“Proxy Voting Isn’t Just for Shareholders Anymore”; New Web-Based
Platform to Allow Customers, Employees, Mutual Fund Investors to Add
Their Voice to Investors on Shareholder Resolutions.
SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–lt;a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ESG?src=hash” target=”_blank”gt;#ESGlt;/agt;–In recent days the growing outrage over sky-high drug prices has
attracted the attention of everyone from Bernie Sanders to President
Trump in his State of the Union Address. But until today there was
little that patients, drug company employees, and mutual fund investors
could do to speak out in a meaningful way on the issue. The Shareholder
Democracy Network (www.ShareholderDemocracy.com)
is changing all of that by opening up the proxy resolution process
previously reserved for investors so that all concerned stakeholders can
The new Web platform at www.ShareholderDemocracy.com
will allow thousands of Americans to “vote” on pending 2019 shareholder
resolutions offered by members of the Interfaith
Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) at six pharmaceutical
companies: AbbVie, Biogen, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Johnson &
Johnson, and Pfizer. Various concerns about escalating drug prices have
been raised in connection with all these companies. (See below.)
Future Shareholder Democracy Network ballots will focus on such issues
as gun safety, labor practices, climate change, and opioids. Shareholder
Democracy Network ballots address the same proxy ballot measures once
available only to retail and institutional investors, the former of
which find it challenging to navigate the legal organization and
language of official proxy statements and the latter of which often feel
constrained to rubberstamp company views.
David Apgar, the founder of Shareholder Democracy Network and former
small-business fund manager and author of Risk Intelligence
(Harvard Business 2006), said: “The Shareholder Democracy Network
creates a new hotline that every concerned American can use to get their
message through to corporate America. A more open shareholder proxy
process means more accountability … something that is urgently needed
today. Unfortunately, most mutual fund shareholders have no clue what is
in their holdings and, if they do, have no way to leverage that indirect
ownership. And very few direct shareholders have the time and resources
to wade through murky shareholder proxy materials. As a result,
Big Pharma CEOs and boards have raised drug prices with little fear of a
backlash that they will ever hear about, much less feel the sting of. We
want all stakeholders to have a voice, not just the handful of investors
who still own shares directly.”
Heidi Welsh, the founding executive director of the Sustainable
Investments Institute (Si2), said: “The Shareholder Democracy Network
offers the regular person on the street a chance to weigh in directly
with companies, the same way that big investors can. Most
people’s only exposure to the stock market is through retirement mutual
funds, and they don’t have the right to vote on individual
resolutions. So, this is an interesting approach that bears watching.”
Welsh has analyzed and written about corporate responsibility issues
since the late 1980s, providing impartial research to large
institutional investors on a wide range of contentious issues.
The companies highlighted on the Shareholder Democracy Network ballot
have been at the center of concerns about rising drug prices:
From 2015 to 2018, AbbVie hiked the price of its immunosuppressant
Humira by 50 percent to over $5,000 per month. Bayer hiked the price
of its liver cancer drug Nexavar to $18,670 per month and Amgen
similarly raised the price of its anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel to
$2,700 per month.
Biogen’s spinal muscular atrophy drug Spinraza costs $375,000 per
year, also the price of Catalyst Pharmaceuticals’ potassium channel
blocker Firdapse — which drew fire from Bernie Sanders since it used
to be available free.
Johnson & Johnson’s hypertension drug Tracleer costs nearly $3,000 per
Britain’s competition authority fined Pfizer for boosting the price of
its epilepsy drug phenytoin by 2600 percent.
From 2015 to 2018, an index of autoimmune drug prices rose 40 percent,
cancer drugs 31 percent, multiple sclerosis drugs 31 percent, and
diabetes drugs 26 percent, while consumer prices rose just 5.6 percent.
AARP found that drug prices rose four times faster than inflation in
2017, while Consumer Reports reported that one in four Americans
had trouble paying for drugs they needed last year.
What are stakeholders being asked to weigh in on via the
ShareholderDemocracy.com drug-pricing ballot? In the six highlighted
Shareholders ask Abbvie to strengthen board oversight of risks related
to drug-price increases. The supporting statement makes references to
Humira price increases.
Shareholders ask Biogen, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Eli Lilly to report
how senior-executive compensation plans reflect risks related to
drug-price increases. The Biogen supporting statement refers to the
high cost of Spinraza.
Shareholders ask Johnson & Johnson to assess risks related to
drug-price increases arising from barriers to generic drug
competition. The supporting statement refers to a report on complaints
from generic drug manufacturers about such barriers.
Shareholders ask Pfizer to report on senior-executive compensation
recouped each year under its claw-back policy for misconduct. The
supporting statement refers to a 2018 settlement of claims that side
payments on some of its drugs amounted to Medicare fraud.
The drug-pricing proxy resolutions in the Shareholder Democracy Network
drug-pricing ballot are sponsored by Mercy Investment Services, an asset
management program for the collective investment and professional
management of the endowment, operating, and other funds of the Sisters
of Mercy and the eligible sponsored and co-sponsored ministries that
choose to participate, all of which are tax-exempt organizations engaged
in religious and charitable activities.
Want to learn more about 2019 proxy resolutions on drug pricing and
other issues? The Shareholder Democracy Network recommends the Interfaith
Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) proxy season briefing on
ABOUT THE SHAREHOLDER DEMOCRACY NETWORK
The Shareholder Democracy Network reconnects our companies with their
community. The Shareholder Democracy Network makes your voice heard – as
a customer, employee, investor, or mutual fund shareholder – in the
boardrooms of our companies. www.ShareholderDemocracy.com.
The Shareholder Democracy Network lets you have more impact on the
businesses driving issues that matter to you than polls, letters, and
green funds. In fact, it will soon let you “vote” on every major
shareholder proposal currently filed under whatever issues you select.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A streaming audio
recording of the news event will be available on the Web as of 5 p.m.
ET/2 p.m. PT on February 12, 2019 at http://www.shareholderdemocracy.com.
Max Karlin, (703) 276-3255 or firstname.lastname@example.org