2006 ALTRIA SHAREHOLDERS MEETING
April 27, 2006
About 25 youth
and adults who were part of the collective group went inside the
Altria shareholders meeting itself. A television crew accompanied
Shane Bradbrook (Te Reo Marama/Mäori Smokefree, New Zealand)
in the van as the group entered the site, passing by the security
checkpoints staffed by company security and local police.
Steve Parrish hovered on the sidelines while waiting for the show
to begin. Behind us we heard two pro-tobacco shareholders talking.
"Did you see that big cigarette pack labeled "Global
Killer" as you came in?" "Problem is people don't
get out of the U.S. [to understand how big smoking is elsewhere]"
[Relates anecdote about everyone chain smoking in the Czech Republic]
"You just have to keep your investments separate from your
tobacco generates massive dividends!"
board of directors filed into the front row and then the CEO himself
took to the stage. The meeting began with the usual fast-paced
video collage of advertisements for the company's products around
the world, as the voiceover said "brands symbolizing quality,
reliability" and images of cheese switched to cigarettes
and cigarettes to mayonnaise. "Rising across barriers of
language and geography
unforgettable brands" the voice
intoned, "aim to be the most successful and responsible business
in the world." Profitable, yes. Responsible, NO!
Camilleri then gave the business report, lauding the company for
last year's 27.7% in shareholder return. He noted that the restructuring
of the company would happen on "[the company's] timeline"
and that it would "not act prematurely." He pointed
out that Philip Morris USA is the only tobacco company supporting
FDA regulation, expressed disappointment with U.S. Congress for
failing to the legislation, and disclosed that in the meantime
the company is exploring opportunities to grow its "Quit
Assist" program (a smokescreen to give the impression that
the company really wants to lose its profitable customers). He
also mentioned the company's creation of a Center for Research
and Development in Richmond to address health and smoking, part
of the company's "societal alignment initiative" (aka
public relations campaign).
The CEO then
detailed its international cigarette business
down 11.9%...East Europe, Mideast and Africa up 5.3%...Russia
up 27%...Japan down 7.1%...otherwise Asia up 73.1% with acquisition
of Indonesia's Sampoerna
Latin America up 19.1% with acquisition
Like in previous years, the CEO stated the company's
support for the FCTC in principle, then denounced certain measures,
e.g. ban on advertising, increased taxes, and promotion of litigation.
He also described some of the many "youth smoking prevention"
programs the company supports around the world, e.g. Australia's
"18+ It's the Law" and Japan's "[No Smoking] under
concluded this portion of the program by saying, "PMI's growth
potential continues to be attractive. With just a 15% share of
the international market, it has plenty of room to expand both
organically and through acquisitions. Given its superb brand portfolio,
commitment to reducing the harm caused by tobacco and to building
an increasingly agile organization, PMI is well-positioned for
the full transcript of Camilleri's speech
question and answer period that followed, about a dozen tobacco
control advocates addressed the CEO. To listen to their statements
and the CEO's responses, check
out the meeting webcast (after filling out a quick registration
a youth with Wisconsin's FACT movement made the following statement
on behalf of the youth inside and outside the meeting and the
over 100 groups around the world who have signed on to a list
of demands of the company (to listen go to 46:30 in above webcast):
Good morning, Mr. Camilleri I am Lauren Baisden with Wisconsin
FACT, I am here today with 100 youth advocates from all over
the world, 25 whom are in this room. Altria has signaled that
it is planning to split up into three separate companies: Kraft,
Philip Morris USA, and Philip Morris International. There is
worldwide concern that unleashing Philip Morris International
from Altria will worsen the already devastating tobacco epidemic.
you head for a break up we call on you to give us a break from
the following: Tobacco advertising and misleading descriptors
like "light and mild"; lobbying on framework convention
on tobacco control and against 100% smokefree places; invoking
trade agreements to challenge tobacco control legislation; tobacco
smuggling; secrecy about advertising expenditures, political
contributions on lobbying cost; bogus youth prevention programs;
and finally smoking and product placement in movies and other
media. Over 100 groups in 50 countries have signed onto these
demands. My question for you, Mr. Camillieri, is will you agree
to these demands?
