Naked City

Bad Company

Most companies view their annual meeting as an opportunity to talk to shareholders about their operations and listen to their concerns. But at New Orleans-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, it appears management is not interested in hearing from shareholders. For the second year in a row, the company is holding its annual meeting in the dreary basement conference room of a nondescript office building in Wilmington, Delaware. Last year, none of the company's board members attended the meeting. Perhaps the company is wise to shift the meeting place, as its previous meetings in New Orleans were marked by acrimonious exchanges between company officials and environmentalists who object to the company's mining practices at its vast gold and copper mine in Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

Freeport continues to be scrutinized by the Indonesian government, which recently began its own environmental audit of the company's mine. Last week, State Minister of Environment Sonny Keraf told the Jakarta Post that the government was unlikely to shut down Freeport's mine, but added that he is still displeased with the company's actions and officials, particularly company CEO Jim Bob Moffett. "I'm not very fond of Moffet [sic] because he seems arrogant," Keraf told the newspaper.

This year, the company also faces another shareholder proposal from Harold J. Mathis, a Houston-based investor who has repeatedly questioned the company's practices. Mathis wants the company to elect its board of directors annually, rather than staggering their terms, a practice that Mathis says makes the board less responsive to investor concerns. Last year, Mathis' proposal gained the support of 41%, or about 48.3 million shares -- a substantial number given that board members, who include Henry Kissinger and former U.S. senator J. Bennet Johnston, control over 34 million shares.

Calls to Freeport's press office were not returned.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold, Jim Bob Moffett, Sonny Keraf, Harold J. Mathis, Henry Kissinger, J. Bennet Johnston

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