New Orleans There is no better example of the “theory” of democracy versus the practice that what you find in looking at non-existent voice of shareholders in modern corporations. The biscuit-cookers, as an Arkansas mogul famously called them, who own 30% of the shares of public companies are lucky in most cases to be afterthoughts. All of which is not to say that those of us who often need to leverage big corporations to do the right thing have not done shareholder resolutions dozens of times, sometimes even successfully.
All of which made a piece in the Times catch my eye, particularly when it included a quote from a guy with the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance at Yale (this name is too long, I give up!) who said: “Up until now, it’s been sort of a Soviet system. We have been operating in the United States under the myth that boards have been accountable to shareholders.” Right on there!
Basically, the rally cry was for the small fry to unite some kind of a way and make their votes (they have no real voice) heard.
They touted a new-ish effort called Moxy Vote (www.moxyvote.com). I checked it out, and it’s interesting enough. I’m sure it attracted the reporter’s attention because of its cartoonish (and effective) graphics. The upshot is that they would like to have small shareholders vote together from their website which is connected to a list of recommendations from advocates.
All good, but…
Although I signed up for Moxy Vote, it is hard to feel totally comfortable about it. They are about as transparent and clear about governance as some of the company’s whose feet we are trying to hold to the fire. There’s no “contact us” address so that one can ask what they are doing? There is no “about us” that in fact even tells you who and what is behind Moxy Vote. This is not a corporate sock puppet, but I only say that based on trust that and hope since there is nothing that reveals the names of the staff, board or funders of this operation. If you want to become what they call an “advocate,” in other words someone who gets to put their issues out to the members, there are a number of “buttons” that say “become an advocate” but when you hit them it turns out that first you have to register (ok), and then you cannot become an advocate because it’s by “invitation only,” and there’s no way to find out how to apply or get an invitation.
So, good news that there may be some organizing going on among small shareholders to finally help curb corporate abuses, but the jury is still out on whether or not the ways and means to do so are in place yet.
Here’s hoping that Moxy Vote is one of the good ones.