Before the shareholder meeting, WMTS reviewed how some large public pension funds and proxy advisors were voting their shares for the different Board of Director candidates. Well, the results are in, and Directors Christopher Williams, Mike Duke and Rob Walton, yet again tallied high “no” votes. In an effort to shed some light on why large institutional investors voted against various director candidates, WMTS has looked into the reasoning of the two large public pension funds—Wisconsin (SWIB) and California (CalPERS). Both are among the largest public pension funds in the world with CalPERS ranking 6th and SWIB in 30th place, both with assets in the billions.
No one is expecting the election for Walmart directors to be a nail biter. What with the Walton family controlling more than 50 percent of the votes, you’d be foolish to bet against their reelection. However, how the non-Walton shares are voted will be revealing. Will the no-votes this year will be as large as last year when Lee Scott, Chris Williams, Mike Duke, and Rob Walton garnered the most no votes? The early numbers are starting to come in and it doesn’t look good for those four again this year. The NYC Pension Funds announced yesterday that it will vote its 5.1 million shares of Walmart stock against nine of Walmart’s 14 directors. NYC is casting its vote against Messieurs Scott, Williams, Duke, and Walton, as well as voting no on Directors Aida Alvarez, James Cash, Douglas Daft, Steven Reinemund, and Linda Wolf. CalSTRS is voting against all directors standing for election. Add to that the recommendations of two proxy advisers, ISS and Glass Lewis, who are each advising clients to vote against select directors – ISS recommends voting against Duke, Walton and Williams, while Glass Lewis is suggesting no votes against Duke, Williams, Scott, Alvarez, and Cash – and it could be another year of record no votes.
That’s not us speaking, that’s Christian Brother Investment Services (CBIS). According to its website, CBIS invests more than $4 billion for more than 1,000 Catholic institutions worldwide. And CBIS has announced that it will be voting its shares against three Walmart Directors standing for election at this year’s annual meeting. Getting no votes are CEO Mike Duke, Chairman Rob Walton, and Audit Committee Chair Christopher Williams.
In 2011, The New York Times reported on the Board of Directors’ decision to alter one of the criteria Walmart used to assess executive performance and thereby executive compensation. The result? As the Times described it, “Shifting the goal posts meant more money for Mr. Duke in the latest fiscal year than he would have received under the old arrangement.”
So Elton John is playing a concert this week as part of the star-studded Walmart annual festival of extravagance shareholders’ meeting. What brings the Rocket Man to Northwest Arkansas? Other than whatever it is he is getting paid to perform, it might have been the influence of his BFF Michele Burns, an outgoing Walmart director.
Following the revelation of the bribery scandal last spring, several large Walmart shareholders voiced concerns about Walmart’s governance. New York City Comptroller John Liu, a trustee for the NYC Pension Funds, announced the Fund’s decision to vote against re-electing Walmart directors who were implicated in the bribery scandal. He stated: