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Microsoft Donations to Anti-Abortion Groups Targeted by Activist

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(Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. is coming under pressure from an activist shareholder group that is seeking greater transparency about political giving to groups and individuals that oppose abortion rights, asking the software giant to end donations and lobbying that might conflict with its stated support for employees accessing reproductive health care.

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Tulipshare, a UK-based activist investing platform for retail traders, said it’s concerned about donations like the $3 million Microsoft has given since 2010 to groups like the Republican Attorneys General Association and the Republican Governors Association, according to the Center for Political Accountability. The center, which tracks political contributions, said the groups used donations to focus on the election of officials who fought against Roe v. Wade. Tulipshare, which has also targeted Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Salesforce Inc., plans to engage with Microsoft’s investor relations department, and will introduce a shareholder motion if the company fails to address its concerns, said Jenna Armitage, the platform’s chief marketing officer.

Tulipshare cited Microsoft’s expansion of employee benefits to cover travel costs for abortion care as contradictory to its political giving.

“You see a lot of companies hopping on this woke marketing opportunity to speak out against something, whether it be to attract more recruits, to just kind of insert themselves into the media, when actually their political activities say otherwise,” Armitage said.Tulipshare’s proposal would mandate that the company require political actions committees it funds to say which candidates and causes they support, and publish such information annually. The company, which typically divides its political giving between Republicans and Democrats, has come under fire for backing candidates whose voting records and statements run counter to Microsoft’s stance on topics like LGBTQ rights and on climate change. After criticism of donations to politicians and organizations that opposed certification of US President Joe Biden’s election in 2021, Microsoft pledged to pause giving to those groups and individuals until after this year’s November midterm elections.

A spokeswoman for Microsoft declined to comment.

The action with Tulipshare is part of a larger campaign by the Center for Political Accountability to engage with companies on the transparency of political giving and how it aligns with their corporate values. “Companies need to know to know where their money is ending up, what it enables and what it associates them with,” said Bruce Freed, CPA president. “This is an essential element of risk management today.”

Technology companies may be the subject of shareholder action related to abortion on other fronts as well. Shelley Alpern, director of corporate engagement at Rhia Ventures, in June said investors will be asking companies to clarify how they will handle increased pressure from authorities to provide data on anyone suspected of attempting to get an abortion in another state. Rhia has also asked several companies to disclose their political and election spending related to access to reproductive health care, a proposal that garnered support from 44% of investors at AT&T Inc.

Shareholder activism has been gaining steam among Microsoft investors. Last year, the Redmond, Washington-based company reached agreements with two groups, while a third, Arjuna Capital, succeeded in winning investor approval for a measure asking the company to examine the effectiveness of its sexual harassment policies.

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