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Amazon to Undergo Racial Audit, Led by Former AG Lynch (1)

April 18, 2022, 8:11 PM

Amazon.com Inc. said it agreed to undergo an independent racial equity audit, joining companies including Citigroup Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. in performing such reviews.

The audit -- an analysis of companies to see whether their businesses cause and perpetuate discrimination -- will be led by former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, now a partner at law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Amazon said in a proxy statement filed Thursday.

The review will measure any disparate racial impacts on Amazon’s U.S. hourly employees resulting from policies, programs and practices, the world’s largest online retailer said. The Seattle-based company said it will publish the audit’s results once completed.

New York State Common Retirement Fund and its Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, which had pressed Amazon to conduct a racial audit, said they looked forward to learning more about Amazon’s plan for a review. But they said they “remain concerned that the company has provided few details and has made no assurances that the audit will be independent.”

The New York pension fund had filed a shareholder resolution with Amazon in 2021 asking for an audit, citing alleged discrimination of the company’s Black and Latinx workers, their low wages and exposure to dangerous working conditions, including Covid-19, as well as air pollution from distribution facilities located in minority neighborhoods. Amazon had also come under fire for its facial-recognition software.

While the proposal failed, it garnered 44.2% of shareholder support, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, the highest of all racial-audit resolutions that went to vote during last year’s annual shareholder meetings. The New York pension plan filed a similar proposal for Amazon’s May 25 annual meeting.

Amazon is advising shareholders to vote against the resolution because the company is now doing an audit. A company spokesman referred to the proxy statement filed last week.

Amazon joins other companies, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., that have agreed to perform racial audits after initially pushing back against doing them. They had cited their efforts such as funding historically Black colleges and universities, running leadership programs for underrepresented minorities and channeling tens of millions of dollars to help close the racial wealth divide.

Apple Inc. shareholders backed a call last month for the tech giant to undergo a civil-rights audit -- the first time such a resolution passed. Airbnb Inc. was the first company to do a racial audit back in 2016. Starbucks Corp. and Facebook Inc., now called Meta Platforms Inc., followed later.

(Updates with investor comment in the fourth paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Saijel Kishan in New York at skishan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Tim Quinson at tquinson@bloomberg.net

Andrew Pollack

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.