The Power of You – AARP Bulletin November 2007
This month’s AARP Bulletin ran an article about shareholder activism and the power of individuals and groups, such as the Association of BellTel Retirees, in shaping corporate governance and curbing executive pay.
Much of the article is right on target while some is a bit of a stretch.
The reporter, Carole Fleck, correctly points out that some of the technological advances such as, Internet blogs, group web sites, YouTube and podcasts make it easier for individual activists to have a much bigger platform. However, in order to win a majority vote at a Fortune 100 company, it takes more than that.
The Association engages two attorneys to guide us through the process. We visit with the major funds and proxy voting services and contact every pension fund that holds Verizon shares. Further, we write to our 100,000 members and another 30,000 of the largest shareholders. We seek the cooperation of unions and other retiree groups whose members may own shares. All of that takes money that we must raise from our membership who we educate on the value of voting for our proposals.
Featured in the article are three examples of successful activists. The first is C. William Jones, president and executive director of the Association of BellTel Retirees. The reporter documents a number of successful proxy proposals, sponsored by this 100,000-member retiree association. These proposal wins have made significant headway in controlling executive compensation and shaping corporate governance. The group also was responsible for three adjustments in some retiree’s pensions as well as a large lump sum payment in 2000.
Also featured in the article are Kevin Mahar, President of a local union in Boston who represents GE employees, who also had success while taking on GE and James McRitchie who lead a “call to action’ at Yahoo.
The conclusion of this article is correct that an individual, with a good argument to make can build a coalition using current technology and can have an effect on how corporations act and govern themselves. But Jones adds, “you better be ready to spend some money.”
To view the entire article, go to:
C. William Jones
President & Executive Director
Association of BellTel Retirees Inc.