Lawsuits, Proxy Fight Heading Into DMA’s Annual Meeting

October 9, 2009       Mark Hrywna      

As the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) proxy fight enters the home stretch, both sides are pulling out all the stops in a bare-knuckle campaign that might rival anything you might see in a November election. The DMA on Wednesday started automated telephone calls to solicit proxy statements, two days after firing off a cease-and-desist letter to board member Gerry Pike. Pike, who was not re-nominated to the DMA board, sent another email blast to members yesterday, his sixth since initiating a proxy Sept. 26. The DMA’s annual business meeting will take place Sunday, Oct. 18, during the annual conference in San Diego. The deadline for receiving proxies is Friday, Oct. 16.

In its letter to Pike, the DMA claims he improperly obtained names and addresses of members. Sue Geramian, senior vice president, communications, media and public relations at DMA, confirmed the existence of a cease-and-desist letter to Pike but added, “we will not comment further on this type of legal matter.” DMA has sent three email blasts this month, in addition to Wednesday’s phone calls to voting members.

Pike, the CEO of DMSA, Inc. in Newfoundland, Pa., said he’s been very encouraged by the response he’s been getting. “I’ve found that we’ve really tapped into a bedrock of sentiment in our community that is agitating for and interested in change, particularly in readjusting the association with a members first management attitude,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.

“What you have to understand, this of course is a campaign, just like in politics, there’s a defined period in which you conduct a campaign. We will be communicating with membership and soliciting proxies through the next seven business days in pursuit of their support up until the meeting,” Pike said.

Describing the DMA’s letter as a “narrative act of creative fiction,” Pike said, “We’ve been involved 30 years in direct marketing. We know our community.”

Pike declined to say how many proxies he has received. “We have received many more than one, something less than 1,000. Our goal is to get at least one more than the other side,” he said. Some members have opted out of his e-mails, but negative feedback has been “infinitesimal,” he added.

Fewer than 5,000 people are registered for the annual conference, far fewer than the between 12,000 and 14,000 who usually attend. Few people attend the organization’s business meetings, which is why a fist full of proxy statements could make the meeting interesting.

Pike lists three goals on his site, www.abetterdma.org: “Ensure that members come first at every level: policies, services, programs & support; get DMA management compensation back in line with industry standards; and, make DMA relevant and the market leader again, before it’s too late.”

He will present two resolutions, according to a story by Richard Levey on the Direct magazine, Chief!Marketer Web site. They are, according to the story:

Pursuant to Article V, Section 1 of the Association’s By laws, by the written request of three percent (3%) or more of the voting members, we hereby add the following items to the Agenda for the Association’s Annual Meeting to be held at the US Grant Hotel, 326 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101 in the Presidential “D” room on October 18, 2009:

Resolved: That, notwithstanding any other provision of the Association’s charter or bylaws, voting members shall be allowed to nominate members for election to the Association’s Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting, such nominations to be made from the floor and any such nominees to be added to the list of nominees and the entire slate to be voted on at the Annual Meeting. If there are more nominees than there are seats on the Board to be filled, then the seats shall be filled with those nominees receiving the highest number of votes. This resolution shall become effective immediately upon its passage and this provision shall be in place for the Annual Meeting held in 2009 and for each Annual Meeting thereafter.

Resolved: That, notwithstanding any other provision of the Association’s charter or bylaws, the Chair of the Board and each other officer of the Board shall be chosen by the vote of the voting members of the Association, taken at the Annual Meeting for that purpose, and if the Chair or other officer that is so elected is not the same person as the Chair or other officer then in office, then the Chair or other officer that is elected by the vote of the voting members shall be the Chair or officer of the Association for all purposes, effective upon such vote. This resolution shall become effective immediately upon its passage and this provision shall be in place for the Annual Meeting held in 2009 and for each Annual Meeting thereafter.

Of DMA’s efforts by phone and email, Pike said, “I’m flattered. I’m glad to see the association is able to learn how to use multiple channels in communicating with membership. They were late on that train, and it is our efforts that have driven them to that,” Pike said.

“We’ve been inundated with people who have been carrying a sense of disappointment, disillusionment with the DMA for a long, long time,” he said. “We welcome the proxy channel, it’s one that can’t be controlled or manipulated by management. It’s the voice of membership that can be recorded and gives them a channel that can have a real impact,” he said.

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