A former Donald Trump adviser who had been criticized by militant groups for supporting efforts to overthrow the American election is stepping down from Duke Energy’s board of directors.
Dan DiMicco, the former CEO of Nucor Steel who served as a business advisor to Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and publicly supported attempts to challenge the 2020 election result, will step down from the company’s board of directors utility company based in North Carolina in May.
Majority Action shareholder activist group, which critical Mr. DiMicco, was planning to campaign to expel him from the Duke board after the events of January 6, when a crowd of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol.
Mr DiMicco denied being kicked out, insisting he was retiring in accordance with company policy which set an age limit for board members.
“My retirement has been underway since I joined the board. To say something else is wrong, ”Mr. DiMicco told the Financial Times. “No one is running away from anything.”
Mr DiMicco gave a total of more than $ 66,000 to 13 members of Congress who voted to overturn the election results and posted several times on social media sites including Talk and Twitter, questioning the legitimacy of the victory by Democrat Joe Biden.
Majority Action’s campaign against Mr. DiMicco was part of a wave of shareholder actions seeking to hold companies and their executives accountable for supporting those they believe sought to undermine American democracy.
“Duke isn’t the only company to have someone like this on its board,” said Eli Kasargod-Staub, co-founder of Majority Action.
“And I think [companies] are really going to have to face the choice of: is this the kind of person they think should be in a leadership role in their business? . . Or is it finally time that such odious opinions were no longer centered in the conference room? ”
A spokesperson for Duke Energy said he was “shocked and appalled by the reprehensible attack on the Capitol last week,” adding that the company had suspended all federal political donations for 30 days.
“How members of Congress have conducted themselves during this critical time will be an important consideration in future support,” said Duke.
Mr DiMicco said he supported Duke’s statement but his stance on the election had not changed.
“There are a lot of people in this country concerned about the elections and the events that have taken place,” he said. “My clear support is to have a process [to make sure] we had a fair and proper election. And that’s my right as a citizen.
Groups such as Majority Action have tended in the past to focus more on environmental issues. In 2019, the group criticized Mr. DiMicco’s stance on climate change in a statement supporting a shareholder resolution calling on Duke to disclose information about his political donations and lobbying. He led efforts to impeach the ex-CEO of ExxonMobil Lee raymond of the JPMorgan Chase Board of Directors on its alleged denial on the matter.
Social issues are now high on activists’ priorities, said Chris Krueger, chief executive of the Washington research group at investment bank Cowen. “The efforts around January 6 will only increase in the coming days. I think we are at the very start of this round, ”he said.
Like Duke, many companies have moved suspend political donations since the riot at the Capitol.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees the city’s multibillion-dollar pension funds, on Friday called on companies to stop donating to members of Congress who opposed certification the vote of the electoral college.
“Corporate financial contributions to those members of Congress who amplified baseless conspiracy theories of electoral fraud are beyond limit and ultimately resulted in a violent insurgency orchestrated in part by white supremacists, national terrorists and neo-Nazis, ”Stringer said.
Businesses that ignore these warnings risk damaging their reputation, Krueger said.
“If you don’t have these conversations as a board of directors, or as a C-suite, I would say you’re on the verge of not exercising your fiduciary duty to shareholders.”