Icahn calls out Wall Street ‘hypocrisy’ in use of ESG for profit in latest letter to McDonald’s shareholders

Carl Icahn continued his proxy fight with McDonald’s Corp. on Thursday in his latest effort to press the fast-food giant to make good on its promise to source pork from suppliers that don’t use gestation crates. “[A] large number of Wall Street firms and their bankers and lawyers appear to be capitalizing on ESG to drive profits without doing nearly enough to support tangible societal progress,” Icahn wrote in a letter to fellow McDonald’s shareholders. “These players seem to be engaged in a cover-up to downplay their ESG-related economic incentives and promote their purported social impact. Clearly, the ESG status quo on Wall Street needs to change.” Icahn launched a proxy fight against McDonald’s earlier this year, nominating two board members and saying that he understood the 2012 pledge to improve pig welfare meant the end of gestation crates all together, not changes in their use. Icahn calls out the cruelty of this farming practice and the significance of issues like animal welfare. “A company’s reluctance to improve policies and verification methods represents a serious risk to a business, its bottom line and the world around us,” the letter says. “Even McDonald’s, which is not prioritizing animal welfare enough, includes it as a risk factor in the Company’s 10-K.” Icahn calls the failure to act evidence of board member non-performance and suggests the company should spend the $16 million it’s investing to fight him on helping pigs. “It might seem like a small contribution toward the investment that will be required to achieve the kind of change that is needed in McDonald’s’ supply chain, but it would have been better — far better — than spending that money in defense of the directors at McDonald’s who have failed in this area,” he said. McDonald’s stock is down 4.6% for the year to date, and up 10.2% over the last 12 months.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.