October 29, 2020

More Dissent Is Expected Over a Wal-Mart Scandal

And those investors view Friday’s annual shareholders’ meeting as another chance to overhaul the giant retailer. Several groups and investors oppose certain directors, or are asking for disclosure of any disciplinary action or for cuts in compensation for those who may have been involved in the Mexico situation, among other matters.

The moves are largely symbolic — ousting directors or approving shareholder proposals is pretty much impossible, given that the founding Walton family controls more than half of all shares. But the efforts by outside shareholders signal widespread dissatisfaction with how the company has handled the fallout from the Mexico bribery scandal.

“The board should take note of this significant level of shareholder disapproval,” Glass, Lewis Company, a proxy advisory firm, wrote in a report, referring to last year’s historically high votes against board members linked to the Mexico issue.

The New York City pension funds will vote against nine directors over potential involvement in the bribery issues, concerns over independence and what they describe as lax oversight of compliance.

A group of investors, including pension plans from Connecticut and Sweden and the United Automobile Workers medical benefits trust, is sponsoring a shareholder proposal related to an inquiry over Wal-Mart Stores’ potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The proposal asks that Wal-Mart disclose whether the company is holding current and former executives financially responsible for breaching company policies.

Calpers, the nation’s largest public pension fund, which owns about $400 million in Wal-Mart shares, says it continues to be concerned about the Mexico inquiry, and it is troubled by recent Wal-Mart supply-chain issues. It says it will vote against several board members and support several shareholder proposals.

“We’re extremely concerned about Wal-Mart’s monitoring on its supply chain — the fires and deaths in Bangladesh, and other concerns about supply-chain issues in the U.S.,” said Anne Simpson, senior portfolio manager for investments at Calpers.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, a large pension plan, is supporting the autoworkers’ proposal and will also vote against all board members over concerns of independence.

And Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis, the influential proxy advisory firms, are advising clients to vote against certain board members based on the active bribery inquiry and other issues and advocating support of the United Automobile Workers’ proposal.

The board’s failure to reassure shareholders that the alleged violations of the foreign bribery law “will have a limited impact on shareholder value, and that any responsible executives will be appropriately held accountable, calls into question the ability of the company’s leaders to protect shareholders’ investments,” I.S.S. wrote in its report on the company.

The New York Times reported in April of last year that officials at Wal-Mart de Mexico, a subsidiary, had bribed authorities to ease expansion in that country and that executives at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., had been alerted to the bribery and declined to take action. The company is conducting an internal investigation into potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and it is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.

Last year, about one-third of nonfamily-member shareholders voted against four directors — Michael T. Duke, the chief executive; H. Lee Scott, a former chief executive; S. Robson Walton, the chairman; and Christopher Williams, the chairman of the audit committee. Including family member votes, the opposition exceeded 12 percent, the biggest opposition any had faced in years and the biggest vote against a sitting chief executive in recent company history. This year, the board and company are again under fire, as advocates say the company needs to improve transparency surrounding the investigation, among other issues.

Investors “remain in the dark as to the nature and extent of the alleged violations (and knowledge of them within the company); as to the nature of any past or future sanctions for executives with direct responsibility or oversight responsibility; and even as to the timetable for completion of the investigation and disclosure of its results,” I.S.S. wrote in a report.

Citing those concerns, I.S.S. recommended that shareholders vote against the re-election of S. Robson Walton, Mr. Duke and Mr. Williams.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/07/business/more-dissent-is-in-store-over-wal-mart-scandal.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

U.S. Judge Approves Settlement in BP Class Action Suit

The order only addressed the settlement of economic and property damage claims, not a separate medical benefits settlement for cleanup workers and others who say the spill made them sick.

BP has estimated that it will pay $7.8 billion to settle more than 100,000 claims in the class action litigation.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier initially approved the deal in May, but held a “fairness hearing” in November to weigh objections from about 13,000 claimants challenging the settlement to resolve some of BP’s liability for the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

London-based BP’s Macondo well spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of 87 days. The torrent fouled shorelines from Texas to Alabama and eclipsed the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in severity.

Lawyers for some affected parties had objected to the deal, reached in March between BP and lawyers representing plaintiffs ranging from restaurateurs, hoteliers, and oyster men who lost money from the spill. They argued that some claimants would be underpaid or unfairly excluded.

But in a 125-page order approving the settlement, Barbier called the deal “fair, reasonable and adequate,” citing the low number of class members who objected or opted out.

BP welcomed the approval order in a statement, adding that the settlement resolves the majority of economic and property damage claims stemming from the accident.

“Today’s decision by the Court is another important step forward for BP in meeting its commitment to economic and environmental restoration efforts in the Gulf and in eliminating legal risk facing the company,” BP said.

Separate from the class action claims, BP has been locked in a year-long legal battle with the U.S. government and Gulf Coast states to settle billions of dollars in civil and criminal liability from the explosion.

In a settlement with the U.S. government announced last month, BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to felony misconduct. The government also indicted the two highest-ranking BP supervisors aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig during the disaster, charging them with 23 criminal counts including manslaughter.

The class action case is In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 10-2179.

(Reporting by Terry Baynes in New York; Editing by Gary Hill)

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2012/12/21/business/21reuters-bp-spill-settlement.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Economix: What Health Insurance Does Cover, and Doesn’t

As required by last year’s health reform legislation, the Labor Department has put together a report on employer-sponsored health insurance coverage that shows what benefits are typically covered by these plans. The results, in one chart:

DESCRIPTIONSource: Labor Department, “Selected Medical Benefits: A Report from the Department of Labor to the Department of Health and Human Services”

A service is counted as “covered” whether or not 100 percent of the service is paid for by the insurance plan. The report listed a service as “covered” if the health plan documents specifically mentioned coverage of it (as opposed to not mentioning it, or specifically saying that the service was excluded).

As you can see, having private insurance doesn’t guarantee that the life-saving service you need — like kidney dialysis, or an organ transplant — will be covered at all by your plan. And even some services that would be considered relatively basic by many patients, like regular gynecological exams, are excluded.

It’s important to keep this in mind in discussions about giving more Americans access to “health insurance.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=dee77abb6d1ff9ec79f6049790dd746b