Civil society plays a critical role in governance where laws and authority are weak. We study how a key strategy of international civil society disseminating information about human rights abuse impacts multinationals. We consider trends at the center of international campaigns: the assassination of activists, and collect 20 years of data related to murders tied to the global mining sector. Using event study methodology, we estimate the impact of the human rights spotlight on the stock price of firms connected to events. We find that the effect of the human rights spotlight is substantial. Firms named in assassination coverage have large, negative abnormal returns following assassinations. Our estimates imply a median loss in market capitalization of 100 million USD. Meanwhile, these events do not impact the social responsibility (ESG) scores of firms. We show that the media plays a crucial role in these effects: the negative impact of assassinations is strongest when they coincide with calm news cycles versus peak news cycles, when news may be crowded out by large, international stories. In addition, we argue our results are driven by events where companies are explicitly named in the reporting. Last, we show that assassinations are positively related to the royalties paid by mining projects to domestic governments.
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Categories: Impacts of Extractive Industries, Kenya