Marriott, Again

April 11, 2008 | 149 comments
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I know we’ve had this conversation before, but . . .

. . . this AP article tells of the American Family Association’s request to meet with J. W. Marriott Jr. to protest their policy of offering pornographic movies, especially given their family-friendly image and connection to the church (which is mentioned in the article).

I am neither a lawyer nor a business type and I have no idea what level of control anyone carrying the Marriott name has over what happens in the Marriott Corporation. Still, it is immoral for any member of the church to promote or condone pornography in any way. If I carried the Marriott name, I’d do whatever I could to end the practice and/or disassociate myself from it. I hope they do.

149 Responses to Marriott, Again

  1. rowish on April 11, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Agreed, but I’d do everything in my power not to allow any group associated with James Dobson to take credit for it.

    If I were a Marriott, I’d find a group NOT associated with FoF or AFA, set up a meeting with them, and then get rid of the movies.

    I just don’t like Dobson.

  2. Karl Kategianes on April 11, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Agreed, Marriott should not have done it in the first place. It’s now a publicly-held corporation, and I don’t know if the Marriott family still has a controlling interest in it. Maybe they don’t, and can’t force the corporation to discontinue what is a pretty profitable (dis)service…

    I don’t care for Dobson and his group either. To him, we’re a cult.

  3. Matt on April 11, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Is it also immoral for any member of the church to promote or condone drinking alcohol, gambling, same-sex marriage etc.? Should Mormons not own restaurants or work in casinos? I don\’t think the use of such sweeping statements is very helpful to the discussion of the topic. While there is a fine line between honest position and rationalizing sin, the decision is personal.

  4. RBH on April 11, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    I don’t like where this is going… I don’t think we need to build up a wall around the law. The Marriotts are good people who are good members and ambassadors for the church. To somehow suggest that they are promoting pornography is, I think, to misunderstand the nature of their industry, the way corporations do business, and the nature of the Marriotts themselves. Marriott hotels conducts business around the globe and first must answer to its shareholders, not the first presidency or far right political groups. If this was the type of problem that those who have posted suggest – then the church would have already said or done something about it. Furthermore, I do not think that the church membership should involve themselves in other mormon individual’s corporate policy – I mean if we only affiliate ourselves with “righteous” corporations we would be hard pressed to find a place to work! In the real world – people sin and we have no right to impose our morality on anyone. We teach righteous principles and people govern themselves. After all, pornography isn’t the only illicit thing distributed by Marriott corporation – where is the outrage about alcohol and tobacco? How about the mormon who owns a gas station should they disassociate themselves with their own business cause the majority sell alcohol and tobacco products? I guess, being the son of mormon entrepreneurs, I don’t think the general church membership should make suggestions on how other members conduct business. If the church baptized corporations – I think we could make a case about preaching to business but since we don’t then we should keep our noses out. Were corporate policy a concern of the church then the following two questions would be important:

    Should the church divest from companies whose policies don’t accord 100% with doctrine? Should the church return the tithing money from those who make money from such corporations?

    Since these are not issues – then they should not be for us. When the church returns the Marriots tithing and renames the BYU stadium then I think this discussion will be relevant.

  5. R. Gary on April 12, 2008 at 12:07 am

    The First Presidency has asked members to oppose the distribution of pornography “in any form”:

    “Members of the Church should avoid pornography in any form and should oppose its production, distribution, and use.” (True to the Faith, 2004, pp.117–18.)

    This is more than mere authorization for Church members to oppose the distribution of pornography, it is an admonition from the Church to do so.

    The Marriott family is nationally known and well-respected in the Church. The Washington Post (Sunday, July 1, 2007; W10) says the family clings to its values “in a business climate where hip trumps wholesome.”

    http://www.marriott.com/marriott.mi?page=smokefree

    Marriott’s 400,000 smoke-free rooms ought to also be porn-free.

  6. Ray on April 12, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Do we know whether the Marriotts do oppose it? Do we know if they have the ability to make this decision?

    Those are sincere questions, since I don’t know.

  7. Aaron Brown on April 12, 2008 at 12:40 am

    Julie, are you daring someone to use the p-word? (No, not that p-word. The other one). :)

    Some of us wish a certain old post were still accessible. The thread did contain some useful discussion of the relevant corporate law issues.

    Aaron B

  8. Chistopher on April 12, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Guy’s write-up/analysis of that now-deleted post is available here.

  9. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Re: 5

    I think when pornography starts to smell and otherwise stain a hotel room like tobacco smoke does… the corporation will change its policy. Plus, in many places it is becoming illegal to smoke indoors. I just dont think that cigarettes and pornography are the same thing from a business, especially a business that sells a place of residence, perspective.

  10. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Also- whatever happened to motes and beams?

  11. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 12, 2008 at 2:24 am

    When the Joseph Smith Memorial Building was the Hotel Utah, it had at various times a bar that served alcoholic beverages to guests. I assume Marriott hotels have restaurants with liquor service and minibars in hotel rooms with mini bottles. Arguably those are legal products that you don’t want people having to wander around in strange cities to find it, and driving back intoxicated.

    On the other hand, I don’t see any kind of need to accommodate a desire for pornographic movies. Nowadays anyone who is addicted to them can carry several DVDs in his briefcase and play them on his laptop computer. There is no “need” for the hotel to provide it. The only reason to do so is profit. I sincerely doubt that any kind of movie brokerage compels someone arranging to purchase movie services to include pornography with the package. If it did, surely a copetitor wouldbe created that did not make such a demand, So we can assume that the pornography is offered only because the corporation owning the hotels has a specific desire to offer it as a product.

