Corporate Leaders Discuss How to Address Georgia’s Voting Laws

The Texas bills were central to a discussion on Saturday afternoon when more than 100 corporate leaders met on Zoom to discuss what, if anything, they should do to shape the debate around voting rights.

Several on the call, which was organized by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale professor who regularly gathers executives to discuss politics, spoke forcefully about the need for companies to use their clout to oppose new state legislation that would make it harder to vote.

Mia Mends, the chief administrative officer at Sodexo, who is Black and based in Houston, called on the other executives to focus their energies in Texas, and said she was doing the same.

“One of the things I’m doing this week is getting on the phone with many of our leaders to say: ‘We need you to take a stand. We need your company to take a stand,’” Ms. Mends said in a later interview. “And that means not just saying we support voting rights, but to talk concretely about what we need, what we’d like to see change in the bill.”

The Zoom meeting began with statements from Ken Chenault, a former American Express chief, and Ken Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, who said they were asking companies to sign a statement opposing restrictive voting laws, according to several people who attended the meeting.

Last month, Mr. Chenault and Mr. Frazier organized 70 fellow Black leaders to sign a letter calling on companies to fight bills that restrict voting rights, like the one that Georgia passed.

Later in the Zoom meeting, Chip Bergh, the chief executive of Levi Strauss & Company, called the bills a threat to democracy, and toward the end, Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn co-founder, discussed the importance of having corporate leaders affirm that the 2020 election was secure. One of the last speakers was James Murdoch, the former chief executive of 21st Century Fox, who talked about the importance of a healthy democracy.