Piper's News Comments

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dow Stockholders Meeting

On May 12, 2011, the annual stockholders meeting for Dow Chemical was held.

I have attended these meetings, on and off, since I first started working for Dow back in 1962. I had missed the 2010 meeting, so I was anxious to see what had changed. The MCFTA (Midland Center for the Arts) has hosted the meetings for the past 20+ years, but earlier meetings were held in the Central Intermediate school auditorium. My wife Judy worked at a meeting in 1964 where she handed out gift packets to attendees. At that time the meetings were a social affair, with some of the female stockholders dressed to the nines in furs.

I always felt the early meetings were warm and cordial, almost a family reunion. One could mingle with the members of the Board before and after the formal meeting.

Then in the late '60s Dow started supplying Polystyrene to the U.S. Government for use in a new napalm formulation that was used in the Vietnam War. Napalm became a lightning rod for various war protesters, and these protests even went as far as the New York stock exchange in an effort to attack the viability of Dow stock. (I had a personal interest in this napalm issue since I spent 1.5 years in the Chemical Corps teaching soldiers, both domestic and foreign, how to fire a flame thrower, and then later had the job of writing the specification for the material that Dow supplied to the government as a function of my job as Quality Control Engineer in the polystyrene, Styron, plant.)

Stockholder meetings became a media circus, that ranged from sign carrying students from CMU to vitriolic attacks by proxy stockholders. Later issues of dioxin and Bopal, India, continued to fuel the protester's enthusiasm. A typical stockholder's meeting would consist of a one hour formal business meeting followed by one or more hours of 'questions' by various individuals, who purportedly represented some concerned group. The audience would listen to the first couple 'rants', but then they would start to drift out the exits. After a half hour or so, the remaining people with issues to raise found themselves talking to a nearly empty auditorium.

But 2011 was different. There were no protesters, either inside or outside of the meeting. I did not see any media cameras. The entire affair was over in 45-50 minutes. The question period, which in recent years has been limited to two minutes per question, had only five speakers. One question was complimentary to Dow, three others were financial in nature, and the fifth was an individual whose ramblings left us all to wonder what was his problem.

Two other issues did impress me. When I asked various acquaintances, both before and after the stockholders meeting, if they were going, every one said No! I do not understand this attitude. When people asked me what was said, I have only positive thoughts. The CEO, Andrew Liveris, who could sell refrigerators to Eskimos, always puts a positive spin on his message. Dow Chemical does look strong for the near future. My favorite quote from the meeting: 'The power of science is without limits.'

My final comment is that I did set off the metal detector at the MCFTA. I anticipated this ahead of time, and I had a copy of my recent hip X-ray to show the attendant. The really funny thing to me is that I am not sure which of the four metal parts I have (2 hips, 1 shoulder, 1 pacemaker) actually set off the metal detector!