When American Outdoor Brands, which owns Smith & Wesson, held its shareholder meeting in late September, officials expected to hear from gun control activist stockholders demanding changes at the legendary gun company.
That group of activists includes a group of nuns from around the country and Canada. Instead of rulers to slap wrists they brought their demands to the Sept. 25 meeting in the form of a resolution.
Spurred by The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, activists earlier this year demanded the same from Sturm, Ruger during its corporate meetings. According to the ICCR, the resolution, filed by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, U.S. – Ontario Province, requested that the board provide a report detailing its efforts to: a) monitor events of gun violence associated with its products, and; b) research safer gun products. An identical resolution filed at Sturm Ruger received 70% shareholder support this spring.
On the tote board that would read: Gun Control Activists 2, Big Gun Companies 0.
When you’re a shareholder of a publicly traded company then you can pretty much demand anything at the annual meeting. The company’s management can listen and not do anything, or they could take some course of action including working with investors to achieve some middle-ground decision.
If they ignore the demands for change, or try to meet them halfway but the outcome is not to the shareholders’ liking, that’s often when CEOs, presidents and other brass are ousted. Such is that of a publicly traded company. Whether that happens with AOB or Sturm, Ruger brass is yet to be seen.
What this Interfaith group presented and then got passed by the shareholder voters is a resolution. It’s not binding. It’s not anything the AOB or Sturm brass actually has to do. It’s like a wish list Junior or Susie puts on paper and formally presents to their parents for Christmas, instead of just saying here and there they want a new 12-gauge over-and-under or a nifty .44 Mag for deer hunting. The parents can’t say they didn’t hear it when it’s handed to them on paper, written out specifically, and Junior or Susie are watching to see their reaction.
However, ignoring the resolution and votes of the shareholders probably would be a big mistake.
Speaking at the meeting after the results of the vote were revealed, American Outdoor Brands CEO James Debney said the vote was “politically motivated” and that he was “disappointed” the shareholders had taken their fight to the annual meeting rather than work through legislatures.
Eleven shareholder groups backed the resolution, as did New York-based BlackRock global investment management corporation. BlackRock owns 2.8 million shares in AOB and along with Vanguard are AOB’s and Sturm, Ruger’s biggest shareholders.
Sister Judy Byron, who presented the proposal on behalf of the shareholder groups, said in a statement after the meeting, “Not only can these solutions help save many lives, they may help AOBC’s long-term business prospects in the process and we are gratified that so many of our fellow shareholders supported our resolution today.”
Others supporting the resolution include the Brady Campaign and American Federation of Teachers.