Microsoft Shareholders are Encouraged to Hold the Company Accountable on Its Public Commitment
Boston, MA (November 29, 2021) – NorthStar Asset Management, Inc. (“NorthStar”), an asset management firm based in Boston, seeks to hold Microsoft Corporation accountable for a public commitment the company made on hiring practices related to people with criminal records.
Created in 2015, the White House’s Fair Chance Business Pledge (“the Pledge”) committed companies to providing “individuals with criminal records, including formerly incarcerated individuals, a fair chance to participate in the American economy.” The Pledge’s website suggests actions companies can take such as creating meaningful opportunities to succeed for reentering individuals, ensuring internships and job training are available to individuals with criminal records, and hosting fair chance and opportunity job fairs. NorthStar filed a shareholder proposal asking Microsoft to report on its implementation of the Pledge and how any such implementation of this commitment has “advanced progress toward eliminating racial discrimination at Microsoft.”
“Microsoft signed the White House Fair Chance Business Pledge which committed the company to providing opportunities for success to individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. During our recent engagement with the company, it became clear that Microsoft has not fulfilled this commitment,” explained Mari Schwartzer, NorthStar’s Director of Shareholder Activism and Engagement. “Microsoft’s commitment to the Pledge intersects with its existing initiatives on racial equity and criminal justice reform, but when a company with extensive resources and a desire to do things differently has made a public commitment, we want to see purposeful forward progress on that specific goal.”
In its proxy statement, Microsoft’s opposition statement reports that it does not have blanket exclusion of applicants with criminal records and that it delays background checks, but NorthStar is concerned that the company has relied upon existing laws in many states and cities rather than taking a proactive stance on fair chance employment.
“Our engagement with the company indicated that Microsoft had not taken any actions to intentionally recruit from this talent pool. We believe this is a mistake. Case studies on fair chance employers have shown that people with criminal backgrounds can outperform their colleagues without criminal records in attendance and behavioral violations, and experience faster promotions and lower turnover,” continued Schwartzer. “There are potential upsides to hiring formerly incarcerated jobseekers that are eager to learn, and this is especially the case in the current tight labor market.”
NorthStar’s shareholder proposal “Implementation of Public Commitment” (shareholder proposal #4, proxy item 8) is the first of its kind and will go to a vote on November 30th at Microsoft’s virtual annual meeting. NorthStar encourages shareholders to read its exempt solicitation proponent memo which further explains the firm’s position and encourages votes in favor of the proposal: NorthStar proxy memo.
NorthStar Asset Management, Inc. is a wealth management company based in Boston with a focus on socially responsible investing. At NorthStar, creative shareholder engagement is a positive force for change.
Contact: Julie Goodridge
NorthStar Asset Management, Inc.