Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, pictured here at a past shareholder meeting, is the only employee currently on the board. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)
When Microsoft published its proxy statement in October, it contained an unusual shareholder resolution. The proposal? Adding a rank-and-file employee to Microsoft’s board of directors.
Microsoft’s filing left the identity of the shareholder behind the proposal a mystery, but GeekWire followed up ahead of the company’s annual meeting this week and got the name: NorthStar Asset Management. And after a short time on the phone with NorthStar’s head of shareholder activism, it became clear that what first seemed like a novelty is actually part of a broad strategy to reshape corporate governance in Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s image.
Microsoft is one of the first major companies NorthStar is pushing to democratize its board — but it won’t be the last.
NorthStar plans to submit similar shareholder proposals to additional companies in 2020, though the firm wouldn’t specify which ones. This year, NorthStar submitted resolutions calling for employee representation on the boards of Microsoft and FedEx.
Based in Boston, NorthStar describes itself as a “socially responsible investment firm,” which manages assets on behalf of its clients. NorthStar CEO Julie Goodridge founded the firm in 1990 and remains its sole owner. NorthStar has been sponsoring shareholder resolutions on behalf of its clients since 2000, on a range of issues from LGBTQ rights to environmental practices.
The investment firm manages more than 75,000 Microsoft shares, worth more than $11 million based on Monday’s closing share price.
Goodridge got the idea for the Microsoft resolution directly from Warren, according to Mari Schwartzer, director of shareholder activism and engagement for the firm. Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act — one of her campaign proposals on her quest for the White House in 2020 — struck a chord …read more