NY State fund writes to Massey shareholders

$129bn pension giant wants directors ousted

Controversial US mining company Massey Energy is facing renewed pressure from institutional investors following the deadly explosion at one of its mines earlier this month.
The blast at the Upper Big Branch facility in West Virginia claimed 29 lives and unleashed a barrage of criticism about the company’s safety record.
In the latest move, the $129.4bn New York State Common Retirement Fund has urged other shareholders to withhold their votes for Massey directors Baxter Phillips, Richard Gabrys and Dan Moore, saying a lack of oversight by Massey’s board has contributed to its “long history of legal and regulatory problems”. The trio are members of Massey’s safety, environmental and public policy committee and will stand for re-election at the company’s annual meeting on May 18.
Lady Barbara Judge, who chaired Massey’s governance committee, resigned on April 20.
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, thetrustee of the fund, said: “There’s no excuse for the lack of accountability at Massey. The solution is clear: they have to go.” DiNapoli had earlier joined other shareholder groups such as CtW Investments in calling for Massey chief executive Don Blankenship to resign.
“We have attempted to engage Massey on environmental risk and board accountability for several years to no avail,” DiNapoli states in his letter. “It is clear to me that the fund’s investment has been harmed by lapses in risk control.” With losses put at up to $150m from the accident, DiNapoli added: “I believe our investment is further threatened by recent events that have put our Company at legal and regulatory risk.” The fund holds 303,550 Massey shares, worth about $14.1m.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Building Laborers Pension Fund has filed a suit against Massey seeking punitive damages for breach of fiduciary duties, as well as greater inspection of the company’s mines, as well as the removal of Blankenship.