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Majority of independent shareholders vote to review Thomson Reuters' ICE contracts

Majority of independent shareholders vote to review Thomson Reuters' ICE contracts
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A majority of independent shareholders of Thomson Reuters on Wednesday voted in favor of a proposal that would have the company assess and report on the potential human rights abuses of its work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

More than 70 percent of independent shareholders, and 19 percent of shareholders overall, voted for the proposal introduced by the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), double the amount that supported a similar resolution the year prior. The labor organization had been aiming to crest 50 percent this year. 

The Woodbridge Company, the private holding company of the Thomson family that controls roughly 68 percent of Thomson Reuters’s shares, voted against the proposal, effectively making it impossible for it to pass.

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“At least 70% of independent shareholders supporting this resolution represents a stunning victory for human rights given the company is controlled by one family, the Thomson family,” Stephanie Smith, BCGEU’s president, said in a statement. “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.”

Thomson Reuters has been working with ICE since at least 2015, providing a variety of services including access to databases and staff to monitor social media accounts.  

The company, through its subsidiary Thomson Reuters Special Services, had active contracts with ICE worth $39.1 million as of 2020.

Critics of those deals say they facilitate the deportation and human rights abuses of immigrants. One contract for “risk mitigation services” in particular has raised concerns that Thomson Reuters may be aiding the surveillance of American immigrant activists. 

Thomson Reuters in a statement to The Hill said that it has “a number of mechanisms in place” to ensure it is respecting human rights concerns.