Posted on June 26, 2019

Renegade Shareholders Have a Plan to Force Mastercard to Monitor Neo-Nazis

Jessica Schulberg, HuffPost, June 24, 2019

UPDATE: June 25 ― The SumofUs resolution, which received approximately 4.8% of the independent shareholder vote, did not pass.

For months, Mastercard has tried to suffocate the creation of an internal committee that would monitor payments to white supremacists and far-right extremists. But on Tuesday, renegade shareholders will finally force a vote on the matter during the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

Like most credit card companies, Mastercard is hesitant to surrender profits by blocking violent white supremacists from using its services unless laws are being broken. Mastercard currently processes payments for several extremist groups, including the League of the South, National Policy Institute, Proud Boys, Stormfront, VDare, Identity Evropa, Occidental Dissent and Radix Journal, according to Color of Change, a racial justice organization that tracks financial service companies that do business with hate groups.


SumofUs, a corporate accountability nonprofit that spearheaded the activist shareholder campaign, has already had some success in compelling payment processors to cut ties with extremists. The group helped convince PayPal to drop far-right British political activist Tommy Robinson, Australian neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell, and the French white nationalist group Génération Identitaire. But targeting individual bad actors and payment processors can feel like a “whack-a-mole approach,” SumofUs campaign manager Eoin Dubsky said.


Last year, activists came up with a plan to force credit card companies to pay attention. SumofUs put out a call for members who held Mastercard shares and would be willing to work with the nonprofit group to file a proposal at Mastercard’s next shareholder meeting. In December, three SumofUs members who own approximately 1,800 Mastercard shares submitted a proposal to create an oversight committee to oversee the company’s “responses to domestic and international developments in human rights that affect Mastercard’s business.”

In their proposal, the activists listed several extremist groups that Mastercard currently processes payments for and pointed to the reputational risks of doing business with white supremacists. {snip} SumofUs activists framed their proposal as a broad human rights issue.


Even so, the activists know they aren’t likely to win the vote on Tuesday. Social justice-driven shareholder activism is rarely successful — most investors are more concerned about turning a profit than restricting neo-Nazis’ access to financial services.


By that metric, the activists have already scored a win. After years of vague statements about its commitment to tolerance, Mastercard was forced to publicly admit that it doesn’t really want to do much about white supremacists.