(National Center for Public Policy Research) Confronted at Wednesday’s annual meeting of shareholders, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz ducked a question asking him to justify his criticism of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy while not opposing a similar policy during the Obama Administration. Schultz also denied his decision for the coffeehouse giant to hire 10,000 refugees may be hurting the Starbucks brand and shareholders’ investment despite reports to the contrary.
Schultz was questioned by a representative of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project (FEP)– the nation’s leading proponent of free-market investor activism. The National Center provided the lone conservative voice for shareholders among the thousands of investors and staff who attended today’s Starbucks shareholder meeting.
“Schultz is stepping down as Starbucks CEO next month, but the question remains if his liberal legacy will continue to haunt the company’s investors,” said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who attended today’s meeting and questioned Schultz. “By publicly taking on the President of the United States – perhaps for his own personal political ambitions – it appears that Schultz damaged the Starbucks brand and possibly diminished shareholder value.”
Following President Trump’s initial executive order seeking to limit certain travel and immigration from countries identified by the Obama Administration as posing a security threat to the United States, Schultz wrote a public note to all Starbucks employees saying that “[w]e are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question.” In the letter, Schultz also announced plans to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years.
At the meeting, Danhof seized on Schultz’s comments against President Trump’s immigration order and the reported consumer backlash. Danhof noted:
According to Business Insider, since that announcement, “Starbucks’ brand has taken a beating.”
Starbucks said it would focus on hiring refugees “who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel.”
That’s interesting, because ABC News reports that in 2011, after discovering two al-Qaeda members with links to Iraq operating in Kentucky, “the State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months… even for many who had heroically helped U.S. forces as interpreters and intelligence assets.” One Iraqi refugee, who had aided U.S. troops, was assassinated during the Obama-Clinton ban.
Danhof then asked:
How much will Starbucks’ investors spend for us to properly vet refugees the federal government admits it can’t afford to vet? And why were you willing to have Starbucks’ reputation take a beating by attacking President Trump’s executive order when you lacked the courage to speak out against the Obama-Clinton travel ban?
Schultz ignored his double-standard, saying Starbucks policy is “based on principle” rather than politics. He further claimed there were no negative effects on the Starbucks brand “as a result of being compassionate.” Responding to Danhof’s question about vetting refugee applicants, Schultz said there would be “no additional cost” for Starbucks related to any vetting procedures.
“Government officials have admitted that they cannot vet all of the refugee being admitted to the United States for threats to the American people. Howard Schultz implied that Starbucks will similarly be turning a blind eye to the backgrounds of refugee applicants,” said Danhof.
Schultz will step down from the position of CEO of Starbucks on April 3, 2017. He will continue to work for the company in the position of executive chairman. A prominent liberal activist who was suggested as a vice presidential selection by Hillary Clinton in 2016, the Seattle Times reported he is “definitely being pursued” as a candidate for president in 2020.
“Is Schultz attacking Trump to boost his liberal credentials in advance of a potential 2020 presidential run? We don’t know, but he should be upfront with the company’s investors if that’s the case,” said Danhof. “Schultz and other critics of Trump’s immigration orders are seemingly ignorant of legal realities. Some legal statutes are dense and unreadable, but that’s not the case here. Whether or not you agree with President Trump’s immigration orders, the law is clear.”
“This shareholder meeting was more of a validation of Howard Schultz’s liberal political agenda than a report to the company’s investors,” said Danhof. “Large portions were devoted to self-congratulation for promoting social justice than how the company is posined to differentiate its products in an increasingly competitive market. There was time for a musical guest, a stacked ‘open forum’ to praise the Starbucks social justice agenda and Howard Schultz pontificating on his vision of America, but very little time for actual company business and questions from shareholders. This was a rally, not a business meeting.”
This is the third National Center appearance at a Starbucks shareholder meeting. In 2016, the National Center presented a shareholder proposal asking the company to protect its employees from penalties at work stemming from their private, legal political activities. In 2014, the National Center commended Schultz for not bowing to the anti-science demands of radical environmental activists seeking to force Starbucks to purge its products of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group – focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Since 2014, National Center representatives have participated in nearly 100 shareholder meetings to advance free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. The Starbucks meeting will mark FEP’s fourth shareholder meeting so far in 2017.