N.Y. Pension Prods Companies to ‘Confront Institutional Racism,’ Or Else

The New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third-largest U.S. public plan, said it’s pressing companies to boost their ethnic and gender diversity, and will vote against directors who fail to act.

“Companies must root out racial inequality, just as they would root any other systemic problem that puts their long-term success at risk,” New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a statement Thursday. “Corporate America must join in the national reckoning over racial injustice and confront institutionalized racism.”

The New York pension, which has $248 billion of assets, plans to file shareholder proposals supporting increased diversity on corporate boards. It also will seek better disclosures about the gender and ethnic breakdown of companies’ employees. The fund said it will vote against board members who ignore these requests.

The pension plan updated its proxy voting guidelines last year to reflect its opposition to boards that aren’t diverse enough based on things like age, race and sexual orientation. It withheld support from 227 incumbent directors at 55 companies that didn’t include underrepresented racial minorities. The fund will expand its efforts in 2021 to cover all S&P 500 companies, it said.

The fund co-filed shareholder resolutions asking companies including Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., Qorvo Inc. and Lowe’s Cos Inc. to provide reports showing workforce details such as gender and race. Hilton has agreed to disclose its so-called EEO-1 report, the pension plan said.

Last year, New York City stepped up pressure on Walmart Inc., McDonald’s Corp., and almost two dozen major companies, asking them to release workforce data on race and gender or face a shareholder vote in 2021.

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