Time for more company capers

IssueMay 2006
News by Albert Beale

It's spring - and a young activist's thoughts naturally turn towards... company AGMs. Yes, it's that time of year again, when most of the major corporations hold their shareholders' meetings, and when the most probing questions at these events always seem to come from the smallest shareholders.

Rio Tinto

This year's Rio Tinto AGM, at the high-security Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster on 12 April, saw a group of nominal shareholders challenging the company about its mining and exploration activities from Britain to Australia and from Namibia to Indonesia - activities which leave disease, desecration and displaced communities in their wake.

The British-based Rio Tinto (formerly RTZ) is the world's largest - and most notorious - multinational mining corporation. It is also the longest-running target of a dissident shareholder campaign, with shareholders coordinated by Partizans at every one of the AGMs since the 1970s. Contact: Partizans, 41A Thornhill Sq, London N1 (partizans@gn.apc.org; http://www.minesand communities.org).

Reed Elsevier

Spearhead, the company organising the biennial DSEi arms bazaars in London - Europe's biggest arms fairs - is a subsidiary of Reed Elsevier, better known as a major publisher of prestigious scientific journals and of law books and websites. Because of the arms link, Reed's AGM was targeted by a handful of single shareholders for the first time last year. Then, the directors disputed that the issue was controversial.

But when the activists went back to this year's meeting, at a posh Mayfair hotel on 18 April, the company board had to wriggle somewhat to maintain their innocent air. After all, as the shareholders pointed out, the editor of The Lancet, one of the most famous publications in their portfolio, had denounced his own owners over the issue, and a collection of bigname authors had condemned the weapons link at the time of the recent London Book Fair - which is also a Reed event. Contact: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 11 Goodwin St, London N4 (020-7281 0297; enquiries@caat.org.uk; http://www.caat.org.uk/armsfairs).


Members of the provisionally musical theatre wing of climate justice group London Rising Tide (LRT) went to the BP AGM on 20 April to communicate to shareholders their warm feelings about BP in song.

Despite the combined efforts of the British Transport Police and the venue's security, many of the shareholders arriving at the Excel Centre in London's docklands were greeted with at least part of the specially composed song, The Two Faces of BP, and with leaflets. Contact: London Rising Tide, c/o 62 Fieldgate St, London E1 (london@risingtide.org.uk; http://www.londonrisingtide.org.uk)

Still to come...

Britain's biggest arms company, BAE Systems, holds its AGM at the popular Queen Elizabeth II centre in Westminster on Thursday 4 May. Contact CAAT (see above) for news of actions inside and outside the event. And Serco - profiting from Britain's own WMD programme, not to mention from various PFI projects and privatisations - meets its public at the same venue on Friday 5 May. Contact: Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp(aign), c/o 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX (07969 739 812; info@aldermaston.net; http://www.aldermaston.net).

Topics: Corporations