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Governance

N.Y. State Common to oppose all board directors at companies without women members

The New York State Common Retirement Fund, Albany, will vote against all corporate boards of directors standing for re-election at companies with no women board members, Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, said Wednesday.

"It is unconscionable that hundreds of publicly held U.S. companies have no women directors," Mr. DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the pension fund, said in a news release. "We're putting all-male boardrooms on notice — diversify your boards to improve your performance."

Mr. DiNapoli also said the $209.1 billion pension fund will cast votes against members of corporate board governance committees for companies with only one female board member.

Matthew Sweeney, a spokesman for Mr. DiNapoli, said in an interview that the comptroller's comments represented "a pre-announcement of how we are going to be voting."

When the pension fund files shareholder resolutions regarding corporate diversity, they cover a broad range of diversity issues, Mr. Sweeney added.

The pension fund holds shares in more than 400 public companies that lack women board members and more than 700 companies that have only one woman board member, the news release said.

Separately, Mr. DiNapoli announced that the pension fund had reached agreements with four companies — Bristol-Myers Squibb, Leucadia National, Packaging Corp. of America and PulteGroup — to withdraw shareholder proposals on board diversity in return for the companies agreeing to formally commit to seeking "highly qualified" women and minority group members for consideration as corporate directors.

In the case of Bristol-Myers Squibb, for example, the pension fund had requested for a commitment to greater board diversity. After the company provided revised corporate governance guidelines, the pension fund withdrew its shareholder resolution in mid-February.

The guidelines include the statement: "The board believes that its membership should continue to reflect a diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and gender identity."