Friday, May 25, 2007

Will TIAA-CREF Participants Put Their Money Where Their Rhetoric Is?

Charles Fishman quotes quite a few academics in his book The Wal-Mart Effect. Fishman argues that Wal-Mart should take various actions that would reduce its profit margins but improve its corporate social responsibility. Such actions might even potentially increase stock prices if the public responds positively to Wal-Mart's better public image. The academics whom Fishman quotes universally believe that Wal-Mart stockholders should live with lower returns in exchange for Wal-Mart's enhanced social responsiblity.

I have previously suggested that academics put their money where there mouths are:

"Why doesn't TIAA-CREF, the college retirement fund, take over Wal-Mart? It probably has the capitalization. Then Wal-Mart can be improved socially,and if the professors' stocks drop 30 percent, they will be glad because they saved the third world, right? I haven't heard any screams from MIT, the University of Missouri or other universities for such a strategy."

In order to pursue this proposal, I have just sent the following e-mail to the governing board of TIAA-CREF:

Dear CREF/TIAA Board:

As a TIAA/CREF participant I would like to put a resolution before the board that CREF should devote a 25 percent portion of its diversified stock portfolio to acquire shares in Wal-Mart in order that university and related professions may influence corporate policy and social responsiblity at Wal-Mart. Asking CREF participants to invest in Wal-Mart to improve the lot of 1.8 million Wal-Mart employees is a small sacrifice.

Would you please let me know how to make this proposal before your plenary meeting? Thank you,

Mitchell Langbert, Ph.D.

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