Mastercard faces pressure to monitor hate group payments at board level

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Mastercard’s board is pushing back against an activist group’s calls to create a board-level human rights committee to track potential transactions involving extremist organizations.

The group, SumOfUs, has pushed a vote at the next Mastercard board meeting, scheduled for June 25. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing details SumOfUs’ allegations, namely that Mastercard has processed payments for far right organizations such as American Border Patrol, League of the South, Proud Boys and Stormfront. SumOfUs attributes its information to a December 2018 download from bloodmoney.org, a site that tracks financial services institutions’ ties to far right organizations.

SumOfUs also references the UN’s guiding principles on human rights and businesses, which say business enterprises may be involved with human rights impacts through their own activities or as a result of business relationships with other parties.

Mastercard referred a request for comment to its statement in the SEC filing, where its board said shareholders should vote against forming a human rights committee. “Mastercard is committed to treating all people fairly and with dignity, and our interest in human rights extends to all areas in which our business is involved and where we have particular expertise," the card network said in its filing. "The Board does not believe that establishing a separate human rights committee is necessary to properly exercise its oversight of this important area.”

Mastercard also said its existing framework reflects its “unwavering commitment to social responsibility and human rights. Our 2018 Sustainability Report details our efforts in human rights as it relates to inclusive growth, an inspired workforce, and our ethical and responsible standards.”

SumOfUs referred questions to a statement it gave to BuzzFeed in which group representative Eoin Dubsky contends "white surpremist groups need financial services from companies like Mastercard."

It’s not unusual for payment companies to face political pressure based on activity from extremist groups. Payment companies, for example, have also gotten heat for years over gun sales.

More recently, Visa, Mastercard, Discover and other companies cut ties with groups linked to the alt-right violence in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017. PayPal has also cut off transactions involving political extremists. Given the decentralized nature of the internet, processors often have a hard time locating these groups and tracking their financing.

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