Last January 2013 the Australian media received a press release that ANZ Bank was pulling $1.2 billion of financing out of Whitehaven Coal Ltd. This news caused extreme panic among Whitehaven stockholders, who sold off their stocks as quickly as possible, fearing the company was on the verge of collapse. This lead to the company’s stockmarket value sliding by around $300 million.
Now, here is the interesting part: the press release was fake.
A young activist, Jonathan Moylan, sent it specifically to inflict financial loss on the major shareholders of the company, to protest against the environmental damage caused by mining.
Now, though the massive damage was quickly corrected, this is still an incredibly valuable lesson about an incredibly powerful tactic.
Obviously, you can not use this type of tactic against a company when your demand is that the company stop its work. This is an unreasonable demand. But if you target share values and disrupt profitability in order to persuade corporate power to support your socioeconomic and political demands, thus giving them a way to prevent disruption to their interests, you can achieve your objective. You are not asking the company to abolish itself, simply to use its influence over policy in a way that reflects the interests of the population.
Yes, using their influence for the public good is not part of the corporate mandate. They must serve the interests of their shareholders. Therefore, you have to make such use of their influence fall within the parameters of that mandate. That is, you have to make it in the interests of their shareholders to use corporate influence for the public good. How? By making it against their shareholders interests to not do so.