October 16, 2021

Walgreens Vows to Work with Trump Administration on New Health Care Plan

Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:

A Promoter of the Affordable Care Act, Pharmaceutical Giant Indicates Willingness to Assist New White House Team in Repeal and Replacement of ObamaCare 

National Center for Public Policy Research Seeks Commitment from Walgreens Regarding Employee Health Insurance Costs Caught up In ObamaCare Wake

New York, N.Y./Washington, D.C.  –  At today’s annual meeting of Walgreens Boots Alliance shareholders, responding to a question from the National Center for Public Policy Research, Walgreens Executive Chairman James Skinner indicated the pharmaceutical giant is willing to work with the Trump Administration in efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare with a free market alternative.  Skinner, however, refused to discuss specific ways the company might be willing to help bring about reform in the health care industry.

“Walgreens says it wants to work with President Trump, but its executives were evasive about what the company could offer.  Leading from behind was a strategy for the previous administration.  The new leadership in the White House is looking for quick and decisive action, and Walgreens owes it to their employees and the communities it serves to come to the table with plans to help reform the government’s broken health care infrastructure,”  said National Center General Counsel and Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who attended today’s meeting in New York City and questioned the Walgreens leadership. 

At the meeting, Danhof asked:

When former President Obama sought assistance with his health care law, Walgreens partnered with the administration to promote ObamaCare and its exchanges.  Largely unpopular, ObamaCare proved to be a failure as premiums skyrocketed, large insurers took massive taxpayer bailouts and many insurers left the exchanges altogether.

The current political climate offers a unique chance for both private industry and health care consumers.  President Trump has vowed to repeal and replace ObamaCare with a more patient-centric approach that provides greater options and relies on market forces to control prices…

[W]ill Walgreens work with the Trump Administration to promote its health care agenda as it did with the Obama Administration, and what specific reforms would you suggest to the new president? 

“While the response from Walgreens leaders lacked specifics, I am encouraged the company seems willing to move on from ObamaCare,” said Danhof.  “By promoting ObamaCare, Walgreens contributed to the vast destruction it caused.  Millions of Americans who lost their doctors and insurance plans are right to blame corporations such as Walgreens for supporting former President Obama’s top-down health care scheme.  If Walgreens is sincere about its willingness to work with the Trump Administration, I hope its leaders will quickly lay out a clear vision of what reforms would be best for health care consumers.”

At today’s meeting, Danhof also asked about the future of Walgreens employees’ health insurance needs.  Beginning in 2014, Walgreens dropped 160,000 employees from their private health insurance plans and directed them to enroll in a health care exchange.  It was reported that this move was done, in part, because of high ObamaCare compliance costs.   This shifted the burden of potential higher future health-related insurance costs from the company to its employees.  While Walgreens apparently covered these costs in 2014, it is unclear what the company plans to do going forward.

In light of this, Danhof asked:

Walgreens greatest asset is its employees.  And unless their compensation will continue to increase to cover rising health care costs, Walgreens will have done harm to its greatest advocates.  As the public face of the company, these are some of the same employees that the company tasked with promoting ObamaCare…

[I]n 2014, Walgreens provided its employees with funds to cover the costs of their new health care plans.  Will you commit to continue this practice going forward?   

Walgreens Executive Chairman Skinner responded that the company would do what was necessary to take care of its employees. 

“If I were a Walgreens employee, I would be less than thrilled with Skinner’s response to my question,” said Danhof.  “There is great uncertainty regarding the future costs of health care services and health insurance.  This would be a large burden for its employees to bear.”

“Following the meeting,” Danhof added, “Walgreens spokesman Michael Polzin informed me that the company has continued to subsidize the employee’s health insurance plans at the same rate as before.  He also confirmed that, going forward, the company has every intention of maintaining the same subsidy percentages.” 

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business.  Since 2014, National Center representatives have participated in 89 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues.  Today’s Walgreens meeting marks its first shareholder meeting of 2017. 

