ERIC DASH at the New York Times reports in surreal detail on Citigroup’s annual meeting at Carnegie Hall yesterday, which he describes as “a veritable concert of shareholder concerns” that ran for almost three hours.
At one point during the marathon session, patient company chairman Chuck Prince gave out his email address and his office phone number, which the New York Times has dutifully reproduced for every spambot to pluck at will. For the record, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. And his office phone number is 212-793-8854.
Commenting on the grueling session, Mr. Prince tells the Times: “It’s obviously not the most efficient way to have interactions with your shareholders, but it’s important to be open. Even if you wade through a lot of the questions that don’t seem pertinent, you can find things that are pretty interesting. I’d rather people have strong views than people hold things in.”
And then there’s this, the most ironic remark in the wonderfully told story: “It’s a goat rodeo with individual shareholders run amok.”
Who said that, you wonder? Well, none other than shareholder activist Richard Ferlauto, director of pension and benefit policy for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). You know, the same folks who complain about companies not listening to their shareholders.
Got to love it, don’t you? The one coming off as a snob who has little time for grassroots shareholder democracy is the activist, while the company boss looks like he actually respects the process, however inconvenient it might be.
Let’s not forget that this happens only once per year, and that Mr. Prince and his fellow directors are well compensated by shareholders for their time. — by Dominic Jones