New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said the city’s $148 billion pension funds withdrew shareholder requests that Jarden Corp. and Microchip Technology Inc. diversify after they appointed women to their boards.
Jarden, a Rye, New York-based consumer-product maker whose brands include Mr. Coffee and Yankee Candle, and Microchip Technology of Chandler, Arizona, also adopted policies to increase minority representation, according to Stringer’s office. The city also withdrew a resolution to CF Industries Holdings Inc., a fertilizer maker in Deerfield, Illinois, after it instructed recruiters to seek diverse director candidates.
“The issue of diversity goes to the heart of a corporation’s commitment to long-term sustainable growth,” Stringer said yesterday before the announcement. “Corporate boards deal with a complex set of issues -- it only makes sense to have a diverse set of individuals to confront the challenges of the modern business world.”
Stringer is continuing the policies of his predecessors. Former Comptroller John Liu filed 54 shareholder proposals related to environmental, social and governance changes to 54 companies on behalf of the five pension funds in the fiscal year ending June 30, according to the city’s annual financial report. Of those, 27 proposals were withdrawn after the companies agreed to all or parts of the request or took steps to address the city’s concerns. Stringer took office Jan. 1.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., targeted by the comptroller’s office last year, appointed two women to its board in December. Stringer didn’t file a new resolution because of the Phoenix-based company’s action, said Eric Sumberg, a spokesman for the comptroller.
Dan Swenson, a spokesman for CF Industries, said company officials regularly speak to shareholders and potential investors about corporate governance, including board composition.
“We have a very positive dialogue with representatives from New York City’s pension funds,” Swenson said in an e-mail. “‘We were pleased that they recognize the attention we are paying to this specific topic and the board’s engaged approach to responsible governance.”
Rachel Wilson, a Jarden spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Eric Lawson, a spokesman for Microchip, said in an e-mailed statement that the company didn’t change its policy based on any shareholder proposal. Board member Esther Johnson was added in October, before New York’s shareholder request, he said.
“Our goal has always been to find the most qualified candidate taking into account the candidate’s education, professional experience, viewpoints, technical skills, individual expertise, ethnicity and gender,” Lawson wrote. “The policy we have always used will be clarified in our proxy.”