Corporate Impunity, Shareholder Farce

062314-nabors-industries-ignores-shareholder-votes-cartoonNew Orleans   I love these big, fat whoopers that the big corporate whoops stand and piously tell about working for their little shareholders, pensioners, and old ladies in Des Moines, especially because it is crystal clear that if they don’t treat these publicly owned companies as private preserves, they are only accountable to the big hedge funds and institutional investors. This is the season when they start rolling out their annual reports on performance over the last fiscal year and pretending that there is some kind of shareholder “democracy.” What a hoot!

It’s the season when shareholders get to try to vote and be heard. An interesting article the other day went through the list of some of big companies where CEOs and directors routinely ignore the votes of the stockholders. Not surprisingly Oracle, the computer and software company, was listed as a prime example where its CEO and big shareholder, Larry Ellison, always among the ten richest billionaires in the world, and often a leading figure on any lists of overpaid executives, is the big dog. Shareholders there have voted multiple times against the compensation program and the inflated pay packages, but their votes are ignored so the good times can roll.

The myth is more important than the reality when Wall Street pretends they are accountable to shareholders. It’s another example of democratic farce before tragedy. Meanwhile conservatives wonder why “little” shareholders have left the market. In some ways the answer is simple: casinos have now created more gambling options closer to home than Wall Street.

Not that they really care.

Simple things like a company’s annual reports, a rare piece of business journalism requiring special skills for the initiated to plow through the numbers hidden in the marketing and promotion, is no longer required to be sent to individual holders. Instead they get a notice that tells them that the report is done and the annual meeting is coming, but if they really, really want a copy, they can go on a website and see if they can request one, and just maybe it will be sent along. I bet we can almost count on one hand the number of people who will go to the trouble. Meanwhile, they want the shareholder to vote for their slate of directors and follow the directors’ instructions on other ballot issues.

Actually Vegas probably does a better job at regulating gambling than the SEC does. In Vegas it’s important for the punter to believe that there is a fair deal and that the game is not fixed by the house. With computer trading, Wall Street machinations, and kid glove regulation by the SEC, no one will ever pretend that Mom and Pop little shareholders with a couple of shares of stock where they used to work isn’t playing in a rigged game that always favors the big houses.

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The Wall Street Journal Thinks Hillary is Too Close to Wall Street!

Wall-Street--Lower-Manhattan-53049New Orleans   Did the sun just rise in the west? Is down up and up now down? Did hell just freeze over? What’s up with the world?

Why do I wonder?

Simply put when the rightwing editorial page of the Rupert Murdock owned Wall Street Journal makes the case that Hillary Clinton is too close to Wall Street something is definitely topsy-turvy in the world as we know it. This is a classic case of the exception proving the rule. Normally, the editorial page of the Journal is the national equivalent of the society page in your local daily paper: a must miss feature! They run a hater nation page there with a heavy-handed Republican bias, and if their editorials are just snide and snippy, instead of hurtful and malicious, it counts as a good day.

All this is very worrisome, because if the Wall Street Journal thinks that Hillary Clinton is too close to Wall Street, where they butter their bread, then what are the rest of us to think? One can try to pry facts off of someone’s shoes, but it’s hard to get something that seems like gospel out of your head.

The Journal used the recent New Hampshire debate before the upcoming primary as the platform for their question about the $675,000 Mrs. Clinton had received from the financial giant Goldman Sachs.

“Host (CNN) Anderson Cooper asked her whether she really had to be paid $675,000 for giving three speeches. ‘Well, I don’t know. That’s what they offered,’ said Mrs. Clinton – to much audience laughter. She then tried the argument that every Secretary of State does it, and then settled on the unbelievable claim that at the time she took the money she didn’t know she would be running for President again. Mr. Cooper was so startled he asked her to repeat the point.”

Ouch! The Journal then piles on by following that very expensive blow with some cheaper shots, claiming that Clinton’s deal reflected the working détente between Democrats and Wall Street where the big Demo-dogs take their money, then mega-mouth attacks on them in public, while letting them get away with, well, everything let’s hope, but murder, in private. The Journal wants to believe that has to do with Wall Street trying to muscle out competition from elsewhere, but the rest of us worry, especially in light of the riches and ruin of recent years, that it is really about having them march in the constant favor parade whose big and small floats pave the way to even more of their riches at the expense of the rest of us.

The kicker comes at the end as they wrote,

“When asked on CNN if she regretted her income windfall from Goldman, Mrs. Clinton replied, ‘No, I don’t, because, you know, I don’t feel that I paid any price for it and I am very clear about what I will do and they’re on notice.’ Mrs. Clinton is the one on notice that there is a political price to be paid for it…And because everyone knows why Goldman paid her $675,000.”

This isn’t a shouting match about emails that amount to making a mountain out of a molehill, but something a lot more serious, and these answers really aren’t enough to make any of us comfortable, even the Wall Street Journal.

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