New Orleans Walmart annual board meetings are legendary dog-and-pony shows with literally thousands traipsing to Bentonville for a Roman circus of entertainment and company spectacle. This meeting next month may have a sharper edge that not even a packed room of handpicked “associates” can stifle. It will be impossible for the board to ignore shareholders questions about how they could have not known about the corporate corruption and bribery, involving $24 million in Mexico and known and covered up by all of the top executives.
Someone else besides me is upset that Walmart was hiding its hands behind rock in 2005 when many of us were organizing aggressively in an attempt to win real corporate accountability from the company on community and labor standards. John Liu, New York City controller and sometime candidate for mayor, was involved in pushing for an outside investigation of Walmart’s labor standards in China and other source countries through a shareholder resolution then, which was pushed aside despite a direct meeting with the board. Now, the New York City pension funds have pledged 4.7 million votes according to a story by Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times to unseat the Walmart directors facing re-election.
Too bad for Walmart that too many of us that were straight armed with constant denials and obfuscation then are still around and asking the same questions and now knowing that the answers are different than the board and top executives claimed at the time. New York City funds may be out in front but from Morgenson’s reporting it seems clear that Illinois Retirement funds and F&C Management, which she describes as a $150 billion asset manager, are also on the record still smarting from the slap down in 2005 and laying in the gap in 2012 still looking for satisfaction.
Shareholder “democracy” is largely a joke, but my bet is that win, lose, or draw, opposition to the board will be broad and significant and this time, if these folks survive the test, they will only do so by finally giving the right answers, which will mean giving in and establishing real and objective external accountability measures for a corporate culture now proven corrupt to the core.
Side bet: when are we going to start looking at how they greased palms in India? How about now!