In 2016, the Free Enterprise Project was featured in the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Fox News “Cavuto,” the Drudge Report, the Financial Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the Quad City Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chicago Tribune among many others.  The Free Enterprise Project was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kim Strassel’s 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group). 

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank.  Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations.  It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.  Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements.  To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at @NCPPRMedia.

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Walgreens CEO Once Again Questioned Over Company’s Green Policies

Shareholder Activist Demands to Know If the Pharmaceutical and Retail Giant Places “Sustainability” Ahead of Investors and Customers

In Frozen Chicago, Walgreens CEO Gregory Wasson Meekly Defends Business Strategy Driven By Environmentalism Rather than Focusing on Free-Market Capitalism

Chicago, IL – Today, at the annual meeting of Walgreens shareholders in Chicago, Illinois, a representative of the National Center for Public Policy Research questioned Walgreens CEO Gregory Wasson about the pharmaceutical and retail company’s push for a radical green agenda that lacks consumer support.

“Walgreens executives spent a good portion of today’s shareholder meeting touting a business philosophy based in large part on the amorphous concept of so-called ‘sustainability.’ However, when I confronted CEO Gregory Wasson about this issue, he was unable to say whether this environmental philosophy trumped common free-market business practices or if it benefited shareholders or customers,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who attended today’s meeting.

Citing Walgreens membership in the Retail Industry leaders Association, a massive trade lobby that advocates for sustainability standards that could raise prices and cause barriers to entry for small business, Danhof asked Wasson, in part:

[D]oes Walgreens currently pursue any initiative (outside of that what is required by law) that artificially raises the price to its suppliers or its customers in the name of sustainability or environmentalism? If so, can you explain why you think this is important, rather than providing the best prices for the customers?

“Wasson had no real answer to my question,” said Danhof. “He said he didn’t think costs necessarily needed to rise in order to advance sustainability, but did not provide specifics or evidence to back his claim.”

As a follow up question, Danhof noted: “We worked with General Electric on this issue, and they actually amended their corporate documents to say that they would not invest in any project that solely advances environmentalist or sustainability without a business metric. Would you be willing to do to the same?”

Wasson replied, “[w]ell, I think anything we look at has to have a strategic and a business perspective. But I think you can have both.”

To see a video of Danhof and Wasson’s exchange, go here.

“That doesn’t answer the question,” said Danhof. “If Wasson wants to prove to Walgreens investors, customers and suppliers that they aren’t paying inflated prices or receiving diminished shareholder value due to the company’s green endeavors, he should put it in writing. By failing to do so, he is inviting continued criticism and skepticism.”

Through the shareholder resolution process, the National Center recently received just such a concession regarding corporate sustainability practices from the international conglomerate, General Electric (GE). In response to a shareholder proposal submitted by the National Center – and after years as the poster child for crony capitalism and green lobbying efforts – GE changed its corporate policies to ensure that none of its projects pursue environmentalism without a solid business / profit motive.

The National Center has repeatedly called on Wasson to come clean about Walgreens affiliation with RILA and its support for top-down sustainability mandates.

At the Walgreens shareholder meeting last January, Danhof asked Wasson how much more he would be willing to pay for a hypothetical shopping cart containing $100 worth of commonly purchased items if all the products were labeled as “sustainable.” Danhof also asked if it was fair to charge low and middle-income Americans more for basic retail goods so that large retailers such as Walgreens can “greenwash” their images.

Wasson stammered through an incoherent response that never answered the question. Wasson concluded his non-answer by saying: “Um… as… as far as… ah… as far as what the cost may be… certainly, we think there’s opportunity to drive sustainability… corporate social responsibility without driving costs up. So… acknowledge your comments. Appreciate your comments. And thank you very much.”

A full transcript of Danhof and Wasson’s 2013 exchange can be found here and a video of the exchange here.

