IN THE FACE OF THREE grand jury probes, Archer Daniels Midland's strategy has been to say little. But now, two influential stockholders--the public-worker pension funds for California (holding 3.4 million ADM shares) and New York City (2.7 million)--are demanding to know what the board's doing. Their likely next step if they're not satisfied: to target individual directors for face-to-face meetings. Other institutional investors may follow.
At issue are allegations of price-fixing in food additives by a onetime senior executive-turned-FBI informant. A key question: how independent are the outside directors, most of them longtime friends of powerful ADM Chairman Dwayne Andreas. ADM's outside directors, led by ex-Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, are conducting their own inquiry --and, says his spokesman, "working diligently."
While the funds each hold less than 1% of ADM, they're among its largest investors. New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi has written Andreas complaining that the board "has been virtually silent." Separately, the California Public Employees' Retirement System's investment board has approved sending a similar missive. Meanwhile, the Council of Institutional Investors, an umbrella group representing 100 large pension funds, is considering pressuring ADM.