retirees press accountability
In concert with a national union, they seek majority voting
for board slots and approval of any special executive
By Beth Potter, Staff Writer Denver Post
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Still smoldering after losing millions of dollars in an
accounting scandal three years ago, some retired
shareholders of Denver-based Qwest are teaming with a
national union to try to make the telephone company more
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees is petitioning Qwest and three other public
companies to allow majority voting for all new board slots
when they have their annual meetings this year.
Existing board members typically choose new board members
with shareholders asked to approve or withhold their votes.
A dissenting vote often isn't an option.
"It's primarily driven by the scandals like Enron and
(former Qwest chief executive Joseph) Nacchio. Those boards
of directors are responsible," said Nelson Phelps, spokesman
for the Association of US West Retirees. "It's changing
across the country because of aggressive groups like ours."
Colorado's largest company was forced by the Securities and
Exchange Commission to restate $2.5 billion in revenues
accrued during Nacchio's tenure. The stock fell from about
$60 to less than $5.
United Technologies Corp., Honeywell International and Wells
Fargo & Co. also are being petitioned by the union group.
Shareholder activists nationwide are having some success:
Computermaker Intel Corp. last month said it amended its
bylaws to require that board candidates get a majority of
the votes cast to be elected.
In Denver, Qwest shareholders also will demand that the
board gets their approval to hand out any special executive
benefits. They also want any senior executives who receive
bonuses based on information that's later restated to be
required to return the money, said Philip Graham, a Phoenix
shareholder. Similar shareholder demands were voted down
last year, Qwest's 2005 proxy statement shows.
"The big question is whether they'll get enough additional
support to cross over into majority-vote territory this
year," said Beth Young, an analyst at Corporate Library, a
corporate governance group. "This might be a proposal that
Staff writer Beth Potter
can be reached at 303-820-1503 or