Facebook, Twitter Under Fire From Activist Investors

A big pension fund and an activist investment firm Thursday said they had filed shareholder proposals pushing Facebook and Twitter to take more responsibility for managing content on their platforms, including mistreatment of women, fake news, election interference, violence, and hate speech—in other words, the same issues that have kept social-media giants in the crosshairs for the past year.

The resolutions were filed by New York State Common Retirement Fund, the nation’s third-largest public-pension fund, with assets of more than $200 billion, and Arjuna Capital, an activist-investment firm known for pressuring companies in tech, banking, and retail to pay men and women equally. The proposals accuse both companies of responding to concerns with inadequate disclosures and content policies that “seem reactive, not proactive.”

The resolutions are the latest sign that concerns about potential ill effects spawned by a handful of giant technology companies have moved from Washington to Wall Street. On Sunday, a pair of activist investors — the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the hedge fund Jana Partners — targeted Apple with a public letter urging the company to address a growing body of research that smartphones can harm children’s mental and physical health. In a response, Apple promised new tools for parents, and said, “We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.”

Jana Partners’ role in the highly publicized letter took some by surprise because the hedge fund usually wages those kind of public campaigns to restructure companies, not crusade for social issues—a sign that financially focused investors believe concerns about smartphone addiction in children could affect Apple’s bottom line.

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