Mastercard shareholders are called to vote on a shareholder proposal for the board of directors to establish a committee on human rights, to address the threat posed by far-right extremists.
The shareholder resolution, filed by international consumer group SumOfUs, highlights that extremists like Tommy Robinson and known far-right hate groups use Mastercard, demonstrating that its governance structures do not sufficiently account for human rights. None of the company’s existing board committees have responsibility for overseeing human rights issues.
To coincide with the AGM, SumOfUs has arranged for a 25ft long/10 ft high billboard bearing the slogan “Putting hate groups out of business? #Priceless” to be driven around the company’s headquarters in Purchase, New York.
View the resolution in full here:
Mastercard’s exposure to conflict in human rights risk is significant as our company operates in over 210 countries and territories, some of which have a significant risk of human rights violations.
Companies can face risks related to human rights even when they only perform support functions. Internet infrastructure companies like web host GoDaddy, social media platform Facebook and payments firm PayPal have come under pressure for doing business with or providing a forum for neo-Nazis and other hate groups. Mastercard has received negative publicity for processing of payments to white supremacist groups. According to the website bloodmoney.org (accessed on December 18, 2018), Mastercard continues to process payments for organizations such as American Border Patrol, League of the South, Proud Boys and Stormfront.
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the “Guiding Principles”) approved by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, note that “Business enterprises may be involved with adverse human rights impacts either through their own activities or as a result of their business relationships with other parties… For the purpose of these Guiding Principles a business enterprise’s ‘activities’ are understood to include both actions and omissions; and its ‘business relationships’ are understood to include relationships with business partners, entities in its value chain, and any other non-State or State entity directly linked to its business operations, products or services.”
None of Mastercard’s current Board Committees have been assigned responsibility for overseeing human rights issues. We believe that the significant risks associated with adverse human rights impacts at Mastercard warrant specific accountability and responsibility at the Board level.
We urge shareholders to support this proposal.
Eoin Dubsky, campaign manager at SumOfUs, said: “We know that Mastercard currently accepts online payments to far-right hate groups and extremists, from Tommy Robinson to Proud Boys. This proves that its executives are failing to manage the human rights associated with the business in the internet age.
“As we’ve seen to such devastating effect if unchecked, hate speech has terrible consequences for innocent people. We look to all corporations to play their part in ensuring their services and products aren’t used to sow the seeds of discrimination, hatred and violence. It is essential that companies like Mastercard have the policies and processes in place to deal effectively with hate speech and human rights abuses.”
Nandini Jammi, organizer at Sleeping Giants, who will present the motion to Mastercard shareholders, said: “Today, starting a neo-Nazi group is as easy as launching any online business. The tech platforms that have enabled so many of us to open up websites and begin selling products and services have inadvertently allowed hate groups and extremists to thrive equally within the same ecosystem. These groups have managed to co-opt social media, e-commerce and fintech platforms to financially support criminal activities, including violence and harassment.”
From donation platforms to online stores, the expert continued, major tech companies are operating at a level of scale that they do not know who their customers are before they grant them access to Mastercard payments.
“It’s time for Mastercard to face the fact that until they investigate, the company will not know the scope of abuse taking place in their network,” Nandini Jammi concluded.