Release Date: May 20, 2004Contact: 888-249-NEWS
Chamber Criticizes Public Pension Fund Tactics
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Chamber of Commerce criticized the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and other public pension funds for masking a union agenda with corporate governance concerns during their calls for withhold votes on directors for public company boards.
"Safeway and thousands of other public companies are under attack by union officials and union sympathizers who have been unable to win big concessions at the bargaining table," said David Hirschmann, Chamber senior vice president. "Withholding votes on the appointment of corporate directors is less about board performance than it is about political power. The real victims of these tactics are the workers and the shareholders of the companies under attack."
The union-dominated board of CalPERS, the nation's largest pension fund, is withholding proxy votes for the directors of 2,700 public companies on the basis that their poor corporate governance contributed to the stock market's collapse and the consequent decline in the value of CalPERS' portfolio. With the vigorous involvement of organized labor, the campaign is now spreading to other public pension funds and institutional investors.
"It's time for an examination of CalPERS board governance procedures, given their own track record," said Hirschmann.
CalPERS posted three consecutive years of losses under its current leadership—its worst run in 20 years, according the Chamber's "Fact Sheet" on the CalPERS withhold campaign. And its performance has lagged other public pension funds, according to BusinessWeek.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region.
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CalPERS Fact Sheet [PDF]