Microsoft investor urges shareholders to vote for a deep dive into pay gap and harassment policies

More transparency and reporting needed, says Arunja Capital


Updated Accusations of harassment and concerns over pay gaps continue to dog Microsoft as shareholders were urged by investor Arunja Capital to vote for the software giant to release transparency reports.

The form PX14A6G filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission is sent to shareholders outlining why the sender wants them to vote a certain way. In this case, for a proposal to release a transparency report regarding the effectiveness of Microsoft's workplace sexual harassment policies, and another to have the company report on median pay gaps across race and gender.

Investment management firm Arunja Capital put forward the resolution earlier this year, stating: "Microsoft needs independent and transparent investigation of gender discrimination, [and alleged] sexual harassment by former CEO Gates and others."

Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board in 2020. This year reports surfaced of an allegedly "inappropriate" romantic relationship he had with a female Microsoft employee.

Arunja Capital is somewhat of an activist investor, and describes itself as a "champion of workplace concerns for minorities and women." Microsoft's commitment to begin annual reporting on sexual harassment and gender discrimination does not cut the mustard as far as the investor is concerned and, according to Arunja Capital, "ignores the need for reporting on independent and executive-level investigations."

As well as warning that the allegations could hit shareholders in the pocket if not properly investigated, the solicitation cited specific examples of how it believed the company handled complaints, did not fulfil commitments, or failed to conduct "best practice" investigations.

Then there is the issue of Gates. The original resolution had requested Microsoft report on the "results of any independent investigation into executive level allegations, including recent Gates allegations." Microsoft has remained silent on the matter, according to Arunja Capital.

"For Microsoft to effectively eradicate any culture of systemic sexual harassment," the investor said in its solicitation, "we believe it must allow for an independent investigation into these allegations and publicly disclose the results.

"This investigation will send a clear message to investors and employees that the company will not tolerate sexual harassment, no matter the employee's level of seniority."

Microsoft's next annual shareholders meeting is due on 30 November and CEO Satya Nadella, with CFO Amy Hood, are to take part in a conference call on 26 October regarding the company's Q1 2022 earnings.

The Register contacted Microsoft to get its take on the solicitation and will update this piece should the company respond. ®

Updated to add

In a terse email to The Register Microsoft pointed to its "Global Diversity & Inclusion Report," which was published on Thursday, as well as its SEC 2021 Proxy Statement on the matter, which mentions diversity a lot.

So that's all right then.

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