    On the other hand, is Marriott actually the owner of the hotel? I believe that in many cases, Marriott is in the position of service provider and manager, but the owner is often a separate entity, such as a limited partnership, that makes the actual investment in real estate. If Marriot is solely in the position of manager, then the decision of which products to sell incidental to room use is up to the owner and NOT Marriott.

    Only to the extent that Marriott Corporation actually owns a specific hotel would it be in a position to control the decision on offering pay per view pornography. And the question then would become how much control the Marriott family has over the corporation, versus publicly traded shares. Has there been a decision by the Board of Directors, or voted on by shareholders, concerning pornography? The general duty to shareholders is to maximise their profits. A decision to sacrifice revenue for moral reasons (such as disinvesting from China because of its oppression of Tibet and Chinese Christians) would require ratification by shareholders, since they are being damaged in their income.

  12. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Re #1 and #2: Yes, I agree, it would be better to not give Dobson the victory on this one but to have acted earlier.

    Re #3: I wonder how you reconcile your “the decision is personal” position with the church’s position that R. Gary quotes in #5. The fact that it is personal doesn’t imply that any decision is acceptable.

    Re #4: “The Marriotts are good people who are good members and ambassadors for the church.”

    I have no information with which to form an opinion about your first claim, but I think one could make the claim that they are not good ambassadors for the church in this matter given that the article I linked to specifically links the Church’s members to pornography distribution.

    “Marriott hotels conducts business around the globe and first must answer to its shareholders, not the first presidency or far right political groups.”

    I’m not sure how to read this:

    (1) If your point was that the Marriotts have no legal control, then I refer to my second suggestion of disassociating myself from the business or at least that aspect of it.

    (2) If your point was that they have legal control but should put (or must put) financial interests above moral ones, well, then, no. They shouldn’t.

    “If this was the type of problem that those who have posted suggest – then the church would have already said or done something about it.”

    This is a dangerous and wrong-headed principle for a variety of reasons.

    “Furthermore, I do not think that the church membership should involve themselves in other mormon individual’s corporate policy”

    On the contrary, I think that individual church members acting as individual citizens have a moral obligation to speak out against (and vote with their wallets against) any corporation (regardless of who owns it) that doesn’t conform to their moral values.

    “After all, pornography isn’t the only illicit thing distributed by Marriott corporation – where is the outrage about alcohol and tobacco?”

    I know of no statement concerning alcohol and tobacco similar to the one R. Gary quotes about pornography. My sense here is that alcohol and tobacco are (1) physically damaging and (2) against the covenants of those who have entered into them but not (3) inherently evil the way pornography is.

    “Should the church divest from companies whose policies don’t accord 100% with doctrine? ”

    The existence of a grey area should not prevent us from taking action in areas that are clearly black and white.

    Re #6: I don’t know and that’s why I worded the post the way I did: if they have control, they should change the policy. If they don’t, they should publically disassociate themselves from it or lobby those who do have the power to change it or use whatever other means are available to change it.

  13. AF on April 12, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Here’s the problem. I don’t buy that he doesn’t have the power. Last I checked (it was 2 years ago), he was President and Chairman of the Board, so in theory, he could remove porn from the Marriot. Here is where it gets tricky. He owes fiduciary duties to the shareholders, including the duty of care. If he and the board (which also included Mitt Romney last I looked) stop offering the adult videos it could drastically cut into the profitability of their business and expose the board and Mr. Marriot to extensive liability. If I’m Bill Marriot, I’d sell my shares. I couldn’t reconcile my faith and my duty to shareholders. Additionally,, he could make a run at privatizing Marriot (pricey, but well worth it from the moral perspective).

  14. Matt Evans on April 12, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks Julie for raising this issue again. I’m 100% confident that the Marriotts would stop selling pornography if more church members knew how much money they personally made from its sale, or if everyone in the church read J. W. Marriott’s own explanation for why he sells pornography:

    The key facts from J. W. Marriot’s letter:

    (1) He chooses to sell pornography because they’d make less money if they didn’t (their pay-per-view contracts would sell for less)

    (2) J. W. Marriott says they have a Marriott pornography standard to keep out the “most extreme” pornography. (Movies approved by the Marriott Porn Standard include: Young As They Come, Springbreak Pantyhoes, Maximum Ram, Kinky Kouples Sex Games.)

    (3) Marriott makes plain that his guiding principle is dollars. In the same breath he says he has the power to block pornography (the Marriott Porn Standard), he admits he sets the Marriott Porn Standard to kick in only after they’ve ensured “the economics of the [PayPerView] system.” Ka-ching!

    See this comment I wrote last year for further explanation of Marriott’s embarrassing letter.

    The letter is truly jarring after one reads last year’s profile of the Marriott family from the Washington Post. It plays the Marriott’s carefully crafted public image, such as “the Marriotts still cling to the values [the hotel] represents, even in a business climate where hip trumps wholesome.” Marriott even shares the letter he received from his father upon assuming the business, “Dear Bill, . . . A leader should have character, be an example in all things.”)

    This hotel industry expert believes pornography is sold at all of the Marriott Hotels owned directly by the Marriott Family Trust: http://resources.lhonline.com/blog/?p=171.

