First, I am very proud of New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and would like to congratulate him for standing up and defending the civil rights of over 100 million minorities in America against Brian Roberts and Comcast.
After numerous conversations and meetings with financial institutions, activist investors, politicians, and government regulators, I am highly confident that Comcast’s stock will suffer significant adverse impact on shareholder value because of divestitures, and the company will be broken up.
As I have communicated from the beginning, I remain open and willing to meet with Brian Roberts to resolve this matter immediately – before millions of Americans suffer the loss of our oldest and one of our most important civil rights.
—Byron Allen, Founder/Chairman/CEO of Entertainment Studios
Brian L. Roberts
Chairman and CEO
One Comcast Center
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Dear Mr. Roberts:
I write to encourage you and the Comcast board of directors to reconsider the company’s Supreme Court challenge in Comcast Corporation v. National Association of African American-Owned Media and Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc. Through its pursuit of this case in the Supreme Court, Comcast will have a direct and possibly deleterious impact on the legal standard articulated by the Supreme Court under 42 U.S.C. Section 1981, one of our nation’s oldest federal civil rights laws, and thereby limit access to U.S. courts for victims of discrimination. Moreover, there is significant potential for enduring damage to Comcast’s brand and reputation, as well as its relationships with shareholders, customers, suppliers, and federal, state and local governments, if the company’s name becomes synonymous with a court decision that impedes civil rights.
As Comptroller of the City of New York, I am the investment advisor to, and custodian and trustee of, the New York City Retirement Systems (“NYCRS”), which have more than $200 billion in assets under management and are substantial long-term Comcast shareowners, with over 9 million Class A shares valued at about $423 million dollars as of August 31, 2019. NYCRS has a longstanding history of paving the way for investors seeking to protect long-term shareowner value by challenging discrimination at our portfolio companies. In 1992, the Systems took on workplace discrimination when they filed a shareowner proposal to ban sexual orientation discrimination at Cracker Barrel, which had said it would no longer hire LGBT employees.
At issue in the Comcast case currently before the Supreme Court is whether a plaintiff pursuing a claim of race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 must plead or prove that race was the “but-for” reason for a decision rather than “a motivating factor.” In the aftermath of the Civil War, Congress established broad protections for former slaves. Originally enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 is one of our nation’s most important civil rights laws and guarantees that all persons have an equal right to “make and enforce contracts.” Comcast has taken the position that “but-for” causation is necessary in such cases.
The Comcast case has been characterized by Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as the “most important civil rights case that will be heard by the Supreme Court this term.” The NAACP, has called on Comcast to “cease its attack on Section 1981” and described the case as having the potential to roll back the clock on civil rights. While Comcast has denied that it is seeking to roll back the civil rights laws, and has asserted that it is merely defending against a meritless claim and asking for the Court to apply Section 1981 in this case “the same way it has been interpreted for decades across the country,” that is not how the Comcast position or case has been perceived by a panoply of civil rights groups.
The nation’s leading civil rights organizations have expressed deep concern about the standard that may be set in this case. More than 20 organizations joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s amicus brief, while 10 organizations joined the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.’s amicus brief. Members of the U.S. Senate (including Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal, Kamala Harris and Ron Wyden) and members of the House of Representatives (including Karen Bass, Joyce Beatty, Yvette Clarke, Barbara Lee, Donald Payne, Jr., Ayanna Pressley, Robert “Bobby” Scott, and Bonnie Watson Coleman), many of whom are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, also felt compelled to submit an amicus brief.
As long-term investors, we are concerned that even if—in fact, especially if—Comcast wins the day in the Supreme Court, it loses. We are particularly concerned about the potential for enduring damage to Comcast’s reputation and its very name if it becomes associated with a Supreme Court decision that sets back the civil rights landscape in our country.
We request that Comcast resolve this dispute promptly in the long-term best interest of the corporation and its shareholders so that the Supreme Court need not reach a decision in this case and put at risk the civil rights jurisprudence of our nation.
Scott M. Stringer
New York City Comptroller
cc: Board of Directors
SOURCE Entertainment Studios, Inc.