By Ross Kerber and Sheila Dang
(Reuters) – A shareholder proposal for Thomson Reuters Corp to review human rights issues emerging from its U.S. government contracts gained increased investor support but failed to win approval at the company’s annual meeting on Wednesday.
Thomson Reuters, the parent of Reuters News, has contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worth at least $17.4 million, public records show. Company spokesman Dave Moran declined to say what the contracts were for. Moran said a contract to provide the CLEAR online investigation software to ICE had expired in February. The software aggregates billions of data points and public records information for law enforcement agencies and financial services firms, according to a company website.
The shareholder proposal came from a British Columbia labor union and focused on Thomson Reuters work with government agencies including ICE.
The proposal won the support of 19% of the votes, Thomson Reuters Chairman David Thomson said at the meeting, which was webcast, more than double the 7.6% share that a similar resolution received last year.
The tally potentially represented a majority of support from outside investors. The Woodbridge Co, representing the Thomson Reuters controlling Thomson family, owns two-thirds of the company shares and had planned to vote against the resolution, according to a securities filing. Final voting figures had yet to be filed and Moran did not provide additional details.
Wednesday’s resolution called for the company’s board to produce a “human rights risk report” describing potential issues it faces and comparing risk-control procedures against those of other technology companies.
Under the Trump administration that ended in January, ICE played a leading role in sweeping raids and deportation of undocumented immigrants.
Stephanie Smith, president of the union that sponsored the resolution, said in a statement the result showed “Thomson Reuters is failing to tackle very serious and concerning human rights risks related to contracts with agencies like ICE, and shareholders aren’t buying their excuses.”
The company had opposed the resolution as unnecessary given existing internal controls.
Thomson Reuters Chief Executive Officer Steve Hasker said at the meeting: “We continue to see a net societal benefit to providing CLEAR and similar products to law enforcement,” provided they are used as permitted by regulations.
Asked about the vote result, Thomson Reuters’ Moran said that “As we review best practices for identifying and mitigating human rights risks, we always welcome feedback from our shareholders and will continue in our dialogue with our investors as part of our shared commitment to human rights.”
(Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston and Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Howard Goller)