  15. Talon on April 12, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    “I sincerely doubt that any kind of movie brokerage compels someone arranging to purchase movie services to include pornography with the package..”

    This is exactly the case, the entire movie service offered by the hotel comes packaged as a bundle from the service provider, leaving it up to the consumer to decide what content they will select. The abscence of a competitor that offers an alternative is either an indicator that its not feasible, or you have just stumbled on a million dollar idea.

  16. Matt Evans on April 12, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    AF, as Chairman and CEO, Marriott can remove porn without a second thought. He doesn’t have to prove that it will be costless, just as he could unilaterally decide to use environmentally-friendly lighting even though it would cost more to do so. The shareholders have the right to remove the CEO if they don’t like his decisions, but business decisions like this belong to the officers.

    That was Romney’s official response when he was targeted for not opposing Marriott’s involvement in the porn industry while he was on Marriott’s board: he said that is a business issue to be decided by the officers, not the board. (Of course, none of this is potentially exculpatory for J. W. Marriott anyway, since he’s the Chief Executive Officer AND Chairman of the Board.)

    Two prominent hotel chains have negotiated PPV contracts that prohibit the sale of pornography: Omni Hotels and the Ritz-Carlton (which is now owned by Marriott Corp.) Their officers never faced votes from the shareholders criticizing them for the decision.

  17. Matt Evans on April 12, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Another of my comments from Guy’s thread last year:

    Everyone who’s both Chairman and CEO has almost complete control over routine business decisions. The only time a board will elect the Chairman to also be the CEO is when they *want* the person to have almost complete control.

    Corporate boards are comprised of outsiders, people like Mitt Romney who have 100-hour jobs in Boston and so board meetings are scheduled rarely. The primary job of the board is to hire the management team, and after that, to answer big questions like mergers and selling divisions.

    If it wasn’t the management who chose to sell pornography, and Marriott Hotels sells porn only because the board forced J. W. Marriott to do so, Romney would definitely remember that issue coming before the board. Only in extreme circumstances would a board overrule a business decision of the CEO. A board meeting where the Chairman and CEO was overruled on a business decision would be extremely contentious. And very memorable. That’s why I believe Romney when he says the decision to sell porn was not made by the board. It would be highly unusual for the board to make that decision.

    I actually have read many franchise agreements. (If eight or ten is many.) Companies like Marriott have very restrictive franchise agreements and franchisees actually *want* it that way. The reason they sign up with Marriott, rather than go independent, is because of the power of the brand, and they realize that the brand is powerful because Marriott HQ controls what the *other* hotels in the chain do. Marriott franchisees don’t want renegade Marriott hotels offering Hot Dog On a Stick and skee ball in the lobby. They accept strict adherence to HQ because they know it benefits the brand, and the strength of the Marriott brand is what they came for.

    I know you’re not defending pornography, you’re just trying to give someone a pass because they do their acts behind the corporate veil. There is no moral difference between someone selling pornography themself and their selling it through a corporation. Corporations are legal fictions. They are not moral fictions. (Lots of articles have been written about the way managers feel shielded from their acts because they do them in someone else’s name.)

    Otherwise we couldn’t even say Hugh Hefner is a pornographer: he hasn’t made a dollar from pornography. It’s Playboy Inc. that’s made all the money! Hefner was simply Chairman and CEO of Playboy. If we think it’s fair to say that Hefner made millions selling pornography, even though he always acted through a corporate entity, then we can’t avoid concluding that J. W. Marriott has made millions selling pornography even though he’s sold it through his corporate entity. If you’ll read Elder Maxwell’s talk, I think you’ll agree that Maxwell did not believe someone could get a pass acting through a corporation.

  18. Just me on April 12, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    “We are in the business of selling rooms,” said a former manager of [the landmark Washington D.C. landmark hotel owned by the Marriott chain] the Mayflower, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he searches for another job in the clubby world of fancy hotels. “And the escort services are in the business of keeping our guests happy.”

  19. Trish on April 12, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Julie, I have to agree with your comments.

    First of all, people stay at the Marriott because of the brand name and hotel offerings.
    My family travels a lot for personal and business reasons. I know a ton of people who choose the Marriott over other chains (yes, I live in Utah).
    We usually stay at the Marriott and use our points for the Rewards Program (great incentive to stay — even better than the porn, alcohol and loads of junk food in the vending machines).

    I stay at the Marriott for a reason. I expect to “see” the same thing and enjoy the same service on every stay: a clean and inviting lobby, breakfast area, Mr. Simplots’ picture on the wall (he is wearing his cowboy hat), clean and neatly decorated rooms ( I particularly like the blue and yellow decor in the rooms), and always the King James Version Bible AND Book of Mormon in the night stand.

    I recently stayed in a new Courtyard in Southern California. You would be interested to know they did not offer a movie service as part of the hotel TV menu. You could rent movies by swiping your credit card on a POS by the telephone. Sorry, I didn’t check for porn but the Book of Mormon was in the drawer.

    Last year, I stayed at the Vinoy in St. Pete, Florida — very nice! Lots of porn with titles I would blush to type.
    Maybe you won’t find this funny, but my 12 and 14 year olds were pursuing the movie menu and noticed the offerings (nothing gets past kids). My son, being the smart a## that he is, holds up the Book of Mormon and asks “What do you do with this while watching those movies?” My daughter looks at my son and they both instantly jump off the bed covers (ooooowe!)

