14:55, August 24 338 0 law.com

2017-08-24 14:55:04
Major Companies Offer Cash to Fight Hate Groups After Charlottesville Tragedy
Timothy Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc., testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation, during a hearing titled “Offshore Profit Shifting and the U.S. Tax Code – Part 2.” May 21, 2013. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL.

Following the Charlottesville, Virginia, “Unite the Right” rally earlier this month, some of the world’s largest corporations—known for developing computers and running financial services—have made political statements with one of their most important resources: capital.

On Monday, Peter Scher, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s head of corporate responsibility, told employees that the banking giant would donate $1 million to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, two organizations that fight for civil rights and against hate groups. The SPLC and the ADL have openly admonished several of President Donald Trump’s policy suggestions. In his memo to employees, Scher said the donation was partly in response to the tragedy that struck Charlottesville, when the rally, which featured white nationalist protesters, ended in the death of one woman and injury of 19 others.

“The events in Charlottesville have increased the urgency to confront hate, intolerance and discrimination wherever it exists,” Scher wrote in his memo.

JPMorgan isn’t the only company opening its coffers. Last week, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook told employees the Cupertino, California-based company would donate $2 million to the SPLC and the ADL. And the company installed an option on its iTunes music platform for customers to donate directly to the SPLC in amounts ranging from $5 to $200.

Corporate social responsibility is on the rise, said Alice Korngold, president and CEO of Korngold Consulting, which provides consulting services for businesses and nonprofits. Korngold said companies have become newly interested in solving social, economic and environmental issues and making political statements through donations is part of the same corporate responsibility push.

“From a company perspective, these leading companies understand that hate is bad for the country and for community, and that’s bad for business,” Korngold said. “Violence and injustice destroy communities, communities where consumers and suppliers live and work. And black people, LGBTQ people, Jews, Muslims, they all work at these companies.”

Korngold said the donations are largely pragmatic—putting money into organizations that will protect diverse communities allows the corporations a better chance at hiring and retaining diverse talent. Also, several shareholders groups have come out in support of socially responsible companies in the past few years, claiming that a strong corporate responsibility strategy, and even a diverse board of directors, drives shareholder value up in the long term.

In 2016, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System adopted a new “Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) 5-Year Strategic Plan” that focuses on diversity and inclusion and sustainability as a way for staffers to “[engage] public companies to achieve long-term, sustainable risk-adjusted returns.”

Korngold said approval processes for corporate donations vary by company. In the case of 21st Century Fox Inc. CEO James Murdoch, who, along with his wife, will donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League, Korngold said it’s unlikely company approval was needed. (A 21st Century Fox spokesperson confirmed that Murdoch and his wife made the donations as private citizens and that the company was not involved.)

But when corporations are direct givers, Korngold said boards of directors are often involved in the approval process. And, she said, in terms of creating a strong corporate governance strategy that includes social responsibility, in-house counsel or outside law firms are often called on to help out.

“Companies that are leveraging the opportunities to find innovative solutions to global problems, they understand that this needs to be a corporate strategy across the company,” Korngold said, referring to these major donations as “innovative solutions.” She continued: “In those discussions, you would definitely have attorneys involved.”