The trespassing charge has been dropped, but I never should have been arrested. Nor should I have been handcuffed, fingerprinted, brought to jail, and detained for three hours.
Berkshire Hathaway’s silencing of me is an ominous precedent for the rights of shareholders in public companies. It cannot be allowed to stand.
I did not just wander into the Berkshire shareholders meeting, nor did the incident occur during a question-and-answer session. I was a scheduled speaker, whose name appeared on the agenda, to speak in support of Proposal #8 for an independent chair. The proposal appeared in the proxy and for weeks shareholders had been voting on it. It was the subject of a detailed proxy memo we filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 21.
As far as I know, the arrest of a shareholder during a proposal presentation has never before occurred at the annual meeting of a public company in the United States. Shareholder activists of the past such as Wilma Soss (the basis for the Carol Burnett “cleaning lady” character) and Evelyn Y. Davis often challenged and certainly annoyed CEOs, but their microphones were never cut and they were certainly never arrested.
I have spoken at the annual meetings of dozens of public companies over the past 19 years. My demeanor at the Berkshire meeting was no different from any other. There was no reason to throw me out except that I came too close to the truth.
Additional revelations about Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein since the meeting confirm the importance of the issue I sought to raise, namely the reputational risk to Berkshire Hathaway by having one individual hold both the Chairman and CEO positions, especially if that person is so closely identified with particular causes and personalities.
The whole point of the shareholder proposal process is to allow shareholders critical of management an avenue to change corporate policy. To simply silence and arrest a shareholder who disagrees with management stands the whole concept of having public shareholders on its head. If Warren Buffett thinks that since he owns 15% of Berkshire shares, and is both Chairman and CEO, that he can act with impunity, he is mistaken.
Shareholders have rights, and I intend to enforce NLPC’s.