Residence: Piedmont, CA (San Francisco Bay Area)
Refusal to address concerns of Walmart associates
Members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) and their allies have repeatedly reached out to Aida Alvarez for her to listen to their concerns. Ms. Alvarez has repeatedly ignored these requests (see here for a detailed list of efforts by Walmart associates to initiate a dialogue with Ms. Alvarez).
Growing Calls for Ms. Alvarez to End Her Silence at Walmart
Ms. Alvarez has been the subject of growing calls to speak out for change at Walmart. In June, 2013, Lisa Lopez, a Walmart Associate fired by the company after participating in a strike, launched a petition supported by CREDO calling on Ms. Alvarez to end her silence. The petition has more than 50,000 signatures.
Earlier in 2013, OUR Walmart members, their supporters, and a survivor of a factory fire in Bangladesh demonstrated outside the Annual Gala of the Latino Community Foundation. Many in the group had previously purchased tickets for the fundraiser, but days before, the tickets were cancelled without explanation.
In October, 2012, the Chairman of the California Democratic Party and Former President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate, John Burton, wrote an op-ed calling on Ms. Alvarez and her fellow California-based members of the Board of Directors to “take a lesson from the brave Walmart associates who were in Bentonville last week and stand up for what is right, and for a better Walmart.”
Shareholders Voicing Concerns About Ms. Alvarez’s leadership at Walmart
Walmart shareholders have also increasingly expressed concern about Alvarez’s leadership of the company. In 2013, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System voted against all of Walmart’s board members, including Ms. Alvarez. Calpers, the nation’s largest pension fund, voted against her as well, citing “concerns surrounding the Board’s oversight of operational and reputational risk.” The New York City Pension Funds voted against Alvarez too, given her role on the Audit Committee and “for failing to ensure adequate internal compliance controls since 2006.” Excluding the Waltons, 12% of shareholders voted against Alvarez. Ms. Alvarez is no longer a member of the Audit Committee.
In Fiscal Year 2014, Alvarez received $269,404 for serving on Walmart’s Board of Directors.
Ms. Alvarez, born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, was the oldest of six children. She has explained that, when her parents first came to the United States, they both had to work in factories, but both ended up getting Masters’ Degrees and believed very strongly in education.
Alvarez’s first language was Spanish and she recounts that “my parents always wanted me to keep my language and to be proud of it. I actually grew up feeling like I was all the better and richer for having two cultures.”
Alvarez continues: “It’s not easy to be part of a minority group. I was exposed to some degree of discrimination. But my parents looked at our heritage as a very positive thing and they encouraged me to read and speak in Spanish and be proud of my Puerto Rican culture.
Educational and professional background
- Alvarez attended Harvard University where she graduated cum laude. Alvarez studied English literature and initially went into journalism. She also holds honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Iona College, Bethany College in Kansas and the Inter-American University in Puerto Rico.
- After graduating from Harvard, Ms. Alvarez became a journalist.
- Ms. Alvarez was then the Vice President for Public Affairs at the NYC Health and Hospitals Corp.
- Ms. Alvarez was a vice president in public finance at First Boston Corporation and Bear Stearns & Co., Inc. prior to 1993.
In March 1993, President Bill Clinton chose Alvarez to become the first director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO). In this position, Alvarez was the founding director of the agency charged with regulating the nation’s largest housing finance institutions, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
In 1993 Alvarez was appointed by President Clinton to a four-year term as Director of Office of Federal Enterprise Housing Oversight (OFHEO), the agency responsible for regulating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. During this time, securitization, or the pooling and sale of individual loans to investors, became a widespread practice with the Enterprises.
In 1995, during Alvarez’s term at the OFHEO, the Department of Housing and Urban Development agreed to let Fannie and Freddie get affordable-housing credit for buying subprime securities that included loans to low-income borrowers. Some in the administration later admitted this was a mistake.
In 1997, Alvarez was appointed by President Bill Clinton, Administrator of the Small Business Administration, thus becoming the first Hispanic woman and Puerto Rican to serve as an executive officer in the U.S. Cabinet.
During the first year of her tenure as Director of the Small Business Administration (SBA), Alvarez announced that the agency was running out of money and would have to impose emergency limits on 7 (a) program loans. Months later, however, the General Accounting Office discovered SBA had made a budgeting error that overstated the cost of guaranteeing 7(a) program loans by 24%.
The SBA Inspector General found that the OMB and SBA shared responsibility for the error.
The discovery damaged SBA’s credibility, and in response Alvarez announced that the loan restrictions would be lifted and that SBA would implement tighter financial controls.
During the 2004 Presidential Election, Alvarez was named official spokeswoman for Senator John Kerry.
- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.: 2006-Present. Alvarez is on the Compensation, Nominating & Governance committee.
- Progreso Financiero, Director, 2010-Present
- Union BanCal Corp., Director: 2007-June 2014
- Zoosk, Director, 2014-present
Progreso Financiero, Walmart and the Walton Family
Ms. Alvarez’s role on the Progreso Financiero board has an interesting Walmart connection. First, the largest shareholder in Progreso Financiero is Madrone Capital, an investment firm run by the Walton Family. Second, as this article in Bloomberg explains, since Walmart [has] faces regulatory obstacales to entering the financial services sector in the US, “the retailer’s founding family has found another way to get credit to many of its customers — Progress Financial Corp.”
The company targets low-income Latinos, also a key demographic for Walmart and “has made loans with rates ranging from 20 percent to 69.9 percent” in California.
Ms. Alvarez makes regular contributions to Democratic Candidates.
- Chair, Latino Community Foundation
- Board Member, San Francisco Symphony
- Board Member, Teen Success
- Board Member, San Francisco RBI
- Council member, California Competes
Latino Community Foundation
Ms. Alvarez is the Board Chair of the Latino Community Foundation. OUR Walmart members have repeatedly tried to speak with Ms. Alvarez at LCF events. At one such event, in 2012, Ms. Alvarez spoke with OUR Walmart member Eloisa Marquez and committed to meet with her later to discuss her concerns. Despite repeated efforts by Ms. Marquez and others to follow-up to schedule a meeting, Ms. Alvarez has rebuffed that request and all subsequent requests.
 Nexis Public Records Search, conducted 6/28/11