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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Here's the new battleground for racial justice in corporate America: shareholder meetings currently underway.

Why it matters: Advocates see this year's proxy season as an ultimate test for corporations that made statements against systemic racism in the past year.

  • What's new: There's an unprecedented campaign to get shareholders to support racial audits of businesses. Companies — so far — are staving off the push in a number of high-profile fights.
  • How shareholders vote could push a company to hire an independent party that would comb through its business and determine if and how it perpetuates systemic racism.

Catch up quick: Annual meetings are where shareholders vote on key company decisions — think executive pay or new board members.

  • They are increasingly venues in which shareholders nudge companies on diversity and climate change.

Yes, but: Companies including J&J, Citi and Goldman Sachs recommended shareholders vote against the proposals — noting they are already taking steps on this front.

  • The companies won: A majority of investors voted against proposals requiring racial audits and more disclosures.
  • But a sizeable minority of investors have supported these issues — over a third, in the case of Citi and J&J.

What they're saying: "Your actions, through your proxy votes, will make it clear" whether firms are serious about shifting behavior, more than 100 racial justice leaders said in an open letter to asset managers — massive shareholders whose votes are powerful.

  • "Companies are making statements that they're doing things, but statements don't seem to be enough anymore," says Heidi Welsh, founder of Sustainable Investments Institute.

What to watch: Amazon and JPMorgan face votes on racial audits in coming weeks.

  • BlackRock said it would conduct its own racial equity audit. A shareholder proposal — which has since been withdrawn — called on the company to do so.

Go deeper

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

500 Hong Kong police officers raid pro-democracy newspaper

Chief Operations Officer Chow Tat Kuen (front 2nd R) is escorted by police from the Apple Daily newspaper offices before being put into a waiting vehicle in Hong Kong on Thursday. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong's Apple Daily said 500 police officers searched the pro-democracy newspaper's offices and arrested five senior executives on Thursday.

Why it matters: The arrests of the paper's chief editor, Ryan Law, along with its chief operating officer, two other editors and the CEO of Next Digital, which operates Apple Daily, were made under China's national security law — which gives the government broad power to limit people's political freedom.

World Bank rejects El Salvador's request to help implement bitcoin

President Nayib Bukele, giving a speech in El Salvador's legislative assembly in San Salvado earlier this month, pushed for bitcoin to become legal tender. Photo: Emerson Flores/APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images

The World Bank has rejected the government of El Salvador's request to help the country implement Bitcoin as legal tender, Reuters first reported late Wednesday.

Why it matters: The international lender's rejection could hamper the government's goal of making the digital currency accepted across the country within three months.

Updated 6 hours ago - Science

China launches first astronauts to new space station

The manned Shenzhou-12 spacecraft from China's Manned Space Agency onboard the Long March-2F rocket launches at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, on Thursday morning Beijing time. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China's Shenzhou 12 mission carrying three astronauts launched into orbit on Thursday morning Beijing time.

Why it matters: Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo are set to occupy China's new space station. This will be the country's longest crewed space mission ever and the first in almost five years.

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