April 28, 2005

What’s Next after the Annual Meeting

I’m excited about my first podcast – and it’s a timely one as Lou Rorimer and Lisa Kunkle explain “What’s Next after the Annual Meeting.” Let me know if you have trouble getting it to play.

For those expecting podcasts captured at the ABA Spring Meeting in Nashville, I confess I didn’t have the nerve to whip out the microphone and start asking questions – still making the conversion from lawyer to journalist after all these years. But now that I got my feet wet, I think I will be podcast-happy. Let me know if you have a topic you want addressed – or want to be interviewed yerself! This one was done over the phone and the audio quality seems fine.

How Not to Conduct An Annual Meeting

Speaking of annual meetings, in this Sunday’s NY Times, this article points out how some companies still don’t quite get “it” about corporate governance in the meeting context. Look at what the article says Weyerhaeuser did:

“At its annual meeting last Thursday, the company’s board and management broke with their longstanding tradition of taking shareholder questions from an open microphone on the floor. Instead, they required that shareholder questions be submitted in writing, either before or during the meeting. And Steven R. Rogel, the company’s chief executive, announced that his directors and managers would devote just 15 minutes to answering the written questions.

It’s a disturbing precedent to abolish the single spontaneous interaction that executives — who, after all, are hired help — have with their owners every year. But Weyerhaeuser went even further, according to an investment manager who attended the meeting, by gaveling down several shareholders who tried to ask questions from the floor. And when management cut short the answer period and a proxy holder stood up to make a point of order and ask why, a beefy security guard removed him from the meeting.”

And in the article, here was the response from Weyerhaeuser:

“Frank Mendizabal, a spokesman for Weyerhaeuser, said: ”What we were trying to do was ensure the meeting was orderly and that as many questions as possible were answered. It’s a business meeting, not a forum for special interest groups.”

He said the company answered 12 of about 30 questions that were submitted and that it planned to communicate its responses to the remaining queries, though he said he did not know how it would do this. He added that Weyerhaeuser had not decided whether it would stick to the written-question format at next year’s meeting, but that more questions were answered this year than in previous years when they came from the floor.”

Anyone surprised that Weyerhaeuser recently made the focus list of CalPERS (and that was even before the annual meeting was held!) of corporate laggards? Apparently the Weyerhaeuser spokesperson was surprised – here is another quote: ”We were certainly surprised and disappointed that Calpers took that action,” he added. ”We pride ourselves on our ethics and corporate governance.” Lots of other gems in the article…

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