RESPONSE: Well I won't agree to all of those demands.
Um, you know, every year we have these discussions and I try
to listen to hard and I try to understand and generally I do
understand the positions. Uh frankly I'm having difficulty intellectually
understanding that an independent PMI would make matters worse.
If anything it should make things better because the spotlight
would shine more on PMI, so intellectually I'm having a problem.
With regards to PMI's policies and programs, I would really
encourage you to read the PMI website. As I said earlier don't
let your animosity of this industry and this company in particular
blind your judgment and sometimes mischaracterize the facts.
So thank you.
Shane Kawenata Bradbrook brought the room to full attention by
starting his statement in the Maori language (to listen go to
53:15 in above webcast)
[Opens in Maori] My name is irrelevant but my culture is
not! I am Maori, a native New Zealander. I am here to represent
Maori in the matter of Philip Morris International using our
culture to sell tobacco products. In 2005, it came to our organisations
attention that PMI was selling a product in Israel called Maori
Mix under the L & M brand.
me tell you, this product called 'Maori Mix' was an absolute
affront to my people! Your company's misappropriation and exploitation
of our culture to sell your product of death and illness to
Israelis was at a minimum culturally insensitive - and at worst
another form of oppression and abuse that indigenous peoples
have faced for decades.
before you to hold you in absolute contempt and derision. I
don't expect a weak apology or some glib rationale from you
for associating our culture with Maori Mix. But I do have a
message for you:
message from my culture and my people is clear:
MISREPRESENT DO NOT ASSOCIATE OUR PROUD CULTURE WITH YOUR DECEITFUL
PRACTICES AND PRODUCT
simple really, if it looks like and smells like exploitation
it is exploitation!
as I said I am but one representative of my people but I am
surrounded by my ancestors and the good thoughts and support
of thousands in my homeland.
a well known phrase in my language:
WE WILL CONTINUE THE STRUGGLE
here in that tradition of resistance and struggle to this affront
and exploitation of my people!
RESPONSE: Well thanks you for coming to this meeting
and I fully understand your position
Um [clears throat]
to make it clear to everybody
Yes, we made the mistake
of launching a limiting addition product called Maori Mix. We
regret that it was a mistake. By the time we found out about
the mistake - to show how limited the addition it was, which
was late September of '05, we couldn't find the product in retail
stores. That was the only time we've used that product. We have
written to your representatives. We have apologized, and we
have confirmed that we will not be using that product anywhere
in the world again. So I apologize again to you and your people.
Thank you.[Shane interjects that he will take the apology back
to his people, but that he won't accept that it was "a
mistake"] Well, regretfully we also make mistakes.
(Now if only
the company would apologize for the millions of people its products
shareholder proposals that followed four youth and adults who
were part of our group had a chance to make statements. You can
check out their statements at the following points in the webcast:
Extend New York Fire-Safe Products Globally
Emily Martuscello (Dover Youth 2 Youth/NH)
Support for Laws at All Levels Combating Use of Tobacco
Gustavo Torrez (Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails/CA)
Serena Bonneville (FACT/WI)
Dana Mitchell (Dover Youth 2 Youth/NH)
And for a
little comic relief, check out the irate pro-tobacco shareholder
from Connecticut who compared our statements to a "terrorist
action" against the company (at 1:57:40 & 2:16:24 in
At the end
of the meeting, a video montage detailed all the wonderful charitable
work that Altria is doing around the world, including disaster
relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina. At this point, we unveiled
a banner that said "Altria/Philip
Morris: Give the World a Break from
" and held photos
of some of the things that the company is up to around the world.
At the close
of the meeting, a youth tried to deliver one of the "Happy
Birthday Marlboro" cards to the CEO, who was whisked away
down the hall by security to prevent any handoff of materials.
the exit, all attendees were given bags filled with the company's
products (no cigarettes).