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Evelyn Davis: Unlikely Champion Fights for Shareholders’ Rights

May 16, 2008 08:30 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Diminutive Holocaust survivor Evelyn Y. Davis is known as the “queen of the corporate jungle” for her unflagging struggle to keep executives accountable.

30-Second Summary

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Hard to miss at a shareholders’ meeting, the small septuagenarian speaks with a heavy Dutch accent and is not one to shy away from the spotlight.

“The eccentric corporate gadfly has tormented CEOs at annual shareholders meetings, where she dresses them down for excessive pay packages, poor corporate performance—even their girth,” writes USA Today.

Davis, a multimillionaire, owns stock in more than 90 companies and regularly attends their shareholders’ meetings. In an interview with CNBC, Davis expressed frustration with the number of annual meetings that occur on the same dates.

“What’s the matter? You think they’re doing this to keep you from going to all the meetings?” joked interviewer Bill Griffeth.

His assertion may not be far off.

At a New York Times meeting, chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told her, “Evelyn, you have to sit down or you have to leave.”

The St. Petersburg Times said Davis grilled JPMorgan’s chief executive about a salary boost and gave him a “tongue-lashing” about the company’s use of auditing services she considered excessive and expensive.

Some view Davis as a “crackpot” but many of her proposals, such as restricting incoming directors to six years of work, have been adopted by corporations, says USA Today.

Recently, she proposed preventing financial abuses by prohibiting top executives at Goldman Sachs from receiving new stock options.

More than two decades ago, she had her own headstone erected in a Washington cemetery. The stone carries her curriculum vitae and two epitaphs: “Power Is Greater than Love,” reads one; the other, “And I Did Not Get Where I Am by Being Shy.”

Headline Links: Tough corporate watchdog doubles as philanthropist

Background: The corporate gadfly

Related Topics: Davis speaks out

Davis and The New York Times
SEC letter opposing voting by proxy
Arguing against stock options at Goldman Sachs

Video & Photography: Davis in action and her future headstone

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