U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson dismissed a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals seeking a court order to force Merck & Co. Inc. to include a resolution from the animal rights group in materials for the pharmaceutical company’s annual shareholder meeting.
Following a motions hearing this morning, Jackson granted Merck summary judgment and dismissed the case in an order from the bench. Since the shareholder meeting in question already took place in May, Merck had argued that the court lacked authority to order Merck to hold a special meeting for the purpose of presenting PETA’s resolution, among other things.
The animal rights group holds 101 shares of Merck. The group accused Merck of wrongfully denying its request to include a resolution in proxy materials that called on Merck to disclose use of animal testing in in-house and contracted research.
Leveraging stock ownership to pursue advocacy goals, known as shareholder activism or advocacy, is nothing new for PETA. Corporations have often resisted the group’s attempts to use its shareholder status, but this case was the first time the group took one of those corporations to court, according to in-house attorney Susan Hall.
Hall said this afternoon PETA is weighing appellate options. She noted that Jackson said during the hearing that a more appropriate remedy would have been to seek a preliminary injunction first, a strategy Hall said the group plans to employ if they bring similar suits in the future.
“We were very disappointed, we do think she ruled incorrectly,” Hall said.
Merck was represented by Covington & Burling’s Anthony Herman, David Martin Jr., and Thomas Hogan. None could immediately be reached. A Merck spokesperson also could not immediately be reached.