Mastercard has shot down appeals for the company to create a board-level human rights committee that would monitor and block the transactions of terrorists, extremists and hate groups.
The finance company’s annual general meeting was partially hijacked today by the consumer group SumOfUs, which filed a shareholder resolution proposing Mastercard create a standing committee that would oversee Mastercard’s “responses to domestic and international developments in human rights that affect Mastercard’s business”.
This would mean a board-level group would hold the power to prevent groups and individuals supporting causes such as white supremacy and anti-Semitism from wiring eachother money.
SumOfUs has accused the company of processing payments for far-right organizations such as American Border Patrol, League of the South, Proud Boys and Stormfront, citing the website Bloodmoney.
Nandini Jammi, a representative from SumOfUs, took to the AGM floor today (25 June) to accuse the company and its financial partners such as Square and PayPal of doing “business with criminals”.
“The white nationalist movement has gone global and it's time for you investigate who has been let into the Mastercard network,” she said. “You need to ask now to take back control of your financial network.”
However, Mastercard recommended stockholders vote against the proposal, which subsequently failed to pass.
In response to a follow-up question from Jammi, Mastercard chairman Rick Haythornthwaite said he believed the work of the proposed human rights group is already being carried out “in the board room and in the nominations of corporate governance committee”.
“There are many views out there and so we have to sit down as a company and ask ourselves, first of all, is there any illegal activity taking place, is there an unlawful transaction? And if there is, we turn it down, we talk to law enforcement agencies, we talk to acquiring banks and shut it down,” he said.
“If it is lawful, then we need to respect that transaction. If it is something that is sort of against the tide of society, it’s the society to rise up and change the law.”
Haythornthwaite failed to address Jammi’s accusations that neo-Nazis were using its services in Germany, a place where association with the ideology is illegal.
However, he committed to reviewing the company’s charter and “amending the wording” if he did not find it explicitly revealed the importance of human rights to the company.
Eoin Dubsky, campaign manager at SumOfUs, said: “We welcome Mastercard’s commitment to embedding human rights in its ways of doing business. But talk is cheap, so we’re waiting to see if these words lead to action. We know that the company currently accepts credit card payments to dangerous hate groups and extremists, proving that its existing set-up isn’t fit for purpose.”
“Thousands of SumOfUs members have spent months calling on Mastercard to up its game on human rights by taking far-right extremism seriously. Today’s news is a promising first step. We will hold the company to its commitment, and hope its leadership drives radical change across the industry.”
The group also drove a billboard around Mastercard’s headquarters in Purchase, New York, satirizing the brand’s ‘Priceless’ tagline created by McCann.