The Walt Disney Company held its 2022 Shareholders Meeting yesterday afternoon, but not before handing out a long list of disclaimers and explanations before the webcast ever began via a message on the company’s website.
The Walt Disney Company’s 2022 Shareholders Meeting took place on Wednesday. The meeting was broadcast online for anyone who wanted to listen in on the company’s once-a-year meeting, causing sites like BamSmackPow.com to say that “only a brand like The Walt Disney Company has the capability to get fans buzzing about a shareholders call.”
If you, your loved ones, or an organization you patronize owns shares of Disney stock, you and they are, by definition, an investor in the Disney brand, and while many shareholders consider themselves Disney fans more than they consider themselves simply stockholders, some of Disney’s shareholders, such as large corporations and organizations, look to the annual Shareholders Meetings as a barometer for how the company is performing.
The Shareholders Meeting, however, shouldn’t be confused with the Walt Disney Company’s quarterly earnings calls, which take place every 3 months, include many of the Disney company’s C-level executives, and also involve the participation of some of Wall Street’s finest, even though they are usually silent during the call.
Disney often uses the Shareholders Meetings to generate “buzz” (no, not Lightyear) about the brand, about its subsidiaries like Marvel, PIXAR, National Geographic, ESPN, etc., and about projects over the previous year and ones to come in the current year.
Today’s meeting wasn’t much different from other Annual Shareholders Meetings held by The Walt Disney Company, and if you tuned in to watch the meeting via the company’s live webcast today, it probably looked like this:
But what you might not have noticed was a swarm of lingo underneath the screen on which Mr. Chapek is speaking in this particular screenshot. It became much more noticeable once the webcast concluded. It looked like this:
From the screenshot, you can see what looks like a lot of fine-print legal jargon. (That’s largely because it’s a lot of fine-print legal jargon.) The block of text mentions the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 which, according to Investopedia.com, is “a piece of legislation passed by Congress in 1995 to stem the filing of frivolous or unwarranted securities lawsuits.”
In other words, the block of text on the website during the Annual Shareholders Meeting is there in an effort to reduce or eliminate the chance of securities suits being brought against Disney, in the event that the plans the company has don’t pan out or don’t make a profit. But as fans heard during The Walt Disney Company’s fourth-quarter earnings call, profits and revenue don’t seem to be a problem for the House of Mouse, as Disney reported quarterly revenue in its theme parks division alone of $7.2 billion.
Regardless, the company had the following message on its site today during the meeting, under the heading of “Forward-Looking Statements.” Keep in mind that the words “this discussion” refer to the verbal presentations and question-and-answer segment of the meeting, and “the Company” refers, of course, to The Walt Disney Company itself for the purposes of this communication.
“Certain statements in this discussion may constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements regarding the Company’s future performance; business prospects; plans; ambitions; strategy or priorities; opportunities; growth, and performance strategies and drivers; direct-to-consumer expansion, including international expansion; consumer demand and behavior; content offerings and opportunities; new and returning attractions, experiences, cruise ships and developments; workforce matters; and other statements that are not historical in nature.
“These statements are made on the basis of management’s views and assumptions regarding future events and business performance as of the time the statements are made. Management does not undertake any obligation to update these statements.
“Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied. Such differences may result from actions taken by the Company, including business decisions, as well as from developments beyond the Company’s control, including further changes in domestic and global economic conditions; changes in or pressures from competitive conditions and consumer preferences or demand; health concerns and their impact on our businesses and productions, including COVID-19; international, regulatory, political, or military developments; technological developments; labor markets and activities; adverse weather conditions or natural disasters; legal or regulatory changes; the advertising market for programming; and timing, availability, and performance of content; each of which may impact our operations, business plans or profitability.”
Business Law in the United States does not require companies to update their so-called “Forward-Looking Statements,” which, by definition, are statements made by the company or representatives of the company, which are true at the time they are made.
There has been backlash lately against The Walt Disney Company for decisions the company has made to do or to not do certain things. Recently, most decisions made by Disney–those about which fans are aware–have been met with a heavy dose of criticism and controversy. This includes everything from reimagining the Splash Mountain attractions with theming from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog to revamping the entire Annual Pass Program at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, to scrapping some attractions so that others can come to fruition. This list goes on and on.
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But it’s important to note that no part of this communication on The Walt Disney Company’s website is out of the ordinary for a company that is publicly traded. “Looking-forward statements” are used by companies as a deterrent for lawsuits brought about by shareholders when a company doesn’t perform as it planned or as its shareholders had hoped. Disney is no different in that respect.
Where Disney is very different is in its pursuit of excellence in its offerings to Guests who visit its parks, drive to the theater to take in a movie produced by a Disney brand, watch a new offering on Disney+, or make purchases online at ShopDisney. Disney is also different from some brands when it comes to its track record of keeping promises made to Guests, fans, and shareholders about new attractions, upcoming experiences, new hotels, etc.
There have been exceptions to that track record. For instance, a Mary Poppins-themed attraction was announced at the D23 Expo in 2019, just months before the pandemic made its way to the United States, putting a longstanding pause on plans for the new experience at EPCOT. But pandemics aside, when an announcement is made by The Walt Disney Company about new attractions and experiences, you can bet on those new attractions and experiences coming to a park near you in the near future, such as Guardians of the Galaxy: COSMIC REWIND and Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser at Disney World–both of which were announced by Disney execs during a D23 Expo convention.
The disclaimers on the company’s site during the webcast were in no way a forecast for failure or a forecast for the company’s plans to stray from the original announcements. We’re excited about the future of the parks, Guest experiences, and Disney-branded films! We hope you are too!