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Stephen Davis

  • Howard Schultz, Starbucks and a History of Corporate Responsibility

    November 15, 2017

    While corporate profits might seem incongruous with doing social good, Howard Schultz, the executive chairman of Starbucks, would counter that the opposite is true. There is a great need, Mr. Schultz said, “to achieve the fragile balance between profit, social impact, and a moral obligation” to do everything possible “to enhance the lives of our employees and the communities we serve.”...The discourse about how companies should make money dates to the early 1600s in Amsterdam. The Dutch East India Company, the world’s first publicly listed company, profited “by war, rape, pillage and colonization,” said Stephen Davis, associate director and senior fellow of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance. “A group of Dutch burghers protested, arguing that the company should abide by ethical principles, so they launched what became the world’s first shareholder boycott of company stock on social grounds,” Dr. Davis said.

  • Vanguard’s Genocide Problem

    October 30, 2017

    The first six agenda items for next month’s Vanguard shareholder meeting cover riveting topics such as the appointment of trustees, service agreements, and the investment objectives of certain index funds. The seventh and final item concerns genocide. That got serious in a hurry. A group of activists is asking Vanguard to adopt a new policy to avoid buying stock in companies that “substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity.”...“This meeting and this resolution comes at a unique moment,” said Stephen Davis, associate director of Harvard Law School’s Programs on Corporate Governance and Institutional Investors. Vanguard and its competitors “have really begun to take environmental, social, and governance issues seriously as investment risks.”

  • P&G says shareholders reject Peltz’s bid for board seat by slim margin, activist says vote a dead heat

    October 11, 2017

    Procter & Gamble declared victory Tuesday over activist investor Nelson Peltz, saying initial figures show it won the biggest proxy battle in history. But the narrow win puts pressure on the owner of Bounty and Tide to move faster in its turnaround and regain the support of investors...P&G and Trian are estimated to have spent $60 million to support their respective causes. "The titanic amount of money that has been spent on this contest is going to be a big flashing light for other companies that face activists challenge," said Stephen Davis, an associate director and senior fellow at the Harvard Law School Programs on Corporate Governance and Institutional Investors.

  • Vanguard asks passive investors to pay attention for proxy vote

    September 20, 2017

    Vanguard Group needs its hands-off investor base to pay attention. On Nov. 15 the world’s largest mutual fund company will stage its broadest shareholder meeting in eight years and needs enough individual investors to vote on measures such as installing three new fund board members including Tim Buckley, who is set to take over as Vanguard chief executive in January....Stephen Davis, a senior fellow at Harvard Law School, said fund governance rules, dating from 1940, could use an update to give investors more regular input. As things stand now, Vanguard’s investors “are not acclimated to participating,” he said. “There’s no track record of them having to do that.”

  • Is Alexion’s Boston Move A Smoke Screen?

    September 15, 2017

    An op-ed by Stephen Davis. Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s big announcement Tuesday that it will pull up stakes and relocate to Boston could well be about planting itself in a more fertile biotech environment, as CEO Ludwig Hantson asserted on a conference call Tuesday with market analysts. But it could also be something else: an expensive exercise in corporate misdirection — that is, doing something shiny and new to distract observers from the ugly and old. If so, New Haven and environs will wind up paying a steep price in lost jobs so Alexion can buy time ahead of financial woes and investigations.