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Investor Relations Magazine, September 13, 2007 article (updated September 17)


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Interest grows in independent shareholder forums


Sep 13, 2007


Leading host looks for additional support

UPDATED on Sept. 17

NEW YORK -- Shareholders and management normally hash out issues at management-run meetings or analyst conferences, but there's a growing interest in tackling issues in independent shareholder forums. Gary Lutin, a champion of such investor programs, is now running a forum focused on Verizon, while getting requests to do more.

The interest is coming from surprising sources: the companies themselves. Lutin, president of the investment bank Lutin & Co., says four large-cap companies and one small-cap have just approached him about hosting forums for their firms.

'A few corporate managers have realized that an independent exchange of views with investment professionals is exactly what they try to do through investor relations research and perception consultants,' he says. 'Forum programs are essentially just another way for managers and investors to understand their common interests in a company's competitive success.'

Meanwhile, Lutin, who has run forums for companies such as Amazon and Computer Associates outside management's orbit since 1999, is looking for ongoing support from a wider swath of the investment community. 'I'm willing to commit to one or two programs per year, but you really need to institutionalize both the support and administration to fairly service everyone who wants a forum.'

The New York Society of Securities Analysts (NYSSA), which actually conceived the idea of the shareholder forum in a neutral setting in 1999, did step up to host one of the Verizon shareholder meetings in August. Executive director Alvin Kressler says the NYSSA may do more. 'There is an opportunity for us. I don't think we'd have a role to play where it was a battle over shareholder proposals. But we are interested in discussions on issues that go beyond a single company.'

The Verizon discussion has broad implications. Investors and analysts have come together to ask the company to disclose metrics that will help determine executives' confidence in their costly bet on a fiber-optic network. Their efforts may inspire other challenges to companies that are also unspecific about performance benchmarks.

Verizon has indicated an interest in attending meetings but, so far, no representative has. A retired executive, C William Jones, president and executive director of the Association of BellTel Retirees, a group of 110,000 former Verizon employees, is an active participant. A frequent filer of proxy proposals, Jones says he worried about whether his presence would hurt the forum, but wants to remind Verizon he is 'not on a headhunting expedition'.

Lutin has explored institutionalizing the shareholder forum concept, perhaps in a not-for-profit structure with support from corporate and investor constituencies: 'The need for a broadly supported forum institute has been discussed for years. There are many more companies whose shareholders could benefit from a forum program if the resources were available.

Verizon forum updates are posted on

Anna Snider



© copyright 2007 Cross Border Ltd




This Forum program is open, free of charge, to all Verizon Communications, Inc. ("VZ") shareholders and to any fiduciaries or professionals concerned with their investment decisions.  Its purpose is to provide shareholders with access to information and a free exchange of views on issues relating to their evaluations of alternatives, addressing issues described in the Forum Summary.

As stated in the posted Conditions of Participation, all Forum participants are expected to make independent use of information obtained through the Forum, subject to the privacy rights of other participants.  It is a Forum rule that participants will not be identified or quoted without their explicit permission.

The Verizon Forum program has been organized with the support of the Association of BellTel Retirees Inc., believed to be the world’s largest such organization with over 110,000 members who are retired employees of Verizon and its predecessor companies.

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