“A year later, and Wasson is still dodging the question,” noted Danhof. “He is making our point for us – if RILA member companies are in fact pushing sustainability in a manner that benefits customers, suppliers and investors, Wasson would say as much. Since he is unable to do so, it is a tacit recognition that sustainability mandates may cause higher prices.”

After last year’s meeting, a contributor to the financial website the Motley Fool, Gene Koprowski, suggested that “investors refrain from buying shares of Walgreen until CEO Greg Wasson can provide a solid answer to the [National Center’s] query.”

“That advice still holds,” said Danhof. “Wasson seems content to hide the effects of a major company initiative from Walgreens stakeholders. If the results were glowing, certainly the CEO would be the first one touting the financial successes of the drive for increased sustainability.”

Also, in connection with last year’s meeting, the National Center commissioned a poll to gage consumer sentiment for RILA’s sustainability initiatives. More than half (52 percent) of consumers polled said they would not spend a single penny more for products in order to meet sustainability standards, and only three percent said they would be willing to spend ten percent or more.

Today marks the National Center’s third attempt (not including media interviews and citations) to get Wasson to explain Walgreens’ advancement of green policies. Last September, the National Center issued a press release in which Danhof noted, “Wasson said RILA presented an opportunity to push sustainability standards without dramatically increasing prices. Is that opportunity being realized, or are most Walgreens customers paying more then they should at the checkout line against their wishes? Our poll clearly shows that – if given a choice – most Americans would decline these ‘green’ goods.”

National Center Senior Fellow Dr. Bonner Cohen further exposed RILA’s sustainability agenda in his groundbreaking July 2013 paper titled, “The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA): A Cartel that Threatens Innovation and Competitiveness,” in which he explained that:

The elevation of greenhouse-gas emissions to a place of prominence, for example, puts RILA squarely on the side of alarmists who, in the absence of any compelling data, blame human activities, i.e., the burning of fossil fuels, for climate change… While the standards and practices dictated by ‘sustainable’ trade associations do not have the force of law behind them, their effect on businesses and consumers can be as far-reaching as the most sweeping edicts from Washington regulators.

In 2013, National Center representatives attended 33 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and many more important public policy issues. Today’s Walgreens meeting was the National Center’s first attendance at a shareholder meeting in 2014.

A copy of Justin Danhof’s question at the 2014 Walgreens shareholder meeting, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a Walgreens shareholder.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.
Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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Calls for Walgreens Leadership to Come Clean Renewed

Free-Market Activists Renew Calls for Walgreens Leadership to Come Clean About Affiliation With Trade Association Advancing Top-Down “Sustainability”

Walgreens CEO Stays Mum on “Going Green” Strategy Possibly Boosting Prices on Retail Goods

Many Months After Being Asked a Simple Question on Retail Industry Plans to Advance Sustainability Rather than Price and Quality – CEO Greg Wasson Still Has no Answer for His Customers or Shareholders

Chicago, IL / Washington, DC – After nine months of deafening silence, free-market activists with the National Center for Public Policy Research are once again calling on Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson to explain his company’s membership in a controversial trade association that is promoting expensive sustainability measures that threaten to distort the retail marketplace.

“I think that somewhere near Walgreens’ headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, there’s a cat who has Greg Wasson’s tongue,” said Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project. “He is second vice chairman of the board of directors of RILA [the Retail Industry Leaders Association], the group which is promoting top-down sustainability mandates. It is time he answer for RILA’s actions.”

In January, at Walgreens annual shareholder meeting, Danhof asked Wasson, in part:

Consider a hypothetical shopping cart containing a hundred dollars worth of commonly purchased retail items. How much more would you personally be willing to pay if all of those products were labeled as “sustainable?” And, after that, do you think it is fair to charge low and middle-income Americans – many of whom are on very tight budgets and just lost a bunch in the so-called fiscal cliff deal – to pay more for company products because Walgreens and other retailers want to greenwash their images?

Danhof’s full question is available here.

