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On Massey, Miners and the Value Neutrality of Wall Street Culture

The Charleston Daily Mail reports today that the West Virginia board charged with investing the state’s pension money will not join nine other states in protesting Massey’s safety record at a shareholder meeting next week.

The state fund owns almost $4 million of Massey stock, meaning any protest would be merely symbolic (Massey’s market capitalization tops $3 billion). But members of the West Virginia Investment Management Board said the company’s earning potential — not its safety record — is their primary concern.

“Our approach on proxy voting is to require our money managers to vote the proxies in our best interest,” the board’s executive director, Craig Slaughter, told the Daily Mail. ”The money managers are charged with the buy and sell decision for any corporation so they are much more familiar with them, giving them a better understanding of the value of the corporations and what influences that value.”

As an organization, the West Virginia Investment Management Board has not formed any opinion with regard to Massey.

From a strict business perspective, this makes sense, and it’s precisely the attitude you’d expect from the barons of Wall Street whose insulation in the estates of Greenwich abets their indifference. It’s quite another thing coming from officials in a state where thousands of residents work for Massey, and the company’s safety ethic is literally an issue of life and death for those folks.

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