Some commentators try to paint the Occupy Wall Street movement as a bunch of anti-capitalist hippies with no ambition greater than to live long enough for the next toke. But the movement has reiterated numerous times that its protests center largely on income inequality and the corporate welfare that has been handed out like fashion citations at a Star Wars conference.
Protesters have focused largely on financial companies such as Bank of America (NYS: BAC) , Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs that benefited directly from hundreds of billions in government largesse (supported directly by taxpayers) as well as low interest rates from the Federal Reserve.
But they've also heaped disdain on financial companies, such as mortgage REITs Annaly Capital (NYS: NLY) and Chimera, that profit from the low-interest-rate environment (and through mortgages, no less) while diligent savers are hurting. And that backlash has certainly started to hurt some of the big financial companies, as customers vote with their feet, avoiding businesses that are perceived as uncaring and insensitive to the needs of the broader society.
Occupy Wall Street also has positive ideals, including fairness, social justice, and even innovation. And those ideals can help create businesses that are sustainable for the long term, a fact that Foolish investors should be scouting for.
There are certainly American companies that try to embody those values in their corporate codes, and so I asked some of my Foolish colleagues to come up with companies that the movement could approve of. Here's what they said.
If the protesters are concerned about corporations that gouge them for every dollar, they should love my stock recommendation -- Costco (NAS: COST) .
CEO and co-founder Jim Sinegal and his management team intentionally keep product markups to a maximum of 15%, in order to pass along the savings to their customers. This means the protesters can stock up on soup, toilet paper, and flannel shirts for the approaching winter -- and rest assured they get it at a great price, from a company that's committed to helping keep its customers' pockets lined, instead of its executives'.
eBay (NAS: EBAY) represents a public company with a reputation for strong corporate governance and is a company that Occupy Wall Street can rally behind. Among its notable efforts to improve its corporate-governance policies, eBay agreed this year to reduce its shareholder supermajority voting requirement to amend bylaws from 66.6% to a majority of outstanding stock. The board will also seek investor approval at its 2012 annual meeting to eliminate staggered board terms. Leading international think tank Ethisphere ranked eBay among one its 110 World's Most Ethical Companies this year.
C-level compensation got you down? Then Whole Foods Market (NAS: WFM) is the company for you! A salary cap of 19:1 (top earner to standard employee) is a breath of fresh air when compared with the terrifying 475:1 you've seen floating around in discussions on your buddy's Facebook wall. In addition, the company continues to make strides in its same-store sales and has managed to pay off all its debt. If it can continue to successfully wrangle the questionable declarations of co-CEO and co-founder John Mackey and carry on as an ethical leader in the sector, Whole Foods will be a fantastic stock to hold for the long term.
Jim Royal, research analyst, Motley Fool Special Ops
Innovation that brings goods and services that benefit society at large is also prized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, and Apple (NAS: AAPL) has that all over. Under new CEO Tim Cook, the company looks to continue its hot streak of innovation, building on its success with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Its products provide increased communication and improved quality of life for many. Plus, such innovation creates jobs for tens of thousands.
Foolish bottom line
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At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Whole Foods, Wells Fargo, Annaly, Costco, Apple, and Bank of America.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple, Costco, eBay, and Whole Foods and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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