October 21, 2019

John Deere Votes on Conservative Transparency Proposal After Surrender to Leftist Groups

Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:

“John Deere Consistently Surrenders to the Left”

John Deere Shareholders Voted Today on Political Transparency Proposal Asking Company to Report to Shareholders When It Supports Groups that Do Not Share Its Stated Corporate Value of Being Pro-Free Enterprise

Proposal Comes as Deere Voted One of Fortune Magazine’s “Top 50 Admired Companies” – But Will Deere Still Be Admired If It Continues to Take Orders from Ultra-Left Anti-Free Enterprise Groups?

 

Moline, IL / Washington, D.C.  – At today’s annual meeting of John Deere shareholders in Moline, Illinois, National Center for Public Policy Research Free Enterprise Director Justin Danhof presented a shareholder proposal to increase political and public policy corporate transparency in light of activities by management that seem at odds with John Deere’s stated corporate values.

The proposal, available on page 67 of John Deere’s proxy statement, asks company management to report to shareholders when it undertakes political activities at odds with its report to shareholders that it supports public policy and political initiatives that have a “pro-business outlook and support… the free enterprise system.”

Danhof presented the proposal in person to management and shareholders today. The text of his presentation, as prepared for delivery, is here. The final results are not yet available.

“Today, we put John Deere executives on notice – when the company chooses to embrace leftist policies or takes anti-free-market actions, the National Center will not sit idly by,” said Danhof.

“Over the last decade, unions, left-wing activists and liberal asset managers have deluged corporate America with shareholder proposals requesting that corporations end support for conservatives and free-market organizations. Often his has been nothing but a well-funded left-wing effort to stifle free speech, yet, all too often, corporate America has surrendered to radical demands,” Danhof added.

“John Deere consistently surrenders to the left. From supporting cap-and-trade to rejecting continued membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, Deere executives have given aid and comfort – not to mention shareholder money – to far-left causes,” said Danhof.

When presenting the National Center proposal to Deere shareholders, Danhof asked shareholders to stand up if they believe “John Deere is better off if corporate taxes are higher and government places more and more regulations upon what we are allowed sell and how we can manufacture.”

Despite being given time to stand and additional encouragement to stand if they support management’s current path by Danhof, not one shareholder stood.

“When I asked the Deere shareholders in attendance today if they supported higher corporate taxes and increased government regulations, the room was palpably silent,” Danhof said.

“Our proposal today was about much more than John Deere. Left-wing activists who oppose free speech and their corporate enablers should be worried. No longer will conservative and pro-free enterprise Americans sit by and watch the destruction of the American free-market system,” Danhof added.

“John Deere announced Monday that it was recognized as one of America’s ‘Top 50 Admired Companies,'” added Danhof. “John Deere has a truly enviable reputation as an all-American company. But can John Deere retain this reputation if it continues to work with far-left organizations against our free-enterprise system, and calls conservative groups ‘extremists’ — as its CEO, Samuel Allen, called the National Center for Public Policy Research to my face at in a meeting simply because we asked John Deere not to take orders from Color of Change and other far-left groups?”

“John Deere also is at risk of losing its reparation as a straight-shooting, honest company,” Danhof said. “When the National Center for Public Policy Research presented our shareholder proposal for inclusion in the proxy statement, Deere’s attorneys fought us at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). We’ve fought dozens of companies before the SEC, but have never, ever had a battle there in which the company made so many flat-out dishonest arguments. We were, frankly, shocked. Management should put a stop to this sort of thing right away. Fighting is one thing; fighting dishonestly is something else entirely.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research nonetheless prevailed at the SEC. The entire written exchange between Deere’s attorneys and the National Center for Public Policy Research before the SEC, including the arguments made by Deere that the National Center for Public Policy Research believes were dishonest, is available on the SEC’s website.

More information about the National Center’s activities at John Deere is available in a press release we issued yesterday, February 23, and more information about our Free Enterprise Project is available here.

To speak with Justin Danhof or for more information, please contact Judy Kent at(703) 759-7476 or cell (703) 477-7476 or jkent@nationalcenter.org.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.

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John Deere and Apple Investors to Vote on Liberty Proposals

Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:
Pro-Liberty Resolutions to Be Presented to John Deere and Apple Investors This Week

National Center for Public Policy Research Asks John Deere Investors to Support Its Call for Increased Transparency Surrounding the Company’s Anti-Free Market Policy Activities

National Center’s Proposal to Apple’s Shareholders Highlights Dangers of Corporate America’s Fight Against Religious Freedom

 

Moline, IL / Cupertino, CA / Washington, D.C.  – At tomorrow’s annual meeting of John Deere shareholders in Moline, Illinois, and Friday’s annual meeting of Apple shareholders in Cupertino, California, The National Center for Public Policy Research will present two different shareholder proposals aimed at advancing corporate transparency and religious liberty.

