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Shareholders revolt against Walmart and Netflix

Marlon Brando in The Wild One

In the Wild One, Marlon Brando's Johnny is asked what he's rebelling against. "Whattya got?" he sneers. An icon was born.

Sixty years later American voters and shareholders are still launching largely futile protests against targets of all shapes and sizes. It's not just House Majority Leader Eric Cantor getting drubbed in a Virginia primary, of all things. In Bentonville, Arkansas more than 35% of Walmart's (WMT) voting shareholders rejected the company's "say on pay" plan, protesting bonuses for former CEO Mike Duke and current head Doug McMillon. More than 40% of votes not controlled by the founding Walton family pushed to replace chairman Rob Walton.

Serves 'em right!? After all Walmart has been lagging the S&P 500 (^GSPC) for as long as anyone can remember. Well then how to explain Netflix (NFLX), where the stock has nearly doubled over the last year. Despite that performance more than 52% of the independent votes cast by shareholders supported replacing Reed Hastings as Chairman. Never mind that without Hastings Netflix would be snail-mailing DVD rentals. Forget Netflix's almost unfathomable ability to create compelling original content. Netflix shareholders are mad as hell that they don't have majority vote rule in the company bylaws.

What's it all mean? Well for Walmart and Netflix shareholders, not a lot. Neither company seems to be feeling much pressure to change its ways. No matter what shareholder right's advocates say, there's nothing democratic about corporations. Anyone confused about that is invited to read Google (GOOGL) or Facebook's (FB) public filings.

The stock market is at record highs and there are more Americans working than ever. According to data released this week an average of one in every 12 US households contains a millionaire. The nation has never been more loaded yet our discontent is, if anything, on the rise.  It’s a gloriously bullish situation for fans of prosperity by mass uprising.

America's at its best when we're not complacent. For one of the few times in this country's history we're rebelling when times are good. Hopefully it bodes well for the markets, and society.

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