This Disney story did not end in happily ever after
Last week shareholders raised their voices at Disney’s annual meeting in Denver and asked the company to be upfront about its lobbying activity, including its trade association memberships and payments.
Led by Zevin Asset Management, shareholders moved a proposal during the meeting that called upon the company to create a detailed report of all of the company’s state and federal lobbying as well is any memberships in or payments to trade associations.
A complete picture of Disney’s lobbying activity is not currently available to shareholders, but what is discernable suggests that the company has been busy pushing its policy priorities.
Disney spent a combined $7.57 million in 2015 and 2016 on federal lobbying and has been linked to efforts by the National Restaurant Association and California Chamber of Commerce to push back on raising the minimum wage, to stop implementation of paid sick leave, and to criticize parental leave laws.
Zevin Asset Management’s Pat Tomaino’s op ed in the Denver Post has more on Disney’s lobbying activity.
Additionally, shareholders expressed concern over CEO Bob Iger’s participation in President Trump’s closed- door business council. Several shareholders asked Iger to step down during the meeting to which Iger responded that he had no plans to leave the council. Citing the song “The Room Where It Happens” from the smash- hit musical Hamilton, Iger defended his remaining on the council saying “I think it’s a privileged opportunity to be in the room.”
Iger seemed to miss the point of the Hamilton number which highlights how only three men were in the room when major decisions about the future of the United States were made and the public only has their word for what happened. Similarly, the policy forum that President Trump set up skirts the requirements of Federal Advisory Committee Act, the 1972 law designed to limit back- room deals.
During the meeting, Corporate Reform Coalition partners took to Twitter to call on Disney to be more honest and generated almost 4 million impressions using #DisneyDisclosure. Check out the Storify to see a sample of the tweets, graphics, and even song parodies created by participants.
This year’s lobbying disclosure shareholder resolution received 36.8% support, despite the board’s recommendation that shareholders vote against it. This is up 4.9% from 31.9% support last year. Disney should heed the growing chorus of shareholders and customers calling on the company to be more honest about its attempts to influence policy. If it’s truly looking out for its shareholders’ best interest then what does it have to hide?