“For far too many years, corporate America has been lending its voice, money and power to liberal politicians, causes and organizations. From ObamaCare, to gay marriage to federal energy policy, the past seven years of the Obama Administration has coincided with an expansive growth of corporate statism and corporate liberalism,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “While the exponential growth of cronyism has coincided with President Obama’s time in office, it isn’t coincidental. The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project will bring the fight for liberty to corporate America in earnest this year. The battle starts this week.”

On Wednesday, Danhof will present the National Center’s shareholder proposal to John Deere’s investors at the company’s annual meeting in Moline, Illinois. The proposal, titled “Political Spending Congruency Analysis,” asks the company to report to shareholders when Deere decides to fund or work with anti-capitalist groups or politicians.

“Deere has often taken actions that run counter to its duties as a for-profit, publicly-held company,” said Danhof. “For example, when liberal politicians in Washington, D.C. needed corporate support for their repeated attempts to shackle the economy with cap-and-trade schemes on carbon emissions, John Deere happily obliged. However, after the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project ran advertisements highlighting the economic pitfalls of a federal cap-and-trade program, Deere withdrew from the corporate lobbying coalition supporting such a plan.”

The National Center’s proposal also criticizes John Deere for kowtowing to radical liberal groups and withdrawing from the American Legislative Exchange Council, noting that:

[D]espite the fact that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) works to foster a low-regulation business-friendly environment, the Company publicly ended its affiliation with ALEC in 2012 at a time when anti-free-market activists were perpetuating falsehoods about ALEC and its activities.

“Deere’s leaders are free to continue supporting anti-capitalist politicians and causes,” said Danhof. “We just think that they should tell the company’s investors when they do so. That way, the investing public can make an informed decision. That’s why we urge all John Deere shareholders to support our proposal.”

 The National Center’s complete shareholder resolution, and John Deere’s response to it, can be found on pages 67 and 68 of the company’s proxy statement – which is available for download here.

John Deere’s lawyers attempted to remove the National Center’s proposal from its proxy statement; however, the National Center’s legal team prevailed in its arguments before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and won the right to place the proposal before the company’s shareholders for a vote.

The entire legal exchange between John Deere and the National Center, along with the SEC’s decision, can be downloaded here.

At Friday’s annual meeting of Apple shareholders, scheduled to take place at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, Danhof will present a stockholder proposal as part of the National Center’s Religious Freedom Defense Initiative.

The National Center’s Religious Freedom Defense Initiative is working to correct the record about religious freedom laws. The National Center’s proposal to Apple highlights the company’s hypocrisy on the issue of religious freedom and points out the adverse effects on shareholder value that can occur when corporate leaders speak out on issues which they have no expertise.

Last spring, Apple CEO Tim Cook joined with many corporate executives and much of the liberal media in attacking Americans of faith. Writing in the Washington Post, Cook falsely claimed that attempts to enact religious freedom laws in Arkansas and Indiana “would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors.”

“Cook is simply wrong on the law,” notes Danhof. “The federal government and 31 states have heightened religious freedom laws and none of them legalize discrimination against anyone. What Mr. Cook did was taint Apple’s brand with extreme anti-religious bigotry. American society was set up to protect discreet and insular minorities. Today, that has become an Indiana pizza shop and small cake bakers who simply want to practice their religion and not be forced by the government to break their covenants with their Creator. Cook has joined with the mob in trying to destroy them.”

Despite Cook’s outlandish attacks on religious liberty here in the homeland, Apple actually does business in many countries where homosexuality is outlawed and homosexuals are imprisoned and even killed. The National Center proposal drives this hypocrisy home, stating:

CEO [Cook] bashed state-level religious freedom laws as anti-homosexual bigotry saying, “Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.” Yet, according to the Washington Post, Apple has a presence in 17 countries where homosexual acts are illegal. In four of those nations, homosexual acts are punishable by death. These company operations are inconsistent with Apple’s values as extolled by our CEO.

The proponent believes that Apple’s record to date demonstrates a gap between its lofty rhetoric / aspirations and its performance.

The National Center’s complete shareholder resolution, and Apple’s response to it, can be found on pages 62 and 63 of the company’s proxy statement – which is available for download here.

