Investor Relations

SEC Says Equal Pay Measure Should Be on Amazon Ballot

A shareholder is requesting that high-profile tech companies report on how they are addressing gender pay inequality.
Matthew HellerMarch 17, 2016
SEC Says Equal Pay Measure Should Be on Amazon Ballot

An activist shareholder’s proposal that Amazon prepare a report on what it is doing to address gender pay equality should not be excluded from the retailer’s annual ballot, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has ruled.

Arjuna Capital, the activist arm of investment firm Baldwin Brothers, submitted the proposal to Amazon and eight other technology companies, including eBay and Intel. Only Amazon asked permission from the SEC to omit the measure, arguing it was “impermissibly vague and misleading.”

But in a ruling earlier this week, the SEC said it was “unable to conclude that the proposal is so inherently vague or indefinite that neither the shareholders voting on the proposal, nor the company in implementing the proposal, would be able to determine with any reasonable certainty exactly what actions or measures the proposal requires.”

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Arjuna requested that Amazon prepare a report by October 2016 on its policies and goals to reduce the gender pay gap.

According to Reuters, such proposals face long odds of being approved by shareholders but “just getting one on the ballot of a high-profile company like Amazon can be a catalyst for change.” Silicon Valley companies have been facing scrutiny over diversity and pay equity.

EBay shareholders rejected Arjuna’s first proposal on gender pay equity last year after the board opposed it. Arjuna said it resubmitted the proposal to eBay this year and expanded its effort to a total of nine companies.

In a letter to the SEC, Amazon said the measure completely failed to inform shareholders how “gender pay gap” should be calculated, and merely referring to an Organization for Economic Development formula was inadequate.

But the SEC said the gender pay gap is a “significant social policy issue” that shareholders should be able to consider.

Amazon has estimated that as of July, women made up 39% of its global workforce and 24% of managers. “We’re committed to fairly and equitably compensating all our employees,” it said in a statement.