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Oracle’s Pay Bias Suit Sparks NYC Call for SEC Investigation (1)

Feb. 8, 2019, 8:14 PMUpdated: Feb. 8, 2019, 10:11 PM

The overseer of New York City’s pension funds is urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Oracle Corp. misled investors about alleged pay bias across its workforce.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, in a Feb. 7 letter obtained by Bloomberg Law, called for the investigation into what he says are “dramatically” contrasting stories about Oracle’s pay practices. The Labor Department has alleged in an ongoing lawsuit that the software maker systematically shorted women and minorities $400 million in wages.

Oracle’s board painted a different pay picture when it recently tried to quash a shareholder proposal seeking disclosures on any gender-based pay gaps at the company, Stringer wrote. The board told investors to vote against the proposal at its most recent annual meeting, citing Oracle’s commitment to avoiding gender pay gaps.

Stringer called the board’s statement “a model of self-promotion, avoidance, and evasion.” New York City’s pension funds, which hold about 6 million Oracle shares, supported the pay gap proposal.

The SEC didn’t immediately return a request for comment. Oracle and the Labor Department, which filed the hiring and pay discrimination lawsuit in January 2017, declined to comment.

Oracle tried to dismiss the case, but the request was denied Jan. 16. The company is also being sued by former employees, who allege pay discrimination among female engineers at Oracle’s Redwood City, Calif. headquarters.

“Like a lot of other Silicon Valley companies, investors are increasingly concerned about Oracle’s gender record,” said Julie Gorte, senior vice president for sustainable investing at Pax World Funds. Pax, a mutual fund, submitted the shareholder proposal on gender pay gaps at Oracle.

Nearly 40 percent of voting shares backed the proposal at Oracle’s Nov. 14 meeting.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bloomberglaw.com; Paige Smith at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Roger Yu at ryu@bloomberglaw.com; Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com