Stockholder Spring: Finally Some Stockholder Justice for Corporate Bad Behavior

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans    Corporate governance and stockholder voting and input are largely boardroom jokes and swallows of hypocritical placebos used to dupe the “biscuit cookers,” what’s left of small investors, and the general public, all of which makes it nice to see some real life examples of sleeping giants stirring to action and delivering some stockholder justice this spring.  Let’s look at some examples to brighten our day.

  • Yesterday we talked about Accretive Health and its totally intrusive debt collection practices for healthcare facilities, led by Catholic nonprofits.  Their “pay first, pain later” plans and cavalier access to patient records was exposed in a front page story in the New York Times.  Today, reading the Wall Street Journal I noticed that their stock fell by 53% yesterday.  Boom!  Half of the “value” of such a company, gone over night!
  • The bribery scandals at Walmart has cost the huge retail company dearly and please note this was already a company where for years analysts and corporate officials have whined about their relatively low stock price.  Since the story was broken (once again in a the Times, so props where props are due!) the company has lost 5% of its share value or more than $5 billion in value.  The Walmart subsidiary listed on the Mexican exchange has lost even more and in that country the apologetic Calderon government finally shifted gears and announced an investigation into the building permits after first trying to simply state it was a problem in the Mexican states.
  • A stockholder resolution denying a pay raise (to $15M!) for Vikram Pandit of Citi and its empire of ghost banks and financial services and products was approved.  It is juicy reading the business news about what Pandit and the Citi board will do with this since it was an advisory resolution.  If they ignore the stockholder vote, especially since it includes huge players, then the fiction of shareholder democracy will be totally shattered.
  • A recent article even explored and seemed to question how former CEO’s that were forced or tossed out of big companies had managed to find soft berths as lucratively paid board members at other publicly owned companies.
  • Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, told of being on corporate boards and no longer being asked to serve on compensation committees setting executive pay, because “…these people aren’t looking for Dobermans; they’re looking for cocker spaniels.”
  • Moxy Vote, which I have talked about before, seems to have become more aggressive judging from its emails, though I’m not sure how effective yet, in joining the push for more shareholder activism through the internet.

This isn’t Occupy Wall Street exactly, but it’s something and worth encouraging as a Shareholder Spring!