Morris Shareholders' Meeting, 1995
EXCERPTS from The New York Times, April 28, 1995,
"Philip Morris Annual Meeting Snubs Protests", by Glenn Collins.
At an often combative annual meeting of
the Philip Morris Companies
that was a magnet for anti-tobacco activists who tried to transform the
proceedings into a cigarette circus, stockholders voted overwhelmingly
today to elect management's slate of 14 directors. The victory
a symbolic protest vote that had been spearheaded by some of the
company's large institutional shareholders.
In addition, voters rejected by a wide margin six shareholder proposals
that had been opposed by Philip Morris management.
It was a showcase for a new, publicly
confrontational, Geoffrey C.
Bible, who ran his first annual meeting as the company's chairman and
chief executive. Mr. Bible, keeping the two-hour meeting
control from the podium, not only used the opportunity to try to
reassure investors about legal and regulatory challenges to tobacco,
but also inveighed against "plaintiff lawyers looking for clients, and
for new ways of lining their purses."
The company produces popular cigarette brands, including Marlboro and
Virginia Slims, as well as food and beverage brands including Miller
beer, Maxwell House coffee and Post cereal.
An optimistic presentation by Mr. Bible was met with often hostile
questions at the meeting, involving inquiries about the potential of
risk for tobacco investors. Such concerns have spurred a battle with
the pension funds, and are likely to keep doing so.
"We are going to keep close tabs on how the directors will be acting
next year," said Anne Hansen, deputy director of the Council of
Institutional Investors, a group of 100 pension funds whose assets
exceed $800 billion. She called it "gratifying" that nearly a quarter
of the shareholders voting had supported a resolution to scrutinize the
pensions paid for outside directors.
The council's largest member is the California Public Employees'
Retirement System, or Calpers, the nation's biggest public pension fund
and the largest institutional shareholder of Philip Morris among the
public funds, with $365 million worth of stock.
Its deputy executive director, Richard H. Koppes, led the movement to
reject the company's slate of directors as a symbolic protest against
Philip Morris's refusal to schedule a meeting between outside directors
and institutional shareholders.
But the company's choices for the 14-member board were resoundingly
approved by 96 percent of the shareholders voting. "Our purpose was to
send a message," Mr. Koppes said in a telephone interview, "and I hope
The tobacco opponents also made much of an impromptu remark by Mr.
Bible that "it would be sensible for pregnant women not to smoke."
He made the comment in response to a question from Dr. Lori D. Karan,
an assistant professor at the Medical College of Virginia, who asked,
"If your wife or daughter was pregnant, would you want her to smoke?"
It was "the first time a tobacco company chief executive has admitted
that there is a health problem with one group of smokers," said one of
those at the meeting, the Rev. Michael Crosby, coordinator for the
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in Manhattan. "He's
opened the door to a Pandora's box of more and more litigation."
Company spokesmen played down Mr. Bible's statement, saying tobacco
manufacturers had long said that pregnant women concerned about smoking
should consult their doctors.
"For years there has been a warning on cigarette packs that smoking
'may complicate pregnancy,' " said Steven C. Parrish, who was named by
the board today as Philip Morris's head of corporate affairs.
News of the statement may have concerned Wall Street, as shares of
Philip Morris edged down 12.5 cents to close at $67.625 on the New York
The annual meeting was held in a friendly hometown auditorium equipped
with soft maroon seats fitted with chrome ashtrays for the numerous
smoker-stockholders in the audience. ...
Added 9 April 2011