    The point is the Marriott family makes a butt load of money off the hotel chains, and they allow the Marriott name to be used to sell. Most people would recognize the brand name and associate it with quality. I bet it wouldn’t hurt the corporation to cut out the dirty movies — they would still earn millions and millions in revenue and be able to pay their tithing.

    As for those who like to pick and choose “what” to put in your bodies because of doctrine (“Do I choose the Coke soda, Cheese Nips, or wine today?”) None of it is healthy (some would argue about the heart benefits and the wine).

    I bet if Joseph Smith was writing the “Word of Wisdom” today, he would not condone processed foods, hydrogenated fats, dyes or perservatives found in potato chips. I am sorry the average person would not think that watching Kiddy Porn and smoking cigarrettes is the same thing.

    The Marriott Corporation has a choice, and they can choose to not show porn — just like they choose to banish smoking in the hotels.
    By the way, tons of foreign visitors and huge parts of the U.S. (like the South) still smoke. I bet the Marriott board considered how much money they could loose by prohibiting smoking near their facilities — don’t you?

  20. Ellis on April 12, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Marriott also sells coffee and find wines in its restaurants. In the four and five star hotels they have wine stewards and and wine tasters. Rich people expect a certain standard in fine hotels. I just don’t see what all the fuss is about either way. Marriott doesn’t use porn as an enticement to get people to stay in their hotels. They do not actually encourage people to view it. Granted the information on the TV make it clear that adult material is available, but that is not the same as pushing it. Their guests can block it so their kids won’t see it if they don’t want them to. It is not all that different from the cable and satellite companies. My satellite provider has more adult channels than I can count, not that I have tried. It also has the BYU channel. So should we indict the board of directors of BYU for allowing the BYU channel to be carried by the same entities that sell porn?

    If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. If you don’t think Marriott should provide it don’t stay there. Unless and until Marriott has a monopoly on the hotel business everyone still has other options. I understand the Omni chain of hotels does not provide any adult programming. Stay there. If enough people do that then things will change. Does anyone seriously consider that course of action. I doubt it.

  21. Bookslinger on April 12, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    R. Gary (of “No Death Before the Fall” blog, put up another blog last year, “An Open Letter to Marriot International about Pornography”, containing letters he wrote to and received from the Marriot company. The latter blog also contains links to relevant church statements.

    As mentioned on Matt’s earlier post, many, if not most, of the hotels bearing the Marriot name are franchises, where they are both owned and operated by the franchisee. This further complicates the type and degree of control that the Marriot corporation can have over that hotel. A big change such as what is being suggested would have to wait for contract-renewal with the franchisee.

    I was recently talking with someone who was involved in putting in new TV/video capabilities at a hotel (he didn’t say the name) located at the Indianapolis International Airport. He said the revenue from adult movies was $7,000/week at that hotel.

    If you want to support hotels/motels that don’t offer porn, check out CleanHotels.com.

    Looking at CleanHotels.com for hotels in Indianapolis, I see that some locations of “Residence Inn by Marriot”, “Courtyard by Marriot”, “Fairfield Inn by Marriot”, and “Townplace Suites by Marriot” are listed. I do not know whether all hotels of those names are “clean” but there are at least some locations that claim to be.

    I don’t think it proper to get on a high-horse, point the finger, and yell “J’accuse!” at the Marriot family. I think the gospel specifically enjoins against railing accusations. However, I think it may be proper to write letters to both the Marriot corporation, and to JWM Jr. Use your freedom of speech to petition anyone who is willing to listen.

    And if you want to be repetitious, write the PR department of Marriot every time you stay at a hotel, and remind them why you aren’t staying at a Marriot. “Hi again. I’m going to be in Denver this weekend, and I’ll be staying at the _______ rather than at a Marriot, because they don’t offer pornography in their rooms.” (I wouldn’t stay at the pricey Marriots anyway. I’m move of a Super 8 and Motel 6 kind of spender.)

    I think one also needs to be careful not to boycott all franchisees of Marriot because some franchisees offer porn. Many hotel franchisees are just mom-and-pop family businesses.

    As the deleterious effects of porn addiction become more widely known, there may now be a growing societal backlash to pornography. This anti-porn movement might now be where the anti-smoking movement was in the 70’s or early 80’s. Who would have thought back then that whole cities would ban smoking in restaurants and workplaces, or that all planes would eventually be entirely no-smoking?

    If the anti-porn movement follows a similar pattern, it may take consistent efforts over a couple decades to see any real gains.

  22. gst on April 12, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    By the way, Marriott also manages a few casinos (outside of the US, I believe). They are not branded Marriott properties because they prefer that it not be widely known.

    Next: bear baiting.

  23. gst on April 12, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I take that back. I guess at least some of them do carry the Marriott brand:

    http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/sjupr-san-juan-marriott-resort-and-stellaris-casino/

  24. R. Gary on April 12, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    It’s embarrasing to the Mormon Church as an institution that a high profile Mormon family places copies of the Book of Mormon in hundreds of thousands of its hotel rooms, but refuses to remove the pornography.

    Five prophetic thoughts (ordered by date) seem relevant to this discussion:

    1. Spencer W. Kimball on Church members vigorously opposing pornography in their communities and beyond:

    “Important as it is, building stronger homes is not enough in the fight against rising permissiveness. We therefore urge Church members as citizens to lift their voices, to join others in unceasingly combatting, in their communities and beyond, the inroads of pornography and the general flaunting of permissiveness. Let us vigorously oppose the shocking developments which encourage the old sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and which defile the human body as the temple of God.” (Ensign, Nov 1977, p.4.)

