General Dynamics annual meeting

On Wednesday, May 4, General Dynamics Corporation holds its annual shareholders meeting. Loretto owns shares that we bought when GD was headquartered in St. Louis.

We bought stock back then in McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis and Martin Marietta in Denver as well to track corporate weapons R & D and foreign arms sales. Eventually General Dynamics moved to Washington, DC, to "be closer to its customer," the Pentagon, and I've been unable to interest activists in Washington in corporate issues.

So I'm going to Washington to move this year's resolution, that the Company review policies related to human rights. We recommend that GD look particularly at:

1. Risk assessment to determine potential for human rights abuses in locations where General Dynamics operates, such as the Middle East, parts of Asia and other civil-strife/war-torn areas;

2. A report on the current system which ensures that General Dynamics contractors and suppliers are implementing human rights policies in their operations, including monitoring, training, addressing issues of non-compliance and assurance that trafficking-related concerns, particularly in the extractive minerals industry sector, are being addressed; and

3. The General Dynamics strategy of engagement with internal and external stakeholders.

In its proxy statement, GD says they don't need to do more and they describe their business ethics policies, employee policies, environmental compliance and compliance with U.S. and international anti-bribery laws. Sadly, I've been part of the process of filing resolutions that resulted in the development of these policies. The company doesn't get the irony. None of them have been attending meetings since 1977.

GD markets weapons, weapons systems and communications supports to weapons systems. It sells not just to the Pentagon but around the world. Some day I'm going to go to one of these meetings and the board of directors is going to say, "Oh, we see. You're right. How could we have missed that? Of course we'll review our policy."

In the meantime, it is so difficult to get the attention of shareholders that we need just 3 percent of the vote in order to bring the resolution back next year. The other side of the coin is that even if we get a majority of the votes, shareholder resolutions are only advisory to the board. They don't have to do it.

Say a prayer for me that I state the issues clearly and that the directors hear me.

Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here