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[liberationtech] Weak Commitment to Human Rights Factors into Boston Common's Decision to Divest of Cisco Systems

Evgeny Morozov evgeny.morozov at
Wed Jan 12 06:51:21 PST 2011

....that said, Cisco's human records is apparently good enough for the State
Department to give them a "corporate excellence" award...

<>at just $5 million,
"corporate excellence" looks like a very good deal.

On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 9:46 AM, Rebecca MacKinnon <
rebecca.mackinnon at> wrote:

> Weak Commitment to Human Rights Factors into Boston Common's Decision to
> Divest of Cisco Systems
> Manipulative Vote Tallying Further Isolates Cisco
>  Posted: Jan 11, 2011 – 08:00 AM EST
> BOSTON, Jan. 11 /CSRwire/ - Boston Common Asset Management, LLC has
> divested of its holdings in Cisco Systems, Inc. stock (NYSE: CSCO) due in
> part to the company's weak human rights risk management and poor response to
> investor concerns. Cisco's deceptive announcement of vote results on proxy
> items at the 2010 annual shareholder meeting has raised further alarm about
> the company's commitment to transparency.
> <> <> <> <>
> * *
> Since 2005 Boston Common has led a growing coalition of investors,
> representing over 20 million Cisco shares, in asking Cisco management to
> ensure its products and services do not stifle human rights. Cisco has
> testified before federal law makers twice since 2006 over questions on its
> human rights record, including its marketing of equipment to the Chinese
> Ministry of Public Security.
> "Boston Common's decision to divest comes after years of campaigning Cisco
> for greater transparency and accountability on key human rights and business
> development concerns," stated Dawn Wolfe, associate director of
> environmental, social, and governance research at Boston Common Asset
> Management. "Freedom of expression, privacy, and personal security are all
> critical elements in maximizing network traffic. Politically and socially
> repressive policies related to speech and privacy has a chilling effect on
> users and violates universally recognized human rights. When pressed for
> details on how Cisco addresses these risks, they come up short."
> At the November 18, 2010 annual meeting of shareholders, Cisco did not
> answer yet another request for engagement with shareholders. This followed a
> September 30, 2010 letter to independent board member and Stanford president
> John Hennessy requesting his assistance in establishing a meaningful
> dialogue between Cisco and shareholders on human rights. Similar to previous
> attempts to engage the Board as a whole, Hennessy did not respond to the
> request.
> "As technology becomes more prevalent in the world, we expect human rights
> related concerns will become more, not less prominent," said Nevin Dulabaum,
> president of Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust, a long-time shareholder
> of Cisco Systems and active participant in the investor-driven human rights
> campaign. "For all its talk about the 'human network' and adherence to the
> United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Cisco has not
> demonstrated in any concrete way that it fully recognizes its potential
> impact on human rights around the world."
> Boston Common's ESG Team recommended the removal of Cisco Systems from its
> portfolios because of strong reservations about its human rights performance
> and poor shareholder engagement on the issue.
> *Deceptive Vote Tallying Behind Proxy Results Announced at Annual Meeting*
> In an apparent attempt to downplay votes in favor of shareholder sponsored
> proposals on the proxy ballot, Cisco used two different methods to calculate
> proxy results announced at the annual meeting-one for proposals put forward
> by its own management and a second for proposals sponsored by Cisco
> shareholders which served to dilute support.
> "If management is reporting votes one way for their own proposals and
> another way for shareowner sponsored proposals, that is deceptive. It speaks
> volumes about management's attitude towards their own shareowners - a
> flashing red light. Ignore it at your peril," stated Glyn Holton, executive
> director, United States Proxy Exchange.
> Boston Common's human rights proposal was supported by 34% of voted shares
> when calculated using the standard SEC method, the one Cisco used to
> calculate support for its own proposals, including the advisory vote on pay.
> If Cisco used the same method based on all outstanding shares to calculate
> support for its own proposals, not just those sponsored by shareholders, its
> executive compensation package would have received support from just over
> half of its shareholders.
> "The voice of shareholders fall on deaf ears at Cisco," stated Wolfe.
> "About a third of Cisco Systems shareholders voting their proxies have
> supported our proposal over the years, voting in favor of greater disclosure
> on issues of censorship and privacy. Cisco's deceptive tallying practices in
> 2010 do not change that. The investor coalition will march ahead, and
> perhaps one day Cisco will wake-up and realize how dedicated these
> shareholders are to the company's success. Until then, significant questions
> remain about its ability to manage risks it is reticent to recognize."
> *About Boston Common Asset Management*
> Boston Common Asset Management is an investment manager specializing in
> sustainable and responsible equity and balanced strategies. We pursue
> long-term capital appreciation by seeking to invest in diversified
> portfolios of high quality, socially responsible stocks. Through rigorous
> analysis of financial, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors
> we identify attractively valued companies for investment. As shareholders,
> we urge portfolio companies to improve transparency, accountability, and
> attention to ESG issues. Our focus is global; we manage U.S. and
> international portfolios, customized to the needs of institutional and
> individual investors.
> For more information, please contact:
>  Dawn Wolfe <dwolfe at> Associate Director, ESG
> Research
> Phone: 617-720-5557
> --
> Rebecca MacKinnon
> Schwartz Senior Fellow, New America Foundation
> Co-founder,
> Cell: +1-617-939-3493
> E-mail: rebecca.mackinnon at
> Blog:
> Twitter: @rmack <>
> Facebook:
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