A federal judge ordered Wal-Mart Stores Inc to let shareholders vote on a proposal from Trinity Church, Wall Street that was blocked at the June 6, 2014 annual meeting. The proposal would force Wal-Mart to exercise tighter oversight of its sale of high-capacity guns and other potentially offensive products.
The proposal would require the governance committee of Wal-Mart’s board to more closely examine the sale of products that might endanger public safety, hurt Wal-Mart’s reputation, or offend “family and community values” integral to the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company’s brand.
Trinity said these products might include guns with clips holding more than 10 rounds, a type it said “enabled” mass killings in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado; or music that depicts sex or violence. It said Wal-Mart already limits sales of such music.
The April 1 lawsuit was filed two weeks after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued a “no action” letter signaling it would not punish Wal-Mart for excluding the proposal.
[U.S. District Judge Leonard] Stark said that while it was too late to do anything about the 2014 annual meeting, the SEC letter did not end the matter. He went on to reject Wal-Mart’s argument that Trinity’s proposal was too vague, potentially covering a broad swath of products.
“The proposal does not dictate any particular outcome or micro-manage Wal-Mart’s day-to-day business,” Stark wrote.
Trinity’s rector, the Rev. James Cooper, welcomed the decision.
“On critical issues such as the sale of products that may threaten the safety or well-being of communities, corporate boards must exercise their oversight role to assure balance among customer, shareholder, and societal interests,” he said.