According to a joint press release by two Quebec-based groups, Regroupement pour la responsabilité sociale des entreprises (RRSE) and Bâtirente, “there were no fixed microphones at the meeting where shareholders could line up to ask questions [and] the meeting’s chair decided unilaterally to terminate the meeting at 12 noon, denying several shareholders their right to ask questions”.
Companies that have attempted to ignore shareholders often succeed only in generating the perception that the company’s board and management are overbearing, unfair and undemocratic. Shareholders provide capital, and rightly demand something more than silence in return when they express their views or seek information about how a company conducts itself.
Stakeholders with an interest in Barrick Gold’s activities also attempted to have their say on the company’s meeting day, but were not heard. Stakeholders attempted to raise the concerns of communities adversely affected by the Company’s mining practices around the world.
According to the Toronto Star, a representative of San Francisco-based research group CorpWatch was taken into police custody while handing out the group’s materials on the company’s activities to people entering the meeting. A Canadian man affiliated with watchdog group Global Aware apparently attempted to intervene on the CorpWatch representative’s behalf and was also detained.
According to Toronto police, the pair were removed when they refused a request to leave the area they occupied outside the building where the meeting was being held. The reasons given by police for their actions were trespassing and obstructing police.
The heavy-handed approach Barrick Gold demonstrated at its shareholder meeting is thankfully rare in Canada. Reports of Barrick Gold’s behaviour in this instance can only add to the perception that the Company is determined to disregard the views of all who question its activities.