I own stock in GENERAL ELECTRIC. Or at least I have a broker who has arranged for this. But it's all abstract. Like the stock itself. It's in my IRA - I think. My IRA is something I wont be touching for at least 20 years, probably more. And who knows if I will even own part of GENERAL ELECTRIC by then. And I buy GE lightbulbs and appliances and occasionally watch GE programs, since they own 80% of NBC. I watch so little TV nowadays that all I remember is that they air SNL which I did watch when I had nothing better to do on a SN. So I get to call it GE, since we're on such good terms. In 2006, GE made $163 billion making them the largest media company regardless of how much media they actually own.
I've been meaning to do this for a while. Write about my proxy statement, that is. I get them emailed to me occasionally, and sometimes they contain gibberish and sometimes they reflect the times. Sometimes they contain virtually nothing.
GE has a reputation for being evil, so their proxy contains good blog fodder. The complete proxy statement is below. It's a form, so you just check some boxes and if you own 300 shares and there are (really) about 10 billion shares outstanding, then I get 3.0 × 10-10 of the votes which is a very small say in things of such import.
So let's take a quick look at the proxy statement below.
First off you get to vote for the board of directors. These are the people who are supposed to oversee that things are on the up-and-up. Many of them have names straight out of Harry Potter, like ANN M. FUDGE and JAMES I. CASH, JR. Some of them are famous powerful people who have long ago sold their souls and got quite a bargain in the process, like Senator SAM NUNN who on this ballot doesn't use his title. He gives the company an air of legitimacy as if the company that invented the monthly electric bill would even need that. But mostly, Nunn gives the company access. Also, many of these board members on on the boards of other companies as is true for those companies in turn. It is a nice perk for these guys who get to meet a few times a year and reap huge benefits. The meetings and the benefits are a matter of public record for the public companies.
GE is the target of many many shareholder initiatives. Some involve accountability, some involve the fact that this huge company which makes weapons and owns Chris Matthews. In the ballot below you see that the Board doesn't want to make annual reports on their share of Global Warming and doesn't want any more accountability than they are legally required. You have to read another document to find the details, but you get the idea. And who would blame them. Corporations need to make profit for shareholders or not exist. It's their prime directive.
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY Annual Meeting
Vote Your Shares
Meeting Date: 04/23/2008 for holders as of 02/25/2008
Your Control Number: 31xxxxxxxxxxxx
If you plan to attend the meeting Click here.
As your vote is very important, we recommend that all voting instructions be received at least one business day prior to the voting cut-off time stated in the information circular. Scroll down for proxy instructions and voting.
To vote via telephone call 1-800-603-2119
Choose this only if you plan to attend and vote your shares at the meeting.
IMPORTANT: By choosing this option, we are precluded from voting your shares on your behalf. A Legal Proxy covering your securities will be issued to you. Your Legal Proxy must be presented at the meeting for your shares to be represented. Do not make any other marks on this ballot.
DO NOT use this option if you hold shares directly with the issuer, rather than through a bank or broker.