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Comcast shareholders seek workplace sexual harassment report

James Leggate

Comcast wants the Securities and Exchange Commission to block a shareholder resolution seeking an independent investigation into workplace sexual harassment.

Shareholder Arjuna Capital filed the resolution late last year, saying the company “must create a culture of accountability and transparency, and protect employees from harassment and discrimination.”

“Workplace harassment can harm shareholder value,” the proposal states.

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However, attorneys representing Comcast sent a letter to the SEC asking to exclude the proposal from its annual proxy statement, writing that the proposal “relates to the company’s ordinary business operations,” qualifying it for an exclusion under SEC rules.

“Specifically, the proposal may be excluded because it requests a report on information regarding the company’s general legal compliance program and policies, which includes investigations into allegations of violations and enhancements to policies governing employee behavior to protect against future violations,” the letter states.

Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal. In the resolution, Arjuna pointed to the firing of former “Today” host Matt Lauer over allegations of sexual misconduct in 2017. And last fall, Ronan Farrow’s book “Catch and Kill” included new accusations from a former producer that Lauer raped her and that NBC covered up the incident with a settlement.

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In a press release Wednesday, the shareholders said that efforts to kill the proposal are sending “absolutely the wrong signal.”

“On its face, the decision by Comcast/NBCUniversal to kill our sex discrimination resolution before it reaches an investor vote suggests they just don’t get it,” Arjuna managing partner Natasha Lamb said in a written statement. “Attempting to cover up what is potentially a company-wide pattern of abuse is not a credible corporate response. In the case of workplace sexual harassment, sunlight is the best disinfectant, and continued attempts to sweep concerns under the rug sends absolutely the wrong signal to shareholders. Investors are legitimately concerned about their long-term wealth and the kind of regulatory fines and court-imposed judgments that could lie just ahead.”

Arjuna is the same firm that has urged social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to deal with online harassment and companies in tech and other fields to pay men and women equally.

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