NYS Common Cracks Down on Corporate Board Diversity

Diversity agreements made with four Fortune 500 companies.

The $209 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund is cracking down on board diversity in the companies in which it invests.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the fund, announced Wednesday that the fund will vote against all board directors eligible for re-election at companies without any women on their boards.

For companies with just one woman on their boards, the fund will vote against governance committee board members seeking re-election.

“We’re putting all-male boardrooms on notice—diversify your boards to improve your performance,” Comptroller DiNapoli said in a statement. “There is ample research that board diversity benefits companies. We will continue to urge our portfolio companies to adopt inclusive policies to diversify their boards, but we’re also going to be speaking loudly with our board votes.”

The fund, which invests in more than 400 public companies with no women on their boards and more than 700 companies with only one woman on their boards, also announced agreements with Fortune 500 companies Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Leucadia National, Packaging Corp. of America, and PulteGroup to include greater gender and racial diversity on their boards.

New York State Common had previously filed shareholder proposals at the companies for their lack of diversity. As a result of the four companies agreeing to seek out more women and minority candidates on their boards, the fund has withdrawn its proposals.

“It is unconscionable that hundreds of publicly held US companies have no women directors,” DiNapoli said. “We commend those companies that have agreed to improve their policies in an effort to diversify their boards.”

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