OLD Media Moves

Target closes annual meeting to journalists

May 4, 2006

Target, the large retailer, has joined a number of other companies in closing its annual meeting to reporters, according to an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune by reporter Chris Serres.

Serres writes, “In the past, the company allowed members of the media to ask questions of senior executives in a briefing after the meeting.

“Brookter said that briefing will not occur this year because executives will head directly back to Minneapolis. She noted that the entire meeting will be available on a webcast.”

Read the story here.

In December, New Jersey-based IDT Communications barred a New York Times reporter from attending its annual meeting. It’s happened in previous years as well. In 2001, Yahoo! wouldn’t allow reporters into its annual meeting, and in 1999, Exxon Mobil wouldn’t allow reporters from gay publications into its meeting. In 2001, Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. would not let a reporter from the San Francisco Bay Guardian attend its annual meeting.

I’ve written about this year before on the blog here, so I won’t belabor the point.

However, I have a business journalism student, Laura Youngs, who just turned in a paper on the issue of companies closing annual meetings to journalists.

Youngs writes, “John Heine, deputy director in the office of public affairs for the SEC, said that there is nothing on the commission’s table right now about regulating annual meetings.

“‘The nuts and bolts questions about how corporations are run and how they conduct their business are a matter of state law, and general corporate law and company bylaws,’ he said.

“‘… We’re basically charged with making sure that the markets, investors and shareholders … have access to reliable, accurate, current information about companies whose securities are trading in the markets or companies who are selling securities in the markets,’ he said.

“If regulation were introduced, it is something that would need to be handled by the U.S. Congressional law or by states in their open-meetings or corporate governance laws, said Thomas Hazen, a UNC School of Law professor whose writing has focused on corporate, securities and commodities law.

“‘This is a close call, because the SEC is concerned with disclosure, but the SEC rules focus on not who gets to go to the meetings … but with who the invitations go out to,’ he said.”

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