Friday, June 19, 2009
Time for Bloggers' Shareholders activism
George Choo called for Izzudin to revive his Sime Darby Watch. I am not sure if that is his real name. RockyBru, who knows the person, will not squell on his identity.
George went further to suggest that someone or a group of people out there take up the challenge to establish a Petronas Watch and other GLC Watch. Anonymous comentator volunteered to take up the challenge for MAS. He called his upcoming blog MAS Liberators.
With the barrage of responses from UEM staff venting out their anger, there must be someone out there creating a UEM Watch. I got many other fronts and battles to fight. May I suggest a blog name as UEM Undercurrent?
It may seemed more like Company staff venting their anger at Management but it serve the purpose in an area of corporate governance called shareholders activism. The staff are highlighting issues that serve the purpose of protecting the interest of shareholders and stakeholders of the company.
Stakeholders of a Company range from the menial workers making a living with the Company to the executive and management running the Company. There is the minority shareholders and institutional investors. The Government's and politicians' concern are on many front as tax collector, direct shareholders, local community interest, and the nation's economy.
While abroad some years back, I saw a anti-corruption agency ad on TV. It was encouraging whistleblowers from within Companies. The message was simple. "Do not close your eyes to insidious happenings in the Company. Corrupt practices and leakage will blead the Company and it will jeopardise your ricebowl."
Having had some pockets of experiance here and there, I have long made the conclusion that the most corrupt institution in this country are the corporate boys and public listed corporation.
The practices did not start from the rise of the Melayu Baru but it is actually a tradition from the days of the towkey dominated big businesses. Today's problem, as I see, is more centred are on the problem of incompetence and systemic moral issue within GLCs and extend to some PLCs.
Much have been written in my many exposes of UEM, MAS, AirAsia, ECM Libra, Sime Darby, etc on the issue of incompetence, unethical practises, and moral hazard attitude of too-big-to-fail. At the manager and staff level, there is the prevalence of a near acceptable culture to abuse power and authority to collect commission or taking a cut of the contract via cash or account abroad from contractors or suppliers.
The new generation of young wannabees, thanks to groups like IMF, UKEC, etc. are going around with the attitude that they are too good for themselves. They believe they are too smart to undergo the time honoured process and should be CEO yesterday.
The usual compain is that the honesty and integrity of the young wannabees are compromisable by their greed to make a quick buck and reach the top fast. This is why I despise what the Khairy Jamaluddins, the Zaki Zahids and the Omar Ongs represents but smart asses that signals the further degradation in morality of our society.
Coming back to shareholders activism, it does exist here but with limited effectiveness.
Under the auspices of the Securities Commission with funding from Institutional Shareholders such as EPF, PNB, etc., there have been effort to establish the Minority Shareholders Watchdog Group (MSWG).
I personally know two previous CEOs of MSWG and the little I know, MSWG have much limitations. I an not sure if the new MSWG CEO is heading the right direction. She must understand the way the game is played. Sorry if I offend Kak Marina Mahathir, but women can be quite naive at times.
The media and securities analyst do play their role but abuses are at large. There are business columnists and editors on some corporate players' payroll. Any expose intended could subject the newspaper to threat from their corporate advertisers. Pressure piles in from the top. Sadly they are in the best poition to do so with their network and database.
As for our analyst, the last time I was in the market, they are not real researchers but rely on illegal insiders for info. If the squell on their informer, they will be out of the loop and no tips for the brokers clients. They are not really independent, objective, and let alone bold enough to put these Companies in a spot. They have the power to pressure them through their personal wealth on the stock market.
The only avenue for the common man shareholders to vent out their issues is in the General Meeting. Their votes does not change or remove incompetent Directors and Management. If anyone been to these General Meetings, the common shareholders are usually pensioners and apek and nyonya who come to such meeting to rush and tapau the served food home.
They are not able to ask and probe the Company on pertinent issues affecting the Companies. Such typical complain heard will be those about door gifts, and packet drinks and biscuits for refreshment. That is not to say they do not ask difficult questions. They do.
The moment the few dare to ask, the PR Department would pre-empt to take this shareholders out to a fancy restaurant for private Q&A sessions and they are gone. Sometimes those that dare to stand up to ask questions are merely asking questions prepared by others that they can;t follow up the on the issues.
I personally have drilled these fancifully dressed set of Directors, Corporate Advisers and their Lawyers in an EGM for a full 45 minites. The answer these penguins were giving were simplistic and divertionary. When unable to answer, they go "noted or will check on this or will raise it in the next meeting of BOD."
If one were to pester the Directors endlessly, they would just say, "If you are not happy, you can just sell your shares." Thats like getting a rude response from your neighbourhood Chinamen mechanics for complaining of poor service. "Lu pergi tempat lain laaa..."
Basically, there is too much organisational politics going on in our GLCs and big corporations, not real business.
In GLCs, many incompetent ones are being brought up the ladder corporate ladders for kow towing or bodeking to the political masters or big bosses. Sometimes, it is a manouvre by the current organisation they are attached to rid them off.
Just like PNB Directors manouvre to get Tan Sri Ani Arope the TNB Chairmanship post in order to rid him out of Guthrie and PNB Companies. I am exposing this information becasue he talks as though he is so damn good.
To blame the political masters entirely, it is not fair. They can read politicians very well but it is not easy sizing up professionals and corporate boys. They all could talk as though they know what they are talking about. Can they do it?
Concluding this posting, seriously I see that the way forward is to have blogs really probing into these Companies. Most of the business blogs are not playing that role. They are just self serving remisiers promoting their services or stock punters talking their already bought shares to move up.
Find ways to get these companies to listen. Show off a little of the documents you have in your posession. Pick on any one executive and see how they squirm and react. The whole idea if to get their attention and push the Companies to answer the issues.
Another trick is to demand that they engage us openly and publicly. The blogs are publicly accessible, thus their answer must be in public. I know they hate publicity and negative attention.
To share something, when I first probe into UEM, there were attempt from some PR executive trying top reach me. But I refused.
Firstly, I want to talk only with the likes of Ahmad Pardas, Abdul Wahid Omar, Azman Mokhtar, etc. I have drilled such people openly many times, so I do not need to talk to the lower managers.
Secondly, by meeting them and being bought a nice steak lunch with escargot for appetisers, I could be taken in and melted to their subtle persuasion. More so, if it was dinner and the PR officer is a vivacious lady with the raspy voice of Kathleen Turner coming in a slinky dress with a slit at the side that goes all the way up to her arm pit exposing off her sexy long legs. No more writing on UEM la.
Sorry I got carried away. Mrs was sleeping over at the Mother's last night
Dato Seri Najib should heed to listen to information from blog whistle blowers because it is another source of information to judge the corporate boys and doublecheck their lies and excuses. These corporate boys are too slick, protective of each other and are driven by self interest, so Najib may not be able to get the right information, feedback, and advise.
We should help Najib in this area. Even if you are pro-Pakatan Rakyat or personally hated him for whatever frivolous accusations thsu want him replaced, you should assist him now while he is presently in power to rectify the current problems for the sake of the rakyat and the nation now.
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