    2. Dallin H. Oaks on professed Christians who traffic in pornography:

    “Some who profess to be Christians seek to earn their living by systematically victimizing their neighbors. Some seize wealth by trafficking in … pornography.” (Ensign, Nov 1986, p.20.)

    3. Gordon B. Hinckley on opposing pornography:

    “There is so much of filth and lust and pornography in this world. We as Latter-day Saints must rise above it and stand tall against it.” (Ensign, Aug 1997, p.3.)

    4. James E. Faust on refusing to patronize merchants who sell pornography:

    “It would also help if all of our members refuse to patronize stores that sell pornographic materials.” (Ensign, Oct 1997, p.2.)

    5. Gordon B. Hinckley on making our voices heard:

    “Let our voices be heard. I hope they will not be shrill voices, but I hope we shall speak with such conviction that those to whom we speak shall know of the strength of our feeling and the sincerity of our effort. Remarkable consequences often flow from a well-written letter and a postage stamp. Remarkable results come of quiet conversation with those who carry heavy responsibilities.” (Ensign, Sep 2004, p.2.)

  25. AF on April 12, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    As CEO, he would also be an officer. It all depends, Matt, upon a lot of information we don’t have access to. How is Marriot doing financially? What % of its profits come from adult movies, etc.? I’m glad others have been able to do it without shareholder litigation. I won’t stay at Marriot hotels. Beside the fact that I’m a poor law student, I find it troubling that the same guy who says his garments protected him from getting burned on national TV also distributes pornography in his hotels.

  26. gst on April 12, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    AF (#25): “How is Marriot doing financially?”

    My general sense is that he’s going to be okay.

  27. AF on April 12, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    GST, I meant the company. Just to play devil’s advocate (no pun intended): If I’m the owner of 20,000 shares of Marriott stock, and if after pulling porn profits decrease because (1) there’s no revenue from the porn, and (2), customers go to porn-offering competitors, which in turns deflates the value of my shares, I would have to at least think twice about wondering if the officers or the board are putting their morals before my pecuniary interests. If there are enough people who share my disdain, I think we have to entertain the idea of filing suit.

    If only they’d had the gumption to keep porn out in the first place….

  28. JimD on April 12, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    1. It seems to me that on the last thread, someone brought up that the Marriott family still owns over 30% of the corporation’s shares. If that’s the case, then in conjunction with the Business Judgment Rule I’d think JWM could get away with banning naughty movies in his hotels if he really wanted to.

    2. Before we start using the GAs’ words as a bludgeon against JWM, it might be worth bearing in mind how the GAs have treated him. The fact is that they accepted him into their ranks as an AA 70–and I think it’s a stretch to say that they were unaware of this issue. (Not that that should end the discussion, but I think it’s worth bearing in mind.) (And yes, I know that AA 70s are technically not GAs)

  29. paula on April 12, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    I read JWM’s biography that’s in the drawer of most Marriott rooms a couple of years ago. If I remember right, he said in there that he had refused to get into any kind of gambling venture. Hmm, I thought at the time, “what about the porn?” So did I read something wrong, or is the gambling a new venture for them? It seems to me that if he can make sure a Book of Mormon is in every drawer and can keep the company away from gambling (and apparently that’s not true after all) he could have stayed out of the porn business too.

  30. gst on April 12, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    The notion that a fiduciary duty to shareholders requires the exhibition of pornography is pure blatherskite. Everyone here who has propounded it should stop. There is absolutely zero threat of any liability to shareholders for this exercise of business judgment. If Marriott said tomorrow, “Consistent with our dedication to providing family-friendly hotel space to our customers, we are no longer offering adult movies in our rooms, and we are confident that this move will bolster our brand in the long run, providing increasing returns to our shareholders and partners,” whether or not that prediction turned out to be true, it’s the end of this sordid story.

    I own shares in a property management firm. Has the management breached its fiduciary duty to me by not selling Hustler magazine and whiskey in the lobbies of its office buildings? No. No one expects their fiduciaries to pursue every non-illegal means of maximizing returns.

    The analogy to having bars in the lobbies of these hotels is not persuasive. Few people believe that alcohol, or tobacco, is inherently evil. A lot of people think that about pornography.

  31. gst on April 12, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Paula, Marriott now has interests in gambling too. Nice what his kids have done with his name.

  32. Brad Kramer on April 12, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    I love it. Corporate capitalism is where the real responsibility lies. But rather than being the real devil in the room, a systemic evil that perpetuates sin, the corporate liability shield is the scapegoat, taking upon itself the sins of individuals and rendering their garments clean and white before God. Thus, persons whose actions promote sin from behind the corporate veil are proper and good, while persons who rail against corporate capitalism are radical lunatics promoting the dissolution of free agency and all that is good in the world–one is tempted to say, blasphemers.

    Here’s a relevant quote as well:

    “I have always been fascinated by Loyd’s of London…. I was even more impressed, however, after reading an article that described this company’s business philosophy:

    …Loyd’s is not a company [read: corporation]–it has no shareholders and accepts no corporate liability for risks insured there…. Its existence is built on two principles: That of the utter integrity of everyone who belongs to Loyd’s and does business there, and that of unlimited personal responsibility.”

    Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing for Something, pp. 18-19

    But what about fiduciary responsibility, President Hinckley? FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. R. Gary on April 12, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Bookslinger,

    Thanks for mentioning my blogs. Regarding ownership versus franchising, the Marriott web site claims they control 2,700 properties in 70 countries. They wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar company if all they owned was the name.

  34. gst on April 12, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    If you don’t believe my proposition that fiduciaries don’t have a duty to pursue every legal means of maximizing returns, consider this hypothetical:

    Suppose Marriott rolled out some new “environment-friendly” initiative. (For all I know they have such a thing, but mine is hypothetical.) As part of this initiative, they change their dry-cleaning contracts to dry-cleaners that are more environmentally friendly than the services that were previously used. The environmentally friendly dry-cleaners cost more and result in lower margins for Marriott. Marriott tells the shareholders, “Sure we were making more money on the cut-rate dry-cleaners, but they were handling their chemicals in a way that, while technically legal, was, in our view, not environmentally responsible. We take our corporate responsibility to the environment seriously. So we accept higher dry-cleaning costs, even though we can’t pass them all on to our customers.”

    Do you think that there is a valid shareholder claim there?

  35. AF on April 12, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Its the fiduciary duty of care (and its pure dollars and cents), and the only stake SHs have is a pecuniary one. It is true, there are cases wherein corporations have been allowed to preserve their corporate culture in the face of fiduciary-duty litigation, but that is usually in response to the rejection of takeover bids. I don’t think the 30% of shares owned by the Marriott family has any relation to the Business Judgment Rule, but you are right in saying that the officers/directors would enjoy BJR presumptions. If porn represented 15% of the corporations’ profits, then I think that there is at the very least an argument for a breach of the duty of care. Saying that there is zero threat is naive, IMHO.

    GST: The problem with your analogy is this: your property management firm has not already started selling porn. Marriott is essentially a DISTRIBUTOR of that muck! If your property management firm started to profit substantially from selling porn, and then stopped, well….I think there may be an argument for a breach of the duty of care. That’s why I bemoaned the fact that they didn’t have the “gumption” to keep it out in the first place….it’s like pandora’s box.

    To further punch holes in your analogy, most of Marriot’s direct competitors also offer porn, which would probably not be the case in the property management company. Thus, if Marriott pulls the porn, then they are essentially streamlining a percentage of their customers to competitors. Sad, but true.

    There’s a Thomas Jefferson quote re: slavery that fits, I think (I’ll paraphrase since I don’t know exact words): “We have a wolf by the ears. We can neither hold on nor let go…” without some sort of repercussions.

  36. AF on April 12, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Okay, here is the problem with your analogy. The porn issue can be framed like this:

    1. Marriott didn’t have porn.
    2. Marriott started offering porn, and profiting thereby.
    3. Marriott pulled porn (which cause financial harm).

    Your analogy goes like this.
    1. Marriot had environmentally unfriendly materials.
    2. Marriot had environmentally friendly materials (causing the financial harm).

    In your analoy, Marriott is adding an amenity with indisputable social value at a financial cost. Further, you can spread the additional cost to the customers far more easily than is possible with removing porn.

    In the porn instance, Marriot is removing an existing amenity that many (I’d say the majority) don’t believe is socially harmful.

    We could argue all day on this if we wanted to. I think in a Utah court you may be right. In a Delaware tribunal??? I’m not so sure. But, like I said before, it all depends on how much Marriott is profiting from porn (percentage wise).

  37. gst on April 12, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Some of their competitors do sell porn, and some don’t.

    Your insistence that the analysis depends on whether they’ve already begun to exhibit the pornography is without any logic. If stopping the exhibition would cost 15% for a Company A that’s already begun it, then it’s also costing Company B that doesn’t exhibit it (and never has) 15%. I’m a shareholder in both A and B. If the officers of Company A have a duty to me to provide porno profits, then so do the officers of Company B. The fact that Company B hasn’t ever provided me with porn profits has nothing to do with the analysis of whether they should. If you believe that the duty exists, there are porno dollars out there to be had, and Company B has a duty to go get them for me.

    And if there is no duty to make a profit on porno (as I don’t think there is for a publicly-traded hotel business), then if Company A gives up a porn revenue stream that it once had, those officers have no more liability than those of Company B who never sold porn.

    Also, I don’t care whether you spell Marriott correctly or not, but I do wish you’d at least be consistent on a spelling within your own comments.

  38. gst on April 12, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    “If your property management firm started to profit substantially from selling porn, and then stopped, well….I think there may be an argument for a breach of the duty of care.”

    Do you really think that? Here’s the problem: You’ve been taught the concept of “fiduciary duty.” You like it. I do too. But you must recognize that when legal doctrines produce absurd results, results that you don’t actually observe in the world, like a legal obligation for a property management company to sell porn and liquor, then you’re probably missing something in your analysis.

  39. Adam Greenwood on April 12, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    I bet it would hurt Marriott like hell to get rid of the porn, and the Marriotts ought to get rid of it anyway. If my daughter shamed herself in front of some pornographer’s camera, I’d burn my hotels down before I’d show the video for a few bucks. And every single porn video “stars” somebody’s daughter. God’s daughter, if no one else.

