While diversity on boards of directors has been a high-profile issue for many years, and public companies have made notable progress in diversifying their boards over the past two decades, public companies now face increased pressure to move beyond verbal commitments and incremental progress. Investors, proxy advisors, and activists are demanding data-driven, measurable changes. They are leveraging litigation, legislation, shareholder proposals, and direct engagement to push companies to increase their commitment to diversity, to disclose their diversity data, and to make significant financial investments in diversity initiatives. Both gender and racial diversity are in the spotlight now.
A recent lawsuit by a shareholder of Oracle Corporation has opened a new line of attack on companies that have been slow to diversify their board membership and executive leadership team. The complaint alleges that Oracle’s failure to appoint racially diverse directors and officers—while making public statements avowing a commitment to racial diversity—constitutes securities fraud. The premise of the lawsuit, and the relief sought, are likely to provoke significant debate and some degree of change, regardless of the outcome of the litigation.
The Oracle Lawsuit
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