How did Walmart’s leaders respond to the myriad employees, investors, and proxy advisors urging the company to strengthen corporate governance standards by establishing an independent board chairman? Why, by entrenching Walton control of the company, of course, appointing director Greg Penner as the board’s vice chair and setting him up to succeed his father-in-law Rob Walton as chairman of the company.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Tucked away in Walmart’s recent proxy statement, under the heading “Recent Governance Enhancements – Shareholder Rights,” is this fun tidbit: “Shareholders holding 10% or more of the company’s common stock may request special shareholders’ meetings.”
For the second year in a row, Walmart shareholders will consider a resolution calling for the establishment of an independent chairman for the company’s board of directors. While investors have long expressed concern about the company’s failures in corporate governance and internal controls, that concern became more acute starting in 2012 after the New York Times published Pulitzer-winning expose detailing an (alleged) systematic campaign of bribery at Walmex, plus an executive-led campaign to cover it up.
Wednesday’s proxy statement contained the interesting (though not entirely unexpected) news that Christopher Williams will not be seeking re-election to Walmart’s Board of Directors. According to Walmart, Williams is stepping down after 10 years on the board in accordance with the company’s guidelines on the tenure of outside directors. Whether that’s the whole story behind Williams’s departure or not, we don’t know, but regardless of the reason for Williams’s departure, we can think of two groups that are probably happy to see him go:
Last Tuesday, Walmart brought Wall Street analysts down to Arkansas to get them up bright and early and show them PowerPoint presentations for hours (aka the “20th Annual Meeting for the Investment Community.”) Our invitation must have been lost in the mail, but we’ve sifted through the transcripts, news reports, and PR spin, and have some takeaways of our own. Here’s the first set:
Pension-related news this morning:
In this post, we raise questions about Marissa Mayer’s contribution as a Walmart director. Specifically, given the enormous challenges she faces at Yahoo, does Mayer have the time and focus to help Walmart implement a winning eCommerce strategy? And could Mayer’s aggressive recruitment of top Silicon Valley engineers conflict with Walmart’s own effort to hire the best and brightest for its Bay Area technology shop, known as @WalmartLabs?