A church in New York City brought a suit against Wal-Mart, claiming that stakeholders ought to have the right to determine what a retailer does and doesn’t sell, namely, high-capacity firearms.
Their proposal was that, through a vote, stakeholders could:
[provide] oversight concerning the formulation and implementation of … policies and standards that determine whether or not the Company should sell a product that:
- Especially endangers public safety and well-being;
- Has the substantial potential to impair the reputation of the Company; and/or
- Would reasonably be considered by many [to be] offensive to the family and community values integral to the Company’s promotion of its brand.
Implementation of such policies is painfully vague… what is “especially” dangerous to the public? If the retailer already sells a product, and it is of great financial benefit, how is the product impairing the retailer’s reputation? Money talks, so to speak, and aren’t the consumers communicating something entirely different with their wallets? And just how many is “many” who consider a product offensive?
In the proposal’s introduction, Trinity explains that shareholders should determine: “… whether or not the company should sell guns equipped with magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition (‘high capacity magazines’) and to balance the benefits of selling such guns against the risks that these sales pose to the public and to the Company’s reputation and brand value.”
Fox News insider explained, “The church sued Walmart when they refused to place a proposal on the shareholder ballot at the annual company meeting… That proposal could be interpreted to force Walmart’s board of directors to suspend the sale of guns and ammunition.” The church, Trinity Wall Street Church, owns about $280,000 worth of Wal-Mart stock.
Trinity Wall Street Church’s reasoning behind the lawsuit is this: with Wal-Mart’s selling high-capacity magazine rifles, the retailer contradicts its own values to uphold both community values and family values.
Trinity Wall Street Church won last November’s lawsuit. In Trinity Wall Street v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., District of Delaware, Leonard Stark wrote:
Trinity has shown that its Proposal should not be excluded from Wal-Mart’s proxy materials….
Trinity will be irreparably harmed it if is … deprived of the opportunity to put its Proposal before Wal-Mart’s shareholders for a vote at its next  annual meeting….
Granting [Trinity’s demand] serves the public interest by providing Wal-Mart’s shareholders the opportunity to vote on Trinity’s Proposal.
So instead of selling its shares in a company that the church opposes, Trinity would rather regulate what the business is allowed, or not allowed, to sell. Stakeholders able to regulate what a retailer can and cannot sell? There’s a reason that the decision making is reserved for a board of directors with the company’s (as well as the consumers’) best interests in mind.
The appeal ruling is expected prior to Wal-Mart’s annual shareholder meeting in June.