Monday, August 19, 2002

shareholder activism on the web

Web sites attacking corporate practices have been around almost as long as the web. This news article takes a short detour from its main story, and points to some sites where minority shareholders can use the web to try to gain more power over the direction of a corporation:
Nell Minow, co-founder of The Corporate Library, which focuses on the relationship between shareholders and corporate boards and management, sees the Internet as a way small shareholders can unify.

"There's lots of different kinds of activism other than the traditional filing of shareholder proposals," Minow said. But in the past, she said, "one obstacle to corporate oversight has been shareholders finding and communicating with each other. People certainly are using the Web in very innovative ways (to do that now). And I think you're going to be seeing a lot more of that."
Corporations are fictional legal entities, given certain rights by law. But, behind the fiction, behind the corporations are people, and there isn't always agreement amongst those people on the direction that a corporation follows.

The most publicized bit of recent corporate activism involved the HP and Compaq merger. As Walter Hewlett said:
At the very least, boards must be pried loose from the grip of management and their hired hands. Despite more than 200 years of political practice in the United States, democracy remains an ideology strangely alien to many corporate boardrooms. And too many corporate executives still fail to distinguish dissent from disloyalty...Above all, too many corporate managers too readily forget who owns the company--the shareholders.
Such action isn't always initiated by the heirs of founders of corporations. Environmental group Friends of the Earth have a page on some of the forms that socially oriented shareholder activism can take. Other groups have posted information on the web to help people use their positions as shareholders to effect change in a corporation, including the As You Sow Foundation, the Shareholder Action Network, and The Corporate Library.

The last group has a list of Shareholder Action Campaigns that can give you a good idea of the different types of complaints shareholders have, and the ways in which they are trying to make change happen. And, don't miss, where "If they won't take care of business, we will."

No comments: