Urban Outfitters Investors Duly Unimpressed With Plan To Diversify All-White/All-Male Board Of Directors By Adding Owner’s All-White Wife


INQUIRER: The state treasurer of Connecticut called Urban Outfitters’ proposal to add CEO Richard Hayne’s wife Margaret Hayne to its all-male board “cynical,” an “insult” and “bogus,” according to a statement by the New York and Connecticut state pension funds, the Catholic Sisters of Mercy’s investment arm, and the Calvert and Portico investment funds, who are pressing the company to add women to its board. “While Margaret Hayne certainly has the qualifications and experience to represent women’s interests, she unfortunately does not satisfy other important governance criteria, namely director independence,” said Calvert president Barbara Krumslek in a statement. A company that mostly sells to women should have more women making decisions, as rivals like Gap and Nordstroms already do, she added. Margaret Hayne, who is the second-largest individual shareholder of Urban Outfitters after her husband, was paid $451,000 last year as president of its Free People stores, the company said in its yearly statement to shareholders. Urban Outfitters said she, like other company-backed director nominees, has shown “personal and professional integrity, good judgment, a high level of ability and business acumen,” but also acknowledged that as the CEO’s wife she is not “independent.” Read Urban Outfitters’14-A shareholder statement here. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: While on the topic of uncomfortable questions, PW raises the other issue that dogs Urban Outfitters: the allegation the company relies on sweatshop labor to manufacture its apparel, generating its massive profit margin on the backs of the Third World poor. Check the labels on most of the clothing hanging in an Urban Outfitters store and you’ll find that many say “MADE IN TURKEY,” “MADE IN INDIA” or “MADE IN SRI LANKA.” Yes, says Hayne, nearly all of Urban Outfitters’ apparel is manufactured in Third World sewing shops–just like nearly all of the clothing sold in this country. If Urban Outfitters relied on domestic union labor, says Hayne, most of his customers could not afford the price he would have to charge to turn a profit. All things being relative, he says, Urban Outfitters does not contract with any sewing shops that are overtly inhumane or exploitive. “Years ago I visited one of the factories we work with in India, and there was 500 people standing in a line three people deep stretching around the building,” he recalls. “I said to the foreman, ‘What’s going on?’ He told me they were all applicants for the four positions they had open. I toured that facility and it was reasonably clean–for India. And it was reasonably well-lit–again, for India. And yes, it was mostly young women working there. But it is my understanding that the only other option those women had to feed their families was selling their bodies. So I don’t want to hear people from the suburbs with their fat American stomachs telling people in other countries how to run their societies.” At this point–about two hours into the interview–Hayne pauses and, with barely contained irritation, says, “I guess I should have asked this before I agreed to this interview–what is your angle?” MORE