2018-2019 Lara D. Gass Annual Symposium: Civil Rights and Shareholder Activism
To begin Friday, February 15th, 2019 at 9 a.m.
Millhiser Moot Court Room
Washington and Lee University School of Law
The Symposium will feature three panels to explore the past, present, and future of social and environmental shareholder activism. In March of 1968, a civil rights organization, the Medical Committee for Human Rights, received five shares of Dow Chemical Company stock as a gift. Well-known for its work deploying doctors and nurses on the front lines of civil rights protests across the American South, MCHR had no track record of shareholder activism. Within a year, however, MCHR had initiated its first shareholder proposal to stop Dow from manufacturing and selling napalm for military use in the Vietnam War. The activism campaign advanced MCHR’s commitment to civil and human rights, but it also represented an important innovation in shareholders’ use of corporate governance tools. The civil rights group had catalyzed a movement: shareholder activism campaigns on pollution, minority hiring, and apartheid were quickly brought by other shareholders at major U.S. companies like General Motors and Honeywell, Inc. and, over the decades, numerous other campaigns have followed.
Today, shareholder activism on ESG matters is surging. In the 2019 Proxy Season, companies will face shareholder campaigns on economic inequality, human rights, discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation, board and workforce diversity, and executive compensation, to name just a few topics.
• Lisa M. Fairfax, the Leroy Sorenson Merrifield Research Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School, will give a public keynote lecture, and a number of highly regarded experts will participate in panel discussions to connect the movement’s origins to the modern era.