What would the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) do if it learned that a company conspired with its Board of Directors to destroy the market value of the company by $50 billion, by alienating its customers and depressing its stock price? There would be an investigation. Perhaps fines would be levied, perhaps the company would even be delisted from the Stock Exchange. If the SEC learned that a company was making decisions that did not allow them to live up to its fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders, action of some sort would be taken.
The SEC’s Division of Enforcement oversees the investigation of alleged breaches of securities law — including negligence and market manipulation. Would making a decision that the Board of Directors knows will lead to the destruction of corporate earnings and shareholder value meet the requirements of an investigation? Does purposefully destroying market valuation count as market manipulation?
Dick’s Sporting Goods was one of the first companies to go woke. Shortly after the Parkland School shooting in Florida in February 2018, Dick’s announced that it would stop selling semi-automatic weapons. They also stopped selling guns to people under 21, who otherwise could legally purchase a firearm. When asked how much he estimated he’d lose following the decision to stop selling to people under 21, Dick’s CEO Edward Stack said, “a quarter billion dollars,” or $250 million. This does not include additional lost revenue that came from not participating in the surge in gun sales during the BLM riots in 2020. Was Stack acting on behalf of his beliefs or looking to maximize shareholder value?
Fast forward to 2023. Woke companies flaunt their values and their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) scores, knowing these positions will destroy the value of the company.
According to The Daily Mail, Bud Light’s parent company Anheuser-Busch has seen its market value “plunge $15.7 billion since the disastrous campaign with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.”
Target has lost $9 billion in market value since “angry social media users called for a boycott of the Minneapolis-based retailer over its rollout of the “PRIDE” collection featuring LGBTQ-friendly clothing for children,” according to The New York Post
Not to be outdone, The Washington Examiner reports Disney’s “stock has lost nearly $50 billion in value since the start of March, when it took a political gamble to oppose Florida’s” education law, the so-called “don’t say gay,” bill.
Shares of North Face’s parent company, VF Corp, dropped sharply on May 24, after “reporting Q4 2023 earnings and revenue that beat analyst estimates, just a day after VF Corp was embroiled in controversy for releasing a ‘come out’ pride ad, featuring activist Pattie Gonia. In the past month, shares of VF Corp plummeted nearly 20%.”
Few people outside of the boardroom and the advertising agencies who pitched these ideas were surprised by the backlash from these corporate decisions. History has taught us this will happen. The NBA and NFL saw declines in viewership, and subsequently advertising dollars, when they went “super-woke” during the BLM riots, allowing players to wear social justice messages on uniforms and painting social justice messages on the court and field.
John and Jane Public do not want politics in their sports. They do not want transgender activists selling them beer or outdoor clothing, and they certainly do not want to see “tuck-friendly” bathing suits at their local Target. And if by chance they can save the $4,000+ to visit Disney World, they do not want to be “educated” about Florida’s laws about teaching sexuality and sexual orientation to its students. Joe and Jane Public go on vacation, watch sports, and drink beer to get away from the world, not to have the woke world shoved in their face.
So, when does a woke corporation open itself to class-action lawsuits from its shareholders for destroying value? Hang on sports fans, I think we will soon find out.
Jim Nelles is a Navy veteran and supply chain consultant based in Chicago. His articles have appeared in The Washington Examiner, Newsweek, Foxnews.com, and The Daily Wire. He has served as a chief procurement officer, chief supply chain officer, and chief operations officer for multiple companies.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.