AT&T Inc. (T): What Is It Hiding From Its Investors?

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T)On Friday, April 26, I attended the AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) annual stockholders meeting. When I got my proxy information I was pleased that the meeting would be held in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Cheyenne is close enough for me to drive there and back in a day. Then I started thinking – why would this major blue-chip, multi-national firm hold its annual meeting in such an out-of-the-way place? I would have more questions than answers by the time the meeting was over.

When I arrived, I was surprised by the size of the ballroom. It was pretty darn small, and had seats for approximately 200 to 250 people. Once the meeting started, there were several empty seats, no one was standing, and at least a third of those seats were filled by company representatives.

I haven’t been to an AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) stockholder meeting in several years, so perhaps things have changed and shareholders are just more apathetic about their investments. The last AT&T meeting I attended was held several years ago at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. There were thousands of investors there interacting with hundreds of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) employees. At this point, I’m wondering what the company is hiding for them to hold the meeting in such a remote location. Were they purposely trying to limit attendance?

No Q&A

I was also surprised that the agenda had no time scheduled for public comments and questions. This is the first annual meeting for any company I’ve attended where public questions were not allowed. Other investors in attendance were also surprised and highly disappointed. This is in stark contrast to the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A) meeting I’ll attend next week.

Another observation was the huge police presence. As I took the long walk down multiple hallways toward the only ladies room, I passed at least four clusters of three-to-five uniformed police. Two of those clusters were just outside the meeting room. Wow!

Other observations included:

One of the shareholder proposals asked for shareholder ratification for every executive severance package. The SNET retirees proposing this item stated that on average the executive severance packages exceeded 2.9 times base pay. This item was voted down, but only by 54% of the votes. Afterwards, I talked to the woman who presented the proposal. She was quite pleased by the results, especially since this was the first time this item had been proposed. She fully expects it to pass next year.

Another proposal asked that the board of directors be led by an independent Board Chairman. I’m just wondering when the title – at the very least – will be changed to chairperson. Or is AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) such an old and stodgy company that it would never consider a woman to lead the board of directors?

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) can not currently refer to itself as a new media company. This firm is incredibly out-of-touch with social media. I have two reasons for my bold statement.

1. I pulled out my AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) iPhone and opened the 4Square app to check in. I easily found  the Little America Hotel, but was very surprised that an event wasn’t set up. I found the same results in Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB).

2. I asked three separate people what the Twitter hash-tag was for this event. All three said:  “That’s a great question! Let me see if I can find out.” To be fair, the first two were ushers, but the last person I asked was charged with media relations for the event. He conferred with someone else and told me to “just use #AT&T.”