Dozens of CEOs and other top executives gathered on Zoom this weekend to chart what several large companies should do next regarding new voting laws underway in Texas and other states.
Kenneth Chenault, former CEO of American Express Co., and Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co., urged executives to collectively call for better access to the vote, according to several people in attendance. MM. Chenault and Frazier have warned companies against dropping the issue and asked CEOs to sign a statement opposing what they see as discriminatory voting legislation, people said.
A statement could arrive early this week, people said, and would build on the one 72 black executives signed last month following changes to Georgia’s election laws. Mr. Chenault told executives on the call that several executives had signaled they were going to sign, including executives from PepsiCo Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc., T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and Hess Corp., between others, depending on the person. PayPal has confirmed to have signed the statement. PepsiCo, T. Rowe Price and Hess did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
As more companies and their executives have spoken out on the issue in recent weeks, their positions have drawn the ire of Republican and Federal lawmakers who say companies despise the issue and should not act as a shadow lawmakers. Meanwhile, progressive activists and others who oppose the laws have said the leadership’s actions are not strong enough. Many CEOs now feel the duty, or pressure, to make their views explicit to employees and others, executive advisers said.
Many companies are reluctant to enter politically charged areas. An executive at a Fortune 100 consumer products company said board members, employees and suppliers are urging executives to speak out, but it could cast an eye on the company.