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After conservatives’ Target boycott, Stephen Miller group sues over losses


A conservative legal group led by a former adviser to President Donald Trump is suing Target over shareholder losses in the wake of boycotts of its Pride Month displays.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by former Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller’s America First Legal, argues that Target misled investors when it said it was monitoring risks related to its diversity, equity and inclusion policies. The retailer’s stock price has fallen almost 20 percent since mid-May, when Target was met with protests, bomb scares, in-store threats from customers and a stock market rout after an uproar over long-held Pride displays.

The investor at the center of America First Legal’s lawsuit is Brian Craig, who is described as a Florida resident who spent around $50,000 for 216.450 shares of Target stock in April 2022. A year later the value of his holdings had fallen to $34,839, and then dropped to $28,896 by June 14 — after the backlash against Target had played out — according to the complaint filed on his behalf.

The lawsuit argues that the retailer’s sudden loss in market capitalization is a “direct and predictable result of management’s calculated decisions to promote sexualized material to children,” referring to family-themed LGBTQ Pride items.

“These false and misleading statements [about Pride Month promotions] caused Target’s shareholders to unknowingly support Target’s Board and management in their misuse of investor funds to serve its divisive political and social goals―and ultimately lose billions,” reads the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Craig’s attorneys may have a hard time proving that Target’s investor losses were actually caused by Pride backlash, experts say.

Target’s stock price was on the decline long before it was sucked into a culture war, and its most recent financial results left investors unnerved by its flat sales and the fact that much of its goods are discretionary, says Neil Saunders, managing director for retail at GlobalData.

“It is extremely hard to quantify exactly what role the Pride Month backlash had on the stock price,” Saunders said. “However, given that there is no data to suggest it had a tangible impact on Target’s sales, it seems highly unlikely that it was the primary cause, or even a major cause, of the decline.”

America First Legal’s lawsuit was filed just weeks after seven Republican attorneys general wrote to Target that it could face legal liability because the Pride campaign and its support of LGBTQ rights groups ran counter to “our States’ economic interests as Target shareholders.”

Emboldened shoppers threaten Target workers over Pride Month items

Right-wing influencers marked Pride Month and Target as culture-war marks as early as May. Matt Walsh, an anti-LGBTQ+ commentator for the right-wing Daily Wire, wrote on Twitter that month that the conservative movement should “make ‘pride’ toxic for brands,” and invoked both Target and Bud Light as candidates for aggressive boycotts.

Although Target has held Pride Month celebrations for years, the displays became increasingly controversial on the far right. Activists have derided the company as a “woke corporation.”

Representatives for Target did not respond to a request for comment.

For America First Legal, the lawsuit represents a new strategy of seizing on investor losses to pressure corporations over political causes.

Miller’s legal group has put forward numerous complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, taking issue with various companies’ racial equity initiatives. The group has written to the EEOC urging investigations into allegedly discriminatory hiring practices at major corporations, including Starbucks, McDonald’s and the investment firm BlackRock.

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Miller has argued that White Americans are the victims of racism and that the United States is “the apex of achievement of Western civilization,” with “a heritage to be jealously guarded.” As part of the Trump White House, he led the administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, including the policy of family separation.

He founded America First Legal in 2021. Other former Trump administration officials were listed as executives at the time of its founding, including former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought.

America First Legal, which bills itself as the conservative movement’s “long-awaited answer to the ACLU,” has dabbled in shareholder issues before. In April, it worked with a few Kroger shareholders to sue the Securities and Exchange Commission in relation to hiring policies at Kroger, which they said failed to protect prospective employees from discrimination based on “viewpoint” or “ideology.”

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Target is one of several companies this year that have been pulled into the country’s culture wars.

Earlier this summer, Anheuser-Busch drew fire online over an advertising partnership with the transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, while retailers such Kohl’s, Nike, North Face, PetSmart and Walmart have also faced criticism for stocking gay and trans-friendly items. Political backlash against Anheuser-Busch preceded Bud Light being overtaken by rival Modelo Especial as the top-selling beer in America.

POST AUTHOR: Aaron Gregg, Jacob Bogage

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