The Wal-Mart annual meeting on Friday in Fayetteville, Arkansas was received with mixed views from the shareholders. The meeting was specifically scheduled to coincide with its 50th anniversary. The event was celebrated with quite an impression. Business and glamor blended together to make the meeting a very unique event.
Just like in the past, this time also, the store employees of the giant retailer came to attend the event from all across the world. This was the completion of 50 years of Wal-Mart as a public company. The company started from a small store in Bentonville, Arkansas, and how it has become one of the world’s biggest companies. For the celebrations, many celebrities like Lionel Richie, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and Celine Dion were present on the occasion with Celine Dion performing at the end.
The bribery allegations against the company this year made the meeting more special. The issue was addressed by both the chairman and chief executive under a lot of criticism from the shareholders. The allegations started earlier this year after a New York Times investigation which was conducted in April. New York City Comptroller’s Office and California Public Employees Retirement System are noticeable shareholders of the company. Both of them confirmed, they would vote against those senior directors of the company who were present during the alleged bribery involvement of the company in its Mexican divisions.
The company now being run by his son, was founded by Sam Walton. Robson Walton is the chairman of the board and Michael Duke is the current CEO. The Walton family has a controlling interest in the company’s shares. Most shareholders want the management to initiate removal of the directors under the allegation. However, the Walton family has so far shown no signs of removing those directors, who thought to have some connection in the bribery allegation.
Brooke Buchanan is the spokesperson of Wal-Mart. She said that the company is compliant to Frontier Corrupt Practices Act and strives to solidify the anti-corruption programs of the company around the world. It was in March that Wal-Mart initiated its anti-corruption program review. She informed in reply to an email that the Audit Committee of the board is conducting an internal investigation into the matter. Shareholders are against any internal investigation which in their opinion would not bring any concrete results and findings.
The meeting started early morning and continued for four hours at the Bud Walton Arena of the University of Arkansas. All the shareholders and guests listened to the briefing of the chairman silently and with attention. Walton showed the company’s continued commitment to fully comply with the U.S Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and assured that the management will never tolerate any violations of the law.
Meeting results were announced by the chairman just about 20 minutes before its conclusion. The three proposals made by shareholders were all crashed. Two proposals were made by the company management and both were approved. And even after disapproval by a lot of significant shareholders, all the current 16 directors of the company were appointed for the next term. The approximate vote tally will be released on Monday.
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