In November, shareholders of AT&T and Verizon Communications sent resolutions to the two companies demanding that they publish regular reports on how they share customer information with the government for surveillance efforts.
Now AT&T has issued a response: It’s none of your business.
AT&T on Thursday sent its response to the resolution, written by Thomas P. DiNapoli, the New York’s comptroller who is the trustee of the $160.7 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. The letter, which was sent to Mr. DiNapoli, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other parties, said that the shareholder resolution demanding transparency should be excluded from the ballot for AT&T’s annual shareholder meeting in the spring.
AT&T said in the letter that matters of “ordinary business operations” should not be controlled by shareholders, but by managers and the board, and therefore the proposal should be excluded from the ballot.
Toward the end of the letter, AT&T also noted that if it were to publish transparency reports, the company would be limited to disclosing its responses to law enforcement requests for information like cellphone records; any information related to the government’s foreign intelligence surveillance activities would be classified. It noted that the so-called transparency reports published by technology companies like Yahoo and Google face the same limitations.
In his shareholder resolution, Mr. DiNapoli argued that customer trust was at stake for AT&T. If customers lose trust, they could switch to other services, which would hurt the companies’ profits, he said in the resolution. Mr. DiNapoli is likely to send a response to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“AT&T is trying to prevent the vital issue of customer privacy from coming before its shareholders,” he said in a statement regarding AT&T’s response. “This issue is an important one for customers and shareholders alike and we feel strongly that it should be on AT&T’s ballot this spring.”