Sunday, June 26, 2022
Abortion is obviously one of our most divisive political issues. Thus, when corporate leaders make decisions related to abortion laws, such as moving out of a pro-life state (see, e.g., CEO: Duolingo will move operations should Pennsylvania ban abortion), a specter of political bias is arguably raised. One normative question that then arises is whether such a decision is sufficiently conflict-prone to warrant enhanced scrutiny, as I have argued here. There is certainly a shareholder-wealth-maximization case to be made for moving out of a pro-life state -- specifically, the argument that high-value employees demand such action. But this determination should be supported by something more than trending Twitter comments or the personal biases of decision-makers. Corporate fiduciaries are required to consider all material information reasonably available, and where decision-making is sufficiently prone to conflicts of interest the accountability concerns of corporate governance should trump its protection of discretion.
As a perhaps related aside, one may compare the argument against state universities having official positions on whether the Constitution should be read as protecting abortion. As Prof. Leslie Johns noted in an e-mail she sent to the UCLA Chancellor following his related public statement asserting that Dobbs “is antithetical to the University of California's mission and values” (via The Volokh Conspiracy here):
As a faculty member in both the political science department and the Law School, I feel compelled to remind you that Americans (and even Californians) have diverse and complicated viewpoints on the issue of abortion. The legal issues involved in the recent US Supreme Court ruling cannot be simply reduced to a statement about restrictions on "women's reproductive rights."
Abortion is not a simple matter of access to health care. It is a complex moral and political question that involves balancing fundamental rights to life and physical autonomy. By denying this reality, you are asserting a political position. Yet your employment as a public employee explicitly prohibits you from using your office for political purposes. It is both inappropriate and illegal for you (and for me) to use our official capacity to make claims that specific abortion policies or constitutional interpretations are "antithetical to the University of California's mission and values."
Given UCLA's professed commitment to "diversity, equity, and inclusion," I respectfully ask you to carefully consider the implications of declaring that a conservative viewpoint is "antithetical to the University of California's mission and values."