Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz dodged questions asking him to explain why he is damaging shareholders’ investment in the company by promising to hire thousands of refugees instead of Americans.
Starbucks’ pro-refugee, anti-American policy announced in January is “based on principle” instead of politics, Schultz claimed Wednesday when he was confronted at a shareholders’ March 22 event in Seattle by Justin Danhof, the general counsel at the National Center for Public Policy, a free-market investor activist group.
Schultz will quit his CEO job at Starbucks on April 3, 2017, but will continue in the role as Starbucks’ executive chairman. He is a prominent liberal activist who was once suggested as a vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has been mentioned as someone who is “definitely being pursued” as a Democrat candidate for president in 2020.
The Starbucks event appeared to be a celebration of Schultz’s political ambitions, Danhof said in a subsequent press release:
This shareholder meeting was more of a validation of Howard Schultz’s liberal political agenda than a report to the company’s investors. Large portions were devoted to self-congratulation for promoting social justice than how the company is poised to differentiate its products in an increasingly competitive market. There was time for a musical guest, a stacked ‘open forum’ to praise the Starbucks social justice agenda and Howard Schultz pontificating on his vision of America, but very little time for actual company business and questions from shareholders. This was a rally, not a business meeting.
In January, Schultz directed Starbucks to announces its plan to hire 10,000 “refugees” in the United States and other countries after President Donald Trump issued his popular Executive Order putting a temporary moratorium on travel from a list of seven terror-torn countries.
Millions of Americans have fallen out of the labor force since 2007, so Starbucks’ policy caused a consumer pushback, and Starbucks’ brand name took a major hit among potential customer. Perception levels of the Starbucks brand name fell by an incredible two-thirds since its January announcement, according to a YouGov survey, as reported by Yahoo Finance. The stock value dropped below $54 per share but has since recovered to $55.89.
Danhof attended the Seattle meeting to ask why Schultz was using his CEO power to push a political agenda that hurts investors. “ABC News reports that in 2011, after discovering two al-Qaeda members with links to Iraq operating in Kentucky, ‘the State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months… even for many who had heroically helped U.S. forces as interpreters and intelligence assets,'” Danhoff pointed out. “One Iraqi refugee, who had aided U.S. troops, was assassinated during the Obama-Clinton ban.”
That is when Schultz evaded the question with his claim that his policy “based on principle” instead of politics.
Danhoff pressed the issue asking:
“How much will Starbucks’ investors spend for us to properly vet refugees the federal government admits it can’t afford to vet? And why were you willing to have Starbucks’ reputation take a beating by attacking President Trump’s executive order when you lacked the courage to speak out against the Obama-Clinton travel ban?”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.