Whole Foods Market conducted their share holder meeting at 8AM on Wednesday morning last week in San Francisco. Including the spokes person, the dozen groggy executives, and press I counted 35 attendees in an extremely small room. It was as if the Whole Foods management and board of directors didn’t want anyone to attend.
Aside from the required proxy material that was sent out to me, the meeting appeared to be relatively surreptitious. I was unusually irritated when I found out there was no technology allowed in the meeting. No laptop, phones, recorders. There was no WebEx or call in number for anyone else to be able to tune in to the meeting. As an Austin Texas based company holding their shareholder meeting in San Francisco, I figured there would at least be a call in number.
As an 11 billion dollar company, I had anticipated CEO John Macky or another member of the executive team to present their opinion on future outlook and calm potential investor concern. The formal portion of the meeting, where the proposals are voted on, lasted only 15 minutes out of 35. The Q&A which followed the formal potion of the meeting has not been made publicly available on Whole Foods website. Suitably, I am taking a Business, Government, Society class where I have been learning a little bit about the duties of the board of directors, shareholder rights, and corporate governance.
By law, stockholders have a right to know about the affairs of the corporations in which they hold ownership shares. Those who attend annual meetings learn about past performance and future goals through speeches made by corporate officers and documents such as the company’s annual report. Those who do not attend meetings must depend primarily on annual reports issued by the company (Lawrence, 325).
The quote from my text book implies that it is standard to have management speak at the meetings, so I was greatly disappointed when the chairman went straight to Q&A.
The Need for a Share Holder Resolution
It is the board’s and management’s duty to act in the share holder’s best interest while balancing the needs of all stakeholders involved. The chair person and spokes person didn’t even make a reasonable effort to answer my question regard the firms conservative leverage. There was a share holder who was rushed to finish his statement (while I do concede it was a bit long winded, his statement lasted no more than four minutes) while there wasn’t anyone else waiting in line.
It seemed like management intentionally made the meeting difficult to get to and unavailable via call in or WebEx as a means to avoid frustrated and inquisitive shareholders. To solve this issue, I would propose a resolution to have technology allowed and a WebEx made available for all shareholders to be able to attend future meetings. Unfortunately, according to the proxy material, I do not qualify to propose such a resolution since I must be able to “furnish evidence of ownership of no less than $2,000 (market value) of shares of Whole Foods Market, Inc. common stock for at leas one year prior to the date the proposal was submitted.”
Lawrence, Anne; Weber, James (2013-01-01). Business and Society: Stakeholders, Ethics, Public Policy, 14th edition (Page 325). Business And Economics. Kindle Edition.
Whole Foods Proxy Statement 2016
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