Pre-pandemic, I bought one share of stock so I could attend the Honeywell Annual Meeting of Shareholders. My goal was to speak about the Nuclear Ban Treaty and the new legal, economic, and reputational reasons that companies should get out of the nuclear weapons business. Here’s the video of that day: Raising Hell at Honeywell.
Unsurprisingly, there was no instant transformation of Honeywell’s policies, but I hope that at least I might have planted a seed on behalf of our mission at NuclearBan.US. Two other activists from different organizations did similar things at that meeting. It felt scary but fun to stand up in a room full of not-like-minded people. We have no doubt that we’re on the right side of history.
Other organizations have used this tactic for various issues. DontBankOnTheBomb has done it too, combining a shareholder question inside with a demonstration outside. Other than that, I’m not aware of anyone else doing it to move the world toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Since most of the 2021 annual meetings were virtual, it seemed like a great opportunity to attend lots of them. So I held my nose and bought shares in the 13 nuclear weapons companies that are publicly traded and based in the US. I did a lot of homework to find out the dates and times of the annual meetings – it wasn’t always apparent from the mail and email I received as a shareholder. They seem to facilitate voting ahead of time by proxy more than showing up at meetings.
This year, 2021, the virtual, voice-only format didn’t accept shareholders asking questions except in writing. So this is what I wrote:
In January of this year, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force as international law in the first 50 ratifying countries. 85 more countries support the Treaty and may ratify in the near future. Nuclear weapons are a highly profitable but profoundly dangerous and immoral industry. As this product is now illegal under international law, and shareholders are facing legislative risk, will you adapt by converting nuclear weapons scientists and infrastructure to green technologies and other pressing human needs?
As it happened, I was in the middle of a short-notice transcontinental move and I missed five of the meetings. I couldn’t get into three. Two wouldn’t take my question. Three took my question but gave unsatisfactory answers, like:
“Not applicable to [our company]…not the work we’re in today.”
“As long as the government keeps needing this…”
“There are no questions related to the meeting.”
But this was nice: at the Lockheed Martin meeting, I heard Sister Nora Nash, director of the Corporate Social Responsibility office for the Sisters of St Francis of Phildelphia. She was there to present a shareholder resolution, part of which asked LM to take moral responsibility for acknowledging the human rights harms in war. The resolution was rejected, but the point was made. (And for me, a role model was discovered.)
Does this seem like something worth doing? How about Sister Nora’s tactic? This kind of action costs money, but you get it back (theoretically) when you sell the stock. It takes time and energy, but you might get an audience of powerbrokers. It doesn’t require great expertise or skill, just a business suit (or a computer), some temporary funding, and some chutzpah.
I don’t have the answer. There are many other ways to reach the complicit companies and pressure the profiteers (see TreatyAlignment.US for resources). In-person meetings seem to offer more potential than virtual ones, so, post-pandemic, it might be worthwhile to coordinate a team to cover meetings in different geographical locations.
Missed the meeting.
Didn’t take my question.
I asked my question. There was a pause, and they said, “there are no questions related to the meeting.”
“Invalid input parameter” control number.
In-person meeting (during pandemic – no thanks).
Missed deadline 3 days ahead for permission to submit a question (unique problem).
Spoke with Dwayne Blake at investor relations and sent him links to relevant materials.
Missed it, but listened later, and no questions were asked.
Asked question. They said “not applicable to L3 Harris” and “not the work we’re in today.”
Asked question. They said “as long as the government keeps needing this…”
Didn’t take question.
For what it’s worth, this is what I learned from trial and error:
Buy stock by Feb. 1
Search email for “annual meeting” (might be in spam)
Mark your calendar (if the time/date aren’t obvious, go back to the “meeting” email, or call the Investor Relations office)
Open the email
Copy the control number
Go to ProxyVote
Go to Attend Meeting Online, continue to “vote”
Go to Attend a Meeting (top center)
Click meeting web address (url)
“This link will open a page…” continue
Registration will open on [time, date]
Enter meeting ID
Message icon (like a squared-off speech bubble)
Paste your question