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Presence in the boardrooms


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Pro-abortion proposals on corporate boardroom ballots have lost support

Google building in Mountain View, Calif. Associate Press/Photo by Jeff Chiu, File

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 11th of June, 2024. This is WORLD Radio and we thank you for listening. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: And I’m Lindsay Mast. First up on The World and Everything in It: Abortion activists come for Google.

On Friday, Google’s parent company Alphabet livestreamed its annual shareholder meeting. Item number 10 on the agenda came from the Educational Foundation of America on behalf of Planned Parenthood. Here’s EFA’s Laura Nixon with its concern:

LAURA NIXON: Google is generating millions of dollars from ads placed by facilities known as crisis pregnancy centers or CPCs. These outfits present themselves as providers of legitimate reproductive health care but withhold or lie about the availability of abortion care.

REICHARD: Nixon says Google’s search tools direct women researching abortion to websites run by crisis pregnancy centers. Her group proposed that Google commission a report on the risks of doing business with crisis pregnancy centers to combat what the activists call “misinformation.”

MAST: Joining us now to talk about the proposal is Jerry Bowyer. He’s an economist, President of Bowyer Research, and a regular contributor to World Opinions.

Jerry, good morning!

JERRY BOWYER: Good morning, Lindsay. How are you?

MAST: I’m well, thank you. Well, this isn’t a new controversy. I remember back in 2021, pro-abortion watchdog groups called out Google for selling ads to clinics offering treatments to reverse abortions.

Has Google taken any public positions or action in how it does business with crisis pregnancy centers?

BOWYER: Well, it's taken positions that are supportive of abortion. It has not taken public positions on dealing with crisis pregnancy centers. But there's evidence that it's taken private positions on this. For instance, this proposal that you just talked about that, when that was unveiled and announced by the kind of pro-ESG, environmental social governance, basically liberal activism in the boardroom group As You Sow during their proxy preview, beginning of the season, their pro-abortion expert from Rhia Ventures talked about proposals like this, and said that Google has been trying their best in order to deal with the "misinformation problem," which is basically that crisis pregnancy centers can show up in the search results, but they haven't done a very good job. So that is highly suggestive that there have been conversations and engagements between these pro abortion groups and Google. They're talking as though they've been talking to Google and Google's trying, but they still, somehow these pesky crisis pregnancy centers still come up in the in the search engines.

So it's not what Google's saying publicly that worries me. It's what they're saying and doing privately. Now, crisis pregnancy centers are customers, so it would be unlikely that Google would say, by the way, pay us for ads, and then we'll suppress them, so you're wasting your money. You know, it's not likely they would do that. And that might even be actionable under some of the consumer legislation in some states. But it's the behind the scenes collusion that's of concern to me.

MAST: Tell us, if you could, a bit about how organizations like the Educational Foundation of America use these shareholder resolutions to push companies to take certain actions.

BOWYER: Yeah, this is very interesting. What an activist group can do, is they can buy just enough shares to fulfill the minimum requirement in order to put proposals on the ballots of companies. Activist groups, which are not acting as genuine investors, they're not there to make money, they're there to create social change, often, which is counter to the business interest of the company. I mean, it's not in Google's business interest for them to suppress crisis pregnancy center search results, because crisis pregnancy centers are customers. So these groups show up, and they take advantage of it's not even a law, that in many cases, it's not even regulation. It is interpretations of regulations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, by which activists are able to basically force their way onto the ballot of companies, commandeer three minutes of time to make their usually left wing speeches, and force onto the attention of the board of directors and top management to focus on this. So they're able to sort of set the agenda and steer the conversations with these board meetings.

MAST: On this vote with Alphabet, the Board of Directors recommended that stockholders vote against the resolution, and it did ultimately fail. Now, why would the board recommend that?

BOWYER: Because they always do. I've never in the history of doing this ever seen a board of directors recommend a yes vote on a shareholder resolution. They like to be in control. They don't want anyone telling them what to do, even groups that they agree with. By the way, a proposal on the ballot like this, to me is good news. You say, "Why is this good news?" Because the proposal on the ballot means that the activists are not happy. They tried to talk to Google, Google said no. And so they went ahead and put the proposal on the ballot. So, to me, having this proposal on the ballot means Planned Parenthood could not get through negotiation what they wanted to get from Google. So, they're trying to shame them into doing this. So, if proposals are getting 30 or 40%, support, boards and management tend to maybe say, oh, maybe we need to do something. Whereas if they're getting 10% support or something like that, then they can safely write it off.

So it's interesting, I mentioned that As You Sow group, that and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, which is a faith group that is pushing pro-abortion stuff, that when they did the rollout of proposals this year, they pointed out that these Reproductive Health Access proposals, as they call them, have been "cut in half" in terms of voter support. So things that used to get 40% support are now getting 10% support. So this is one where we're winning. Just a little bit of presence from Christians in the boardroom, because our movement trying to counter this, and Bowyer Research working to counter this, and our clients working to counter this, we are tiny compared to the ESG movement, but just a little bit of exposure appears to have made a huge difference, especially on these abortion resolutions.

MAST: Jerry Bowyer is president of Bowyer Research and a contributor to World Opinions. Jerry, thank you for your analysis!

BOWYER: My pleasure. Thank you.

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