  40. Brad Kramer on April 12, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Well put, Adam.

    For those interested, the once deep-freezed thread alluded to above is, inexplicable (perhaps unintentionally and, therefore, temporarily) accessible here.

  41. blt on April 12, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    AF,
    Let me make sure I\’m understanding you clearly.
    Are you saying that Marriott\’s Jeffersonian \”wolf\” is a lawsuit/potential loss of position on the one hand, and the continuance of his status as \”DISTRIBUTOR of that muck\” on the other?
    Clearly, any action has repercussions. Are you saying that he shouldn\’t try to rectify an unfortunate decision because of fiduciary responsibilities?

  42. Brad Kramer on April 12, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    er, inexplicably

  43. blt on April 12, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Sorry about the slashes.

  44. gst on April 12, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    blt, you sound delicious right about now.

  45. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    The level of zealotry here surprises me. I find this kind of discussion about other members of the church does more harm than good. What do we hope to get out of this? I mean, sure it feels good to anonymously fight the good fight on a blog; but don’t you think that these issues have already been vetted by the leadership in the church? I just don’t think that the level of vehemence and ill-will towards the Marriotts is in any way positive. And yes, the Marriotts are good ambassadors for the church (RE: Julie). When was the last time that you were able to assemble the leaders of nations and the Church leadership like the Marriotts do annually? Zealous blogging, while it may feel good, makes no difference in the real world and I think it is important that we learn to bite our tongues when it comes to complex issues that we don’t totally understand. I am sure that it has been a difficult decision for those involved. GE is one of the largest producers of pornography (through their subsidiaries) – does that mean that the church or church membership should not purchase anything produced by GE? As outlined in other posts – another company delivers the pay-per-view movie services in the hotel rooms and Marriott Corporation contracts them to provide this service. That is, in many ways, distance from the distribution of pornography. And isn’t that what many have asked for? I just think we should be careful when we sling mud at other church members especially when we might be blinded by our own beams.

  46. My Good Friend Poppin\' Fresh on April 12, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Is Marriott breaching its fiduciary duty by failing to offer HGH injections to its guests?
    Does Ford Motor Company breach its fiduciary duty by failing to offer pornography in its cars\’ entertainment systems? It could certainly make more money if it did. How about when Ford, in response to pressure from family advocacy groups, pulled its advertising from publications targeted to gays? Was that a breach of its fiduciary duty?

    A company\’s fiduciary duty to its shareholders is not a duty to do every lawful thing in the universe that could conceivably generate an extra dime of income. Marriott doesn\’t have a duty to offer porn any more than it has a duty to offer horseback riding lessons and a free Long Island Iced Tea for everyone who checks in.

  47. gst on April 12, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    What level of zealotry would you prefer? ‘Cause mine goes up to 11.

  48. Russell Arben Fox on April 12, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Corporate capitalism is where the real responsibility lies. But rather than being the real devil in the room, a systemic evil that perpetuates sin, the corporate liability shield is the scapegoat, taking upon itself the sins of individuals and rendering their garments clean and white before God. Thus, persons whose actions promote sin from behind the corporate veil are proper and good, while persons who rail against corporate capitalism are radical lunatics promoting the dissolution of free agency and all that is good in the world–one is tempted to say, blasphemers.

    Brad Kramer (#32) has said the single truest thing said on this thread so far, and really the only thing that needs to be said. The argument is ridiculously simple: there is pornography, there are providers of pornography, there are consumers of pornography. The only that thing makes it “complicated” is everything that modern corporations force upon it: questions of shareholders, profit maximizing, fiduciary responsibility, privacy, etc., etc. Which means that we should be really talking about the sytematic distortions that the embrace of “corporate reality” puts upon our (or the Marriotts’) moral decisionmaking faculties, alongside the question pornography itself.

  49. JimD on April 12, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    AF, my point about the Mariott family’s owning a large portion of the stock wasn’t that it is related to the BJR; it’s just that you have TWO reasons why Mariott could get away with such a decision:

    1) Mariott would have little difficulty marshaling the support of a majority of the shareholders, and any shareholders who pressed a suit would be suing from a difficult minority position; and
    2) the BJR.

    The BJR is not limited to takeover bids, as you seem to imply. Heck, one of the lead (if somewhat dated) cases on the subject is Shlensky v. Wrigley, where a shareholder sued the managers of Wrigley Field because they thought Wrigley would make more money if they allowed night ball games (the shareholders lost).

    Moreover, under the BJR Marriott wouldn’t have to prove that pornography is socially harmful. They just have to make a case that there is a reasonable possibility that a sizeable number of potential clients who currently will not patronize their establishments would do so if Marriott had a more family-friendly policy.

    Finally, your dry-clearning analogy in Post #36 proves too much. What you’re saying is that a board of directors that engages in a certain policy cannot reverse that policy if it subsequently determines that policy to be harmful. If, for example, Marriott had initially used an environmentally-friendly dry-cleaner, then switched to a cheaper and less responsible one in a moment of greed–it can never switch back once its sense of social responsibility returns.

  50. Russell Arben Fox on April 12, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Zealous blogging, while it may feel good, makes no difference in the real world and I think it is important that we learn to bite our tongues when it comes to complex issues that we don’t totally understand.

    Yep, that real world, with all its complex realities and difficult rules. Very confusing. And with so much money at stake too! We better just let the lawyers handle this one.