Apple’s lawyers also petitioned the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission seeking to block the National Center’s proposal. However, the National Center’s legal team prevailed in convincing the SEC that its proposal was so significant that the company’s shareholders should have a say on the matter.

The entire legal exchange between Apple and the National Center, along with the SEC’s decision, can be downloaded here.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. This week’s John Deere and Apple meetings mark its first and second shareholder meetings of 2016.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.

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CEO of Farming Giant John Deere Challenged for Fighting Proposal to Protect Employees’ Right to Engage in Private Political and Civic Activities on Their Own Time

Following Criticism at Shareholder Meeting from National Center for Public Policy Research, Deere CEO Samuel Allen Commits to Reconsidering Employee Protections

National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project Continues Fight for Americans Who May Face Workplace Discipline for Private Political Actions and Beliefs

Moline, IL/Washington, DC – At Wednesday’s annual meeting of John Deere shareholders in Moline, Illinois, the National Center for Public Policy Research hammered the industrial giant for refusing to protect its employees from potential termination simply for engaging in civic and political activities on their own time with their own resources.

In response, the company’s CEO Samuel Allen pledged to reconsider Deere’s policies and positions on the matter.

The exchange follows a legal battle in which Deere’s legal team petitioned the federal Securities and Exchange Committee for the right to remove a National Center shareholder proposal on a non-binding resolution advising management of its view of the wisdom of enacting employee conscience protections.

“As it stands, many John Deere employees face potential discipline for engaging in private political and civic activities,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “Deere’s actions to-date, such as fighting us at the SEC, suggest that no policy change is imminent. But I am hopeful that now, with the attention of the CEO, the company’s human resources and legal teams will reevaluate the issue and protect Deere’s employees.”

At the meeting, Danhof made it clear that by resisting the National Center’s shareholder proposal, Deere was an outlier among major U.S. corporations, telling Allen:

Most of the corporations we approached were very willing to give their employees this protection, and made formal changes to give their workforce freedom of conscience protections. These firms included, but are not limited to, General Electric, PepsiCo, and Visa.

Only a very small number of firms opposed even letting their shareholders vote on the idea. John Deere was among them…

It is disappointing that the holder of one of the country’s most iconic brands would fight to maintain the ability to terminate or penalize its employees for legal, off-the-job private political and civic activity, and fight to block its shareholders from even expressing a formal, but non-binding, opinion.

Danhof then asked Allen:

Why does Deere’s management oppose granting employees the same kind of freedom of conscience protections companies such as General Electric, Pepsi, Visa and others freely adopted when we approached them? And why did you spend shareholder resources asking the SEC to let you block shareholders from voting on a non-binding recommendation to management?

“In a two-part reply, Allen told me he is in agreement with the National Center and said that employees should be free to do as they wish on their own time when it comes to politics and civic life without interference,” said Danhof. “However, he restated that the company’s position is that it is management’s prerogative to set and control policies for Deere employees, not shareholders. Allen made it clear that Deere sees a shareholder vote on the issue as the wrong avenue for such policies.”

In a follow-up question, Danhof pointed out that Deere’s current policies remain wanting when it comes to employee conscience freedoms and urged Allen to take a close look at the company policies and seriously consider augmenting them to ensure worker protections.

“Allen agreed that the company would take another look at its policies, but he repeated the argument that he believes the company’s policies already offer such protections,” said Danhof. “This is the same argument which we repeatedly disputed in our legal battle at the SEC.”

To read the full legal exchanges between the National Center and John Deere regarding exclusion of the shareholder proposal, click here and here.

The SEC did not rule Deere already had the policies sought in the National Center’s proposal. Instead, and incredibly, the SEC ruled that allowing Deere shareholders to vote on a non-binding proposal giving management its opinion of such commonsense workplace protections would interfere with Deere’s ordinary business operations. The SEC allowed Deere to omit the proposal, so shareholders were unable to voice their opinion.

“When Deere fought our resolution, it argued that it would interfere with ‘Deere’s management of its workforce insofar as it seeks to have Deere maintain ‘a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining employees from the widest possible talent pool’ since in the [National Center’s] view, employment discrimination based on civic or political participation ‘diminishes employee morale,'” said Danhof. “Today, I made it known that, in fact, the company’s current policies are potentially hindering its workers freedom and morale. I urge Deere’s leadership to earnestly reevaluate its policies.”

