It is good to know that, with major issues looming such as a government shutdown and the need to extend the debt ceiling, some of our representatives in Congress are focused on pieces of legislation like the Mind Your Own Business Act of 2021. Senator Marco Rubio announced that he had introduced this legislation last week, with the purpose of enabling shareholders to hold “woke” corporations accountable. The announcement states:
Specifically, the legislation would require corporate directors to prove their “woke” corporate actions were in their shareholders’ best interest in order to avoid liability for breach of fiduciary duty in shareholder litigation over corporate actions relating to certain social policies. It would also incentivize corporate management to stop abusing their positions to advance left-wing social policies by increasing their personal liability to shareholders for breaches of fiduciary duty resulting from those policies.
The provisions of the legislation include the following:
- Requiring large public companies listing on national stock exchanges to provide shareholders with significant holdings with certain privileges with respect to claims for breach of fiduciary duty under covered circumstances, including if a company takes an action on a primarily non-pecuniary basis in response to State law, boycotts a class of persons or industry on a primarily non-pecuniary basis, or uses primarily non-pecuniary public reasoning for an action.
- Corporate defendants would be bound by presumptions that pecuniary interest does not include common defenses used to defend exercises of business judgment, including the media image of the company or employee morale.
- For claims of breach of fiduciary duty against management brought by shareholders under these covered circumstances, management would have the burden of proof and, if found in breach of their duties, be liable without indemnification by the company for a minimum amount of damages and attorney’s fees.
We will monitor the progress of this legislation, but my guess is that, in the current political environment, this one might be singing “I’m just a bill/Yes, I’m only a bill/And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.”
-Dave Lynn, TheCorporateCounsel.net September 29, 2021