Should Companies Be Held Accountable For Investors' Personal Lives?

If the personal life of a Fortune 500 CEO starts making headlines, you can be sure that the investors — and maybe even the general public — won’t be able to extricate the person from the brand. But what about when there is a public outcry against one of that company’s major investors?

Case in point: In 2008, a female college student was found brutally murdered in London. The prime suspect, who fled the UK to his home country of Yemen, is the son of a billionaire with ties to Mercedes and Coca-Cola.

The suspect’s father admits that his son is residing somewhere in Yemen, which has no extradition treaty with the UK, but that he is not financially supporting the young man and has urged him to return to England to face the authorities.

After two years with no results on the diplomatic front, the pressure was then put on the major international businesses connected to the father. Mercedes eventually cut all business ties with the billionaire, but Coca-Cola was not so eager to react.

“We have no ties to the suspect, and the suspect’s father is only indirectly involved in Coca-Cola as an investor in bottling operations,” a rep for the beverage giant said at the time.

On March 1, a Facebook page was started urging a boycott of Coca-Cola over this scandal and within two weeks it not only had over 50,000 members but the company had announced it was severing ties with the murder suspect’s father.

While this protest proved effective in damaging the father’s relationship with Coca-Cola, the son is still not in custody. So it all brings up some questions: How closely connected must someone be to a company to justify calling a boycott? And to what extent, if at all, is a corporation to be held accountable for the actions of its individual investors and their families?

(Some) Justice for Martine [Newsweek]