Wasson became incoherent, and he could not answer Danhof’s question. He replied, in part: “Um… as… as far as… ah… as far as what the cost may be… certainly, we think there’s opportunity to drive sustainability… corporate social responsibility without driving costs up. So… acknowledge your comments. Appreciate your comments. And thank you very much.”

To date, Wasson has still not provided a coherent reply to the National Center’s inquiry.

“Maybe I caught the CEO of a company with $71 billion in sales last year off guard with such a simple question, but he has had three-quarters of a year to think about it,” said Danhof. “I hope, for his employees and investors sake, Wasson doesn’t take this long in making other corporate decisions.”

In conjunction with the Walgreens shareholder meeting, and to assess the impact RILA’s sustainability agenda could have on its member companies, the National Center commissioned a poll asking the American public how much more they would be willing to pay for retail products in order for retailers to comply with heightened, costly sustainability standards. More than half (52 percent) of consumers polled said they would not spend a single penny more for products in order to meet RILA standards, and only three percent said they would be willing to spend ten percent or more.

“Wasson said RILA presented an opportunity to push sustainability standards without dramatically increasing prices,” said Danhof. “Is that opportunity being realized, or are most Walgreens customers paying more then they should at the checkout line against their wishes? Our poll clearly shows that – if given a choice – most Americans would decline these ‘green’ goods.”

The likely answer is that the cost for many retail items may be inflated because of RILA’s initiatives. In his seminal expose detailing RILA’s primary agenda titled, “The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA): A Cartel that Threatens Innovation and Competitiveness,” National Center Senior Fellow Dr. Bonner Cohen explained that:

While RILA remains vague about what is meant by the “root causes of deeply embedded social and environmental challenges,” scratch beneath the surface of the high-minded sounding phrases, and the organization’s political agenda is revealed. The elevation of greenhouse-gas emissions to a place of prominence, for example, puts RILA squarely on the side of alarmists who, in the absence of any compelling data, blame human activities, i.e., the burning of fossil fuels, for climate change… While the standards and practices dictated by ‘sustainable’ trade associations do not have the force of law behind them, their effect on businesses and consumers can be as far-reaching as the most sweeping edicts from Washington regulators.

“Wasson should reject RILA’s extra-regulatory extremism and rededicate Walgreens to price and quality concerns,” added Danhof. “If he does that, his customers and shareholders will reap the rewards.”

Starting in early 2012, National Center staffers confronted the CEOs of five major retailers, who are all members of RILA – Target, J.C. Penney, Bed Bath & Beyond, Gap and CVS Caremark – about their engagement with RILA. Through its Free Enterprise Project, the National Center demanded these corporate leaders explain how RILA’s goals are consistent with their fiduciary duties to increase shareholder value, and explained how they could adversely affect customers.

And the retail industry took notice. Prominent retail writer Joan Verdon wrote an article detailing the National Center’s work to expose RILA that appeared in more than a dozen major publications nationwide including Bloomberg Businessweek, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

In early 2013, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project continued to pressure RILA members regarding their complicity with RILA’s new monopoly agenda. Through the shareholder resolution process, National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour and Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq., had conversations with top executives at Best Buy and received assurances that the company would not pursue any RILA initiatives that, in their view, contradicted best business practices dictated by the free market.

Furthermore, at the 2013 Costco shareholder meeting, Danhof confronted company CEO Craig Jelinek and asked him if he would reject any RILA initiatives that would harm Costco’s bottom line. Jelinek refused to answer.

In the first half of 2013, the National Center also talked with the CEOs of Sears and Home Depot, educating them about RILA’s new monopoly agenda. Following the Home Depot meeting, National Center President David Ridenour privately discussed the issue of RILA’s new monopoly with company CEO Francis Blake and other top executives. They assured Ridenour that the company does not always agree with RILA and would not pursue an initiative that would harm customers or the bottom line in the name of going green.

Also of note, at the Sears meeting, newly-installed CEO Edward Lambert appeared to reject any extra-regulatory mechanism of RILA saying in part that “[p]ersonally, I don’t like coercive solutions. I think America is overregulated.”

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