In spring 2022, the Humane Society of the United States announced it was teaming up with billionaire Carl Icahn to target McDonald’s and Kroger with proxy campaigns. HSUS accused McDonald’s of failing to implement a 2012 pledge on pork products. McDonald’s denied this. (For more background, see Issue Brief: Sow Housing)
McDonald’s aggressively fought back against the proxy campaign. McDonald’s called the proposal unfeasible and prohibitively expensive. Only about 1% of the U.S. pork supply could meet the stringent requirements demanded by HSUS.
Additionally, McDonald’s noted hypocrisy by Icahn, who was the majority owner of pork packaging and supply company Viskase: “it’s noteworthy that Mr. Icahn has not publicly called on Viskase to adopt commitments similar to those of McDonald’s 2012 commitment.”
The proxy advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis sided with McDonald’s. “The Dissident (Icahn) has failed to make a sufficiently compelling case to warrant the boardroom changes it is seeking here,” Glass Lewis wrote.
At McDonald’s shareholder meeting in May 2022, the activist slate run by HSUS and Icahn only received about 1% of the vote. Following the humiliating defeat, HSUS/Icahn quietly dropped a similar campaign against Kroger.