Wal-Mart vote tallies show continued opposition to chief

New York Times News ServiceJune 11, 2013 

A breakdown of the Wal-Mart shareholders' vote tallies showed sustained opposition among some outside shareholders to the company's chief executive, Michael T. Duke, and highlighted support for several proposals regarding broader disclosure and changes to the board.

The tallies, released Monday from Friday's annual meeting, will not force any change at Wal-Mart. Because the founding Walton family owns more than half of all shares, it is impossible to make any changes to the board or pass any proposals without their backing.

Still, the results indicate that a significant portion of independent investors are dissatisfied with areas of the company. While its stock price is buoyant, Wal-Mart is in the midst of an investigation into bribery and possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Mexico and other countries, and investors have expressed concerns that the company is not adequately protecting workers

at its Bangladesh factories, among other issues.

Duke received "against" votes of 12.11 percent, a little lower than last year, when he had the highest percentage of votes against a sitting Wal-Mart chief executive since 1995, the first year electronic filings for Wal-Mart were made available at the Securities and Exchange Commission's site.

Christopher J. Williams, the chairman of the audit committee, received an even higher portion of "against" votes, at 12.23 percent. Some investors have criticized Williams because he was on the audit committee, which handles compliance, at the time the Mexico bribery issues were raised and the company declined to take action. He is now chairman of the audit committee handling the inquiry into the company's response to the Mexico bribery issue.

S. Robson Walton, the chairman, also received a significant portion of "against" votes at 10.07 percent, as did the chief executive at the time of the bribery issue, H. Lee Scott Jr., at 8.33 percent.

Several shareholder proposals also received significant support.

A proposal that shareholders who own a cumulative 10 percent of the stock can call a special shareholders' meeting received 17.5 percent of the vote. That proposal was presented by Kalpona Akter, a Bangladeshi labor advocate, who put the proposal in the context of shareholders wanting to react to news events like the recent factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 workers, where Wal-Mart had been producing garments. (It says it was not producing garments there at the time of the collapse.)

A proposal that would require an independent chairman earned 14.4 percent of the vote. With Wal-Mart's board shrinking in size this year, some proxy-advisory firms and investors have voiced concerns that insiders are overrepresented on the board.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service