Church Investor Sues Wal-Mart Over Sale of Guns, ‘Offensive’ Music

By Dawn McCarty and | April 3, 2014

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s sale of sexually charged music and high-capacity weapons hurts the company’s image, an historic Wall Street church said in a lawsuit seeking to force a shareholder vote on tightening board oversight of products that offend “family values.”

Trinity Church Wall Street contends Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, is refusing to allow distribution of proxy material at its June 6 annual meeting on the music-and-weapons issue even though Trinity is a legitimate investor, according to a lawsuit filed today in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The church is asking Wal-Mart in its proposed proxy statement to reconsider sales of items that may be dangerous to the public, may hurt the company’s reputation or offend family values — including weapons with clips holding more than 10 rounds that are “well suited to mass killing,” and music “that depicts violence or sex,” according to court papers.

Those high-capacity magazines reduce opportunities for victims in a mass shooting to flee or overwhelm a shooter while reloading, according to the church’s proposal cited in the complaint. Magazines holding 10 or more rounds have “enabled” mass killings including those in Newtown, Connecticut, and Columbine, Colorado, according to the proposal.

SEC Decision

“We are disappointed that Trinity chose to file this lawsuit demanding that Wal-Mart include a shareholder proposal that they submitted,” Randy Hargrove, a company spokesman, said in an interview. The suit disregards a staff decision at the Securities and Exchange Commission that its rules permit Wal- Mart to exclude Trinity’s proposal, he said.

“To be clear, this is not an anti-gun proposal,” Trinity Rector James Herbert Cooper said in a letter to parishioners. “We are simply asking that shareholders be allowed to consider whether the board has an obligation” to maintain reasonable societal standards.

Trinity Church, located in the heart of Wall Street at 74 Trinity Place, has been a part of New York’s history since its charter in 1697. Known today as Trinity Wall Street, the Episcopal parish offers daily worship services at 74 Trinity Place.

Since 1972 the parish, through Trinity Grants, has provided $80 million in funding to 85 countries, according to its website.

Trinity owns at least $2,000 worth of Wal-Mart shares, according to court papers.

The church asked the court to rule against Wal-Mart’s refusal to allow the church’s proposal and to award legal fees and expenses.

Wal-Mart, which logged $476 billion in sales last year, rose 34 cents to $76.77 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading at 4:15 p.m.

The case is Trinity v. Wal-Mart, 14-cv-00405 U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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