  Yet, the company waited until after that proposal went to a vote to speak to us.  When we did speak, the company assured us that there was not an issue and ignored our recommendations for better reporting.  Six months later, Facebook testified before Congress about the 126 million Americans who may have viewed Russian propaganda on Facebook in the lead up to the 2016 US presidential election. 

In 2018, we filed a related proposal on “content governance,” that is, the fake news, hate speech, and sexual harassment propagated over the platform that is in direct violation of the company’s own terms of service.  Along with our co-filers the New York State Common Retirement Fund and Illinois State Treasurer, we requested a dialogue, but were dismissed completely.  We have yet to discuss our concerns regarding content governance with Facebook. 

At the annual meeting, I simply asked why.  Why are you not engaging with your investors?  And more specifically, why are you not engaging with us in a meaningful way?

I look forward to a more productive dialogue and meaningful engagement.

The Facebook response letter from Natasha Lamb of Arjuna Capital is available for download at: https://arjuna-capital.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Response-to-FB-apology_2018.pdf.

Natasha Lamb, managing partner, Arjuna Capital said:  “My published comments in Financial Times are a truthful account of the shareholder meeting.  Today, I have responded to Mr. Schrage’s apology and now consider this matter closed.  As I noted in my op-ed, however, Facebook has been unresponsive on publishing the median gender pay data we seek.  In addition, despite their refusal to admit it, Facebook did not engage with me or our pension fund partners on our 2018 proposal on content governance, which covered fake news, election interference, hate speech and sexual harassment propagated over the platform that stands in violation of the company’s own terms of service. We do not consider these matters closed, and continue to seek a formal engagement with Facebook on these important issues.”

MEDIA CONTACT:  Patrick Mitchell, (202) 441-7647 or pmitchell@hastingsgroup.com.

Arjuna Capital is an investment firm focused on sustainable and impact investing. Lamb and Arjuna Capital have been recognized for using shareholder resolutions to promote gender pay equity in the tech, banking, and retail sectors. Natasha Lamb was named to the “Bloomberg 50” list of influencers who defined global business in 2017.  For more information, visit www.Arjuna-Capital.com.

 

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