Microsoft ‘reforms’ get slim support

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp.’s shareholders on Thursday turned down two shareholder proposals that would have required the company to adopt a tough stance on China’s human rights issues and to report its U.S. political contributions.

Company general counsel Bill Neukom told the shareholders’ annual meeting that both proposals received less than 6 percent of the vote.

Robert Herbold, Microsoft’s chief operating officer who officiated the meeting, said the measures were unnecessary because Microsoft adheres to campaign finance disclosure laws and since 1991 had had a policy of treating international employees as it does those in the United States.

The political contributions proposal was presented by a Boston-based group called Responsible Wealth, which said it represents wealthy business people and philanthropists who want to use their wealth to enact social change.

Responsible Wealth claimed Microsoft spends up to $3.4 million on political contributions. Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said the company itself spent just $1.36 million this year, with the rest coming from employee contributions to Microsoft’s political action committee or direct contributions from employees’ own pockets.

The other proposal, sponsored by Harrington Investments, would require Microsoft to ensure that its activities in China do not promote child labor, union suppression, prison labor or environmental damage. Other companies, such as Reebok and Mattel, have already signed on.

Microsoft does not have any manufacturing plants in China, though it recently opened a 150-person research center there. Microsoft was one of many U.S. companies that lobbied Congress heavily to gain permanent normal trade relations status for China.

Thursday also marked Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s last day on the company board. Allen, who did not attend the shareholders meeting, will continue to consult with the company on technological advances.

Microsoft’s stock was up $1.44, or 2 percent, to close at $70.88 Thursday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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