The genesis for the National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project occurred in April 2014 when the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, was forced out of his job because he had donated to a 2008 California referendum that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Since last April, the National Center has approached dozens of major American corporations asking each to voluntarily add an employee conscience protection policy for its workers.

Through corporate activism, the National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project already has protected hundreds of thousands of American workers from potential political discrimination. And since it was announced earlier this month, the project has received significant media attention, including coverage by the San Francisco Chronicle, Politico and the Daily Caller. Danhof has also appeared multiple times as a featured guest on One America News Network’s “The Rick Amato Show” to discuss various aspects of the project.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market corporate activist group. In 2014, Free Enterprise Project representatives participated in 52 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers rights and many other important public policy issues.

The John Deere meeting marks the third shareholder meeting for the National Center in 2015.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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John Deere May Be in the Hot Seat at Today’s Shareholder Meeting

From the National Center for Public Policy Research:

John Deere Executives Face Backlash for Helping to Brand Conservatives as Racist

International Farming Giant Criticized for Kowtowing to Tiny Leftist Pressure Group

Shareholder Activist to Ask “What’s Next?”

Moline, IL/Washington, DC – Today at the annual meeting of John Deere shareholders in Moline, Illinois, a representative of the National Center for Public Policy Research plans to ask Deere CEO Samuel Allen why his company caved in to a tiny left-wing pressure group when the leftists demanded that Deere stop working with a respected, 40-year-old national organization of conservative state legislators.

Deere caved in to Color of Change after Color of Change demanded Deere stop working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because ALEC, like more than 70 percent of the American people, supported voter ID.

John Deere had been working with ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force when Deere Senior Vice President and General Counsel James R. Jenkins sent a letter to Color of Change announcing Deere was leaving ALEC.

“Color of Change is a tiny organization co-founded by ‘9/11 truther’ and admitted communist Van Jones. It operates as a race bully for the organized left as they collect online petitions and threaten to run commercials in black community media against targeted corporations,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “John Deere is a Fortune 500 company. It is incomprehensible that this multinational corporation would capitulate to a tiny group that trades on race and accepts donations through a retail mailbox store in Oakland, California.”

Color of Change primarily objected to ALEC’s work on state-level voter ID measures aimed at curbing voter fraud, and falsely and maliciously claimed these safeguards are racist to target businesses that fund ALEC. The Color of Change website charged that “These companies have helped pass discriminatory voter ID legislation by funding a right wing policy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC’s voter ID laws are undemocratic, unjust and part of a longstanding right wing agenda to weaken the Black vote.” Using this racial rhetoric, Color of Change managed to intimidate John Deere and many other corporations into dropping their ALEC memberships, despite the fact that the racism charge is ludicrous.

“The U.S. Supreme Court declared that state-level voter ID laws are constitutional in 2008, and a majority of Americans support such laws,” said Danhof. “In fact, a comprehensive Washington Post poll found that 74 percent of Americans support voter ID laws – including a majority of Republicans, Democrats, independents, Hispanics and African Americans. It appears Color of Change’s true agenda is to demonize free-market advocates and defund their causes. In vociferously opposing voter identification laws, they have themselves become enablers of voter fraud just like the Brennan Center for Justice and the NAACP,” said Danhof.

In response to John Deere and others dropping their memberships, ALEC stopped working on voter ID measures, but the National Center for Public Policy Research announced a Voter Identification Task Force in part to pick up the slack.

National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour explained at the time: “Corporate CEOs who cower in the face of liberal boycott threats need to understand that the left never gives up… If these corporations do not reverse course and immediately grow enough of a backbone to say no when the left tells them what to do, conservatives may as well consider them part of the organized left. It doesn’t matter if corporate executives have free-market sentiments hidden deep inside them if they continually surrender to the left’s Trotskyite strategy of making relentless demand after demand in public.”

In less than a year, the National Center has become a leading national voice for common-sense voter integrity laws. In fact, today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a pivotal voting rights case on the same day as the John Deere shareholder meeting. The National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network submitted an amicus curiae brief that asks the Court to treat all states and localities fairly and equally under the Voting Rights Act.

“In the end, John Deere’s true sin was not just dropping support for ALEC, but in lending corporate clout to race-hustlers and helping them to further demonize those who want to protect law-abiding citizens of all races from having their votes stolen. I hope that Deere’s leadership will see the error of its ways and rejoin ALEC, because – even though it no longer works on voter integrity – ALEC’s work toward free-market reforms is still badly needed in these times of burdensome government regulations and increased taxes.”

A copy of Justin Danhof’s question at the shareholder meeting, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.

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