BAE AGM frustrates activist

IssueJune 2007
News by Andrea Needham

Some years ago, the BAE AGM was an annual free-for-all, with dozens of token shareholders shouting, standing on chairs, trying to stop the meeting and generally causing mayhem.

After a few years it started to feel ritualistic and I began to question the value of such tactics. In more recent years, however, things have got a lot quieter.

This year the focus was the abandoned SFO enquiry into corruption in BAE's deals with Saudi Arabia. Everyone trooped in quietly, sat quietly, asked questions quietly, and -- so I'm told, having left in disgust before the end -- had coffee quietly with the directors afterwards. I sat there fuming, desperate to stand on my chair and shout, but not having the confidence to do it on my own (for which I blame nobody but myself).

This company isn't selling fluffy toys; it's making vast profits out of death (one recent contract is to refit the US army fighting vehicles being used in Iraq). Why are we being polite to these people? Why do we think there's anything to be gained by asking questions which are answered by lies or obfuscation? At least when we were making a scene we were stopping, if only for a very short time, business as usual.
Anyone for some ritual mayhem next year?

Topics: Arms trade