Ethical shareholders of EADS to take the company to court
EADS Blocks Questions by Shareholders.
A group of 20 "ethical shareholders" attended the Algemene Vergadering of European Aerospace and Defence Systems (EADS) in Amsterdam on 20th May, to question the board of Europe's second largest arms producing company. However, they were only able to put three questions to the board, despite having a list of more than 20 questions relating to ethical, legal and financial aspects of the company's business.
The German chairman Manfred Bischoff, supported by Jean-Luc Lagardère, halted the discussion after less than an hour of questioning. They proceeded directly to the vote on resolutions proposed by the board, despite protests from a number of the shareholders waiting to ask questions.
Under Dutch company law, shareholders have the right to question members on the board on matters relating to the company, and receive answers. Because this was refused, some of the ethical shareholders intend to sue EADS. This will be the second such case against arms company for violating the rights of shareholders to question the board. In April 2002, the Belgian court of appeal condemned BARCO, a Belgian high technology arms manufacturer, for not answering shareholder's questions at their Annual General Meeting in 1998.
The questions asked by ethical shareholders to the EADS board related to the sale of arms to undemocratic or oppressive regimes, as well as to countries involved in conflict, and to regions of high political tension. The company was also forced to defend it's role in an alleged corruption scandal in South Africa.
Questions that were not posed related to the role of EADS in lobbying within the European Union, and the production of specific weapon systems including the next generation of French nuclear missiles, and military satellite systems.
Outside the conference hall, a further group of anti-arms trade activists held a demonstration condemning the ethical stance of the company.
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