24 Apr 2018 VF Corporation Bars Well-Known Investor Activist from Annual Shareholder Meeting
Despite Proper Credentials, Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof Forcibly Blocked from Investor Meeting
National Center for Public Policy Research Calls for an Immediate U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Investigation
Greensboro, NC/Washington, DC – At today’s annual meeting of VF Corporation investors in Greensboro, North Carolina, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Justin Danhof, Esq. was physically barred from entering the meeting room despite showing proper ownership credentials. Danhof — the director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project and the National Center’s general counsel — was the only investor observed to be denied entry.
Upon Danhof showing his credentials, VF Corporation Assistant General Counsel Mark Townsend refused Danhof’s entry. He was joined by the company’s general counsel, Laura Meagher, in blocking Danhof. Knowing that his credentials did indeed qualify him to enter the meeting, Danhof proceeded to the door – at which time Townsend called in security to physically block Danhof from the meeting room. The security guards claimed they were employees of VF Corporation. Eventually, a staffer went to call the police and Danhof left rather than further escalate the situation.
“This is an outrage of the highest order. I have been to more than 100 shareholder meetings, and I have never seen a company treat an eligible investor with such disdain and hostility,” said Danhof. “We are calling on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to take immediate action against VF Corporation and Mr. Townsend. Investors have rights, and those rights were infringed today.
“I had every right to be in that meeting. And while I have a reputation of asking tough questions, these are the most extreme lengths a company has gone to avoid my questions,” said Danhof. “How do I know they were likely trying to avoid my questions? Because, at first, Mr. Townsend offered to let me in the meeting if I would agree just to observe and stay silent. When I said that was unsatisfactory, that’s when I was barred from the room altogether. I repeatedly asked where in the company’s bylaws or proxy statement my credentials didn’t qualify, and neither Townsend nor Meagher was able to provide a coherent response.”
VF Corporation is an apparel conglomerate that owns brands such as North Face, Lee, Nautica, Vans and Wrangler.
Danhof had intended to ask the company why it supports likely unconstitutional federal land grabs. Danhof was going to ask:
I want to discuss North Face President Arne Arens’ recent comments regarding President Trump’s restoration of lands that were unconstitutionally seized by the Obama and Clinton Administrations.
Just before leaving office, President Obama orchestrated a massive federal power grab by designating millions of acres of land, including Bears Ears in Utah, as national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act. President Clinton did the same with the Grand Staircase-Escalante. However, the Antiquities Act was designed to allow Presidents to protect areas of significance to native communities under an imminent threat of theft of artifacts or damage to significant natural items such as fossils. Clinton and Obama went well beyond that scope by going around Congress to create de facto wilderness areas. However, under the Wilderness Act of 1963, it’s up to Congress to approve such designations…
If North Face wants to be a brand for only far-left environmentalists, that’s its prerogative. However, they shouldn’t do so under the banner of VF Corp. and risk the profitability of the company and its other brands. Do you think it’s appropriate for one of your brands to engage in political and legal causes that have nothing to do with the company at the expense of VF Corp’s reputation and potential profitability?
The question, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.
“It’s easy to see why the company may want to avoid such scrutiny. Investors and consumers are usually willing to look the other way on some corporate malfeasance, but most Americans consider the Constitution to be sacrosanct,” said Danhof.
National Center Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen, Ph.D. has written extensively about Antiquities Act abuses. After the meeting, he offered additional insight into the issues Danhof desired to raise.
“It appears that North Face President Arne Arens has never read the Antiquities Act of 1906, under which presidents are granted the power to create national monuments. The law states that national monuments are to protect sacred and cultural tribal sites, as well as archeological sites. Under the law, monuments are to occupy the smallest area compatible with protecting the sites,” said Cohen. “Over the years, presidents of both parties have ignored the statute’s restrictive language and created monuments comprising of millions of acres. Elected officials in states most affected by this unlawful practice have complained that these mega-monuments put lands off-limits to economic development in rural areas throughout the West. Why is VF Corporation siding with urban elites against hard-pressed rural communities in the West?”
“While President Trump’s action to return the rule of law to the creation of national monuments is welcome, Congress will ultimately have to reassert its legislative authority and end the abuse of the Antiquities Act,” said Cohen. “Abolishing the Act is by far the simplest solution, because there are now many other regulations in place that provide for the protection of the sites the Antiquities Act was originally designed to safeguard.”
This meeting marks the 10th shareholder meeting of 2018 in which FEP has participated.
To book an interview with Danhof, Cohen or another National Center representative, contact Judy Kent at (703) 759-0269 or (703) 477-7476.
Launched in 2007, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project focuses on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Over the past four years alone, FEP representatives have participated in over 100 shareholder meetings – advancing free-market ideals about health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and other important public policy issues. As the leading voice for conservative-minded investors, it annually files more than 90 percent of all right-of-center shareholder resolutions. Dozens of liberal organizations, however, annually file more than 95 percent of all policy-oriented shareholder resolutions and continue to exert undue influence over corporate America.
FEP activity has been covered by media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Drudge Report, Business Insider, National Public Radio and SiriusXM. FEP’s work was prominently featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley Strassel’s 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).
Danhof’s latest commentary, on the recent Walt Disney shareholder meeting where his actions resulted in Joy Behar’s public apology for suggesting Christianity is a mental illness, is available here.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 60,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for email updates here. Follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements. To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at @NCPPRMedia.