Tim Cook Apple CEO
A New Brand of Shareholder Activism
It’s fairly common knowledge that shareholders have little say in corporate governance. For the most part upper level managers run their companies as their own personal fiefdom. In addition to paying themselves obscene salaries, they make decisions that mainly benefit management, often at the expense of employees, shareholders, and the community that hosts them.
Shareholder activism, also known as shareholder advocacy, has resulted in over 400 shareholder resolutions in 2013 on issues as wide ranging as carbon footprint, fracking, and CEO reimbursement. While holding great promise for the future, the movement has yet to have major impact on the way CEOs operate their companies.
Enter A Meanss
Imagine you, as a stockholder, file a multimillion dollar judgment against Apple. They refuse to pay up, and you get a court order to confiscate merchandise from their computer stores. After obtaining a similar settlement against Jammie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, you begin seizing the assets of your nearest Chase Bank.
Although much of the story A Meanss tells on his blog (A Meanns to an End) sounds far-fetched, the level of legal and financial detail lends it a ring of plausibility. If Meanns invented all this, he sure has one hell of an imagination.
Meanns Wins Multimillion Dollar Settlement
Although Meanss, who is under gag order, doesn’t say so directly, his blog suggests the lawsuit he filed against the federal government in 2009 related to malicious harassment (stalking, mail interference, phone surveillance, etc.) by an unnamed federal agency. The settlement was paid into an investment account which couldn’t be drawn as cash or into a private bank account. Instead, for some reason, it could only be invested in stocks or real estate.
The couple ultimately used most of the fund to purchase shares in Apple and Ford. They also transferred $1.4 million to an escrow account managed by JP Morgan Chase to buy a house. When the home purchase fell through, they sought to withdraw the $1.4 million and JP Morgan Chase refused to release it.
Meanwhile Apple and Ford failed to pay quarterly dividends Meanss was due. Neither company offered any explanation. They merely refused to respond to queries from either Meanss or his attorneys. Meanns blames his failure to receive the funds he was owed on ongoing government harassment. He claims to have an email the unnamed government agency sent JP Morgan Chase warning them not to release his funds for reasons of national security.
Meanss Obtains Court Order
After an extensive legal battle, Meanns ultimately obtained a court order requiring JP Morgan Chase to release the $1.4 million. They also obtained court orders requiring Apple front up with $12.6 million in unpaid dividends and Ford $600,000. In September, Apple was given 30 days to begin payments according to the schedule the judge set up.
Meanss Begins Confiscating Merchandise
When Apple failed to comply, Meanns applied for and was granted a seizure of assets order. On October 11, federal marshals assisted him in executing the order on the Apple store in Keystone Crossing Indianapolis. In total he confiscated $275,000 worth of merchandise. On October 19th marshals arrested three retail staff at the Columbus Apple store when they tried to interfere with a seizure of assets order that netted Meanss $2.75 million of computer equipment. In early November, marshals assisted him in carrying out seizure of assets orders in two Apple stores in Louisville Kentucky, in which acquired $3.7 million worth of electronic equipment.
Meanwhile on October 31, Meanns started in on JP Morgan Chase with a seizure of assets order at the Chase Bank in Indianapolis. Everything in the bank was seized except for the server and records containing customer information. The process also netted him approximately $126,000 in cash in addition to rolls of coins.
Is Meanss’ Story Believable?
Obviously there are details missing from this story that would be useful in evaluating its believability. Meanns claims a gag order issued with the settlement prevents him from disclosing factual details. Even so, it would be useful to know his occupation and the circumstances that caused him to become the focus of government harassment.
Overall I find the pattern of harassment he describes quite similar to the experiences of federal and corporate whistleblowers I worked with when I had a private practice in Seattle. They, too, experienced stalking, break-ins, mail interference, phone surveillance, prank calls, etc. when they tried to publicize sensitive information powerful people wanted to keep hidden. I also worked with activists whose political views caused them to be subjected to malicious harassment. It was my own involvement with two former Black Panthers that led to the federal harassment I describe in my memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee.
The intersection between government and corporate interests is also a common scenario that’s carefully hidden from public view.
This is the only instance I know of in which a target successfully sued the government for harassment. It’s more typical for the government to arrange car and plane accidents for whistleblowers who become too troublesome – like they did journalist Michael Hastings.
photo credit: deerkoski via photopin