Massachusetts Pension Board Votes Against Re-Election of Top Walmart Executives

The Massachusetts state pension board has announced it will vote against the re-election of seven Walmart executives to the company’s board. The pension board cited the executives’ proximity to an alleged bribery scandal in Walmart’s Mexican subsidiary. 

The vote is in response to a scandal that broke in April in which Mexican government officials were allegedly bribed by Walmart executives to obtain building permits for new stores around the country. The Massachusetts pension board has voting power in Walmart board elections because it owns approximately $60 million worth of shares in Walmart.

Massachusetts treasurer and chairman of the pension board Steve Grossman, says he joins other US public pension funds, including funds in California, New York City, and Connecticut, in opposition to the re-election of the Walmart board members. He says it’s important for public pension funds to use their leverage as shareholders to influence the direction of large corporations.

“We think it’s important that public pension funds stand up and say, ‘look, we own corporate America, you don’t own us, and when you behave in ways that are antithetical to our values, we’re going to speak up,’ and we’re not going to hesitate to do that.”

The board members opposed by the pension fund include CEO Michael Duke, former CEO Lee Scott, Jr., and board chairman Robson Walton. Grossman says he does not think their removal will hurt the pension fund’s investments in the long run.

“We’re trying to enhance shareholder value, and we’re trying to motivate companies to behave in an appropriate way, and as I said, business ethics matter enormously to us, and they matter to the people of Massachusetts.”
 
All Walmart shareholders will vote on the re-election of directors in their annual meeting this Friday. A Walmart spokesperson said in a statement that all directors who do not receive a majority vote for reelection will resign.