SEC disagrees with Amazon over gender pay vote

SEC disagrees with Amazon over gender pay vote

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) told Amazon it would be on shaky legal footing if it attempted to deny a shareholder vote to reduce the pay gap between men and women by claiming the proposal is too vague. 

The advocacy firm that is pushing the pay-gap proposal, Arjuna Capital, is now confident a vote will occur at Amazon’s annual stockholder meeting in June. 

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“We are unable to conclude that the proposal is so inherently vague or indefinite that neither the shareholders voting on the proposal, nor the company in implementing the proposal, would be able to determine with any reasonable certainty exactly what actions or measures the proposal requires,” the SEC told Amazon in a letter this week. 

The informal view of the SEC is not necessarily the final word. The agency said the courts are the only ones that can make an ultimate ruling. 

If approved, the resolution would force Amazon to release a report by October on the company’s goals to limit instances of men and women being paid inconsistent rates.

Arjuna Capital, the research and advocacy arm of Massachusetts investment firm Baldwin Brothers, has been pushing the proposals at a number of tech companies recently. Those include eBay, Expedia, Google, Adobe, Facebook and Microsoft. 

It withdrew similar proposals from Apple and Intel after the companies reported that they had achieved pay equity between men and women working at the company. 

Earlier this month, the firm noted Amazon was the only one challenging the resolution at the SEC. 

In a statement to Reuters, Amazon said it reviews worker pay at least once a year and said it is committed to pay equity. 

Amazon’s unsuccessful challenge at the SEC came down to the method of comparing the pay between men and women. The resolution cites the framework of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

But Amazon argued that the organization did not have a standard measurement, asking whether the company would have to compare average salary or median salary as just one example. 

“Companies can and should commit to closing the gender pay gap today.  But it won't happen without bold leadership,” Arjuna Capital’s Natasha Lamb said in a statement.