  51. AF on April 12, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Wow. GST has started bickering over whether I remember to put the last “T” in Mariott. Way to stick to what is relevant. The difference is: SH expectations and the precedent the company sets. You may not think it matters, but a well-informed investor had better!! I still think you’re wrong to naively dismiss the threat of shareholders litigation, but something tells me that nothing short of a pronouncement from the DE Supreme Court will change your mind, so there’s no point in going back and forth.

  52. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    RE:47

    Good response that made me laugh…

    I would say that a level headed 6 is good, on the zealotry scale. Recent studies suggest that on the zealotry scale suicide bombers are around a 10 – so careful if you go to eleven. I think that leads to spontaneous combustion.

  53. AF on April 12, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    JimD,

    I didn’t imply that the BJR is only applicable in takeover bids. But I’ve only seen “preserving corporate culture” as a defense to a breach of the duty of care within the context of takeover bids.
    I don’t think that MarriotT can possibly profit from removing porn from its hotels. There simply aren’t enough Mormons and Christians who are opposed to porn compared to those who prefer access in hotels. Otherwise, this issue would be a no-brainer for the MarriotTs.

  54. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    RE:50

    Better the lawyers than the bloggers…

  55. AF on April 12, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    54: Note, my entire argument is underscored by the fact that the lawyers are probably the reason the MarriotTs haven’t removed porn.

  56. blt on April 12, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    RBH,
    Way to stick up for quiet conformity.

  57. gst on April 12, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    AF, I was clear that I don’t care about the correct spelling of Marriott. I was concerned, however, about the internal inconsistency of your spellings. My rule of thumb is this: If I don’t know whether it’s one or two consonants together, I always use 3 or more. Marriottt.

    Russell, you and Brad are wrong. The fact that Marriott retreats into corporate fiduciary duty talk, which you find frightening, to justify his pornography-mongering does not mean that Marriott is correct. Nothing in this system requires him to sell pornography. I refer you to My Good Friend Poppin’ Fresh’s wise comment above. There are plenty of folks that don’t believe in a fiduciary duty to sell pornography, but still think that corporate limited liability and profit motive isn’t the source of all evil in the world.

    Moreover, the single truest thing actually said on this thread so far was not Brad’s comment, but rather my earnest expression of my desire for a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich at comment #44.

  58. JimD on April 12, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    AF: The thing is, to my knowledge Marriott hasn’t even tried to make the change. If they were serious about doing it but genuinely worried about litigation, they could have put the issue to a vote at a shareholder’s meeting. And if the Marriotts do indeed own 30% of the stock, they very possibly might win. But they have failed to do even that.

    There may be a very good reason that Marriott follows their present course of action, and I suppose it’s worth repeating that the GAs seem to have accepted it.

    But that doesn’t keep the rest of us from wondering what the reason is. Because, frankly, the one they’ve actually cited (as opposed to the potential ones we’ve raised here) isn’t very good.

  59. JimD on April 12, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Bear in mind too, AF: Under the BJR, you don’t have to prove that a disputed policy actually would be more profitable. You just have to show that a rational board of directors could believe that the policy will be more profitable.

  60. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    RE:56

    Rather a quiet conformist than a blind zealot.

  61. gst on April 12, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    JimD (#58): “There may be a very good reason that Marriott follows their present course of action, and I suppose it’s worth repeating that the GAs seem to have accepted it.”

    (1) The suggestion that the GAs are down with the distribution of “Spring Break Pantyhoes” and “Young As They Come” because they keep giving this guy church callings is specious. And (2) even if the GAs do think it’s fine, they are wrong.

  62. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    RE:56

    Rather a quiet conformist than a blind zealot. Keep in mind this isn’t about ME. This is about my idea… There has been plenty that I have said and others who think similarly have said to which nobody has responded.

  63. Brad Kramer on April 12, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    “I am sure that it has been a difficult decision for those involved. GE is one of the largest producers of pornography (through their subsidiaries) – does that mean that the church or church membership should not purchase anything produced by GE?”

    The only demand made by the logic explored by even the most zealous arguments of this thread is that faithful LDS should not assume a position as CEO of GE without eliminating its production of pornography. If arguing zealously against using corporate liability as an ethical trump card = “vehemence and ill-will towards the Marriotts,” what does criticizing the anonymity of bloggers under an anonymous handle equal?

  64. JimD on April 12, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    gst: I over-simplified; my apologies. Nevertheless, the question remains:

    Did the GAs, or did they not, sustain J. Willard Marriott Jr. as an Area Authority Seventy while generally aware of the full smorgasbord of “extras” that his hotels offer?

  65. Brad Kramer on April 12, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    sorry for the double post.

  66. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    RE: 55

    I understood your argument. I appreciate your help though…

  67. R. Gary on April 12, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    RBH (re “zealotry”):

    Marriott wouldn’t dare peddle porn were it not for the removal of legal barriers against pornography which removal has happened during the most recent fifty years. The resulting explosion of pornography has been universally condemned by modern prophets — because of zealotry? Think again!

  68. gst on April 12, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    “Did the GAs, or did they not, sustain J. Willard Marriott Jr. as an Area Authority Seventy while generally aware of the full smorgasbord of “extras” that his hotels offer?”

    I have no idea. The answer might tell us something about the General Authorities (I’m not sure what), but I don’t think it has any bearing on whether the Marriott position is justifiable.

  69. My Good Friend Poppin\' Fresh on April 12, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I’m just scared of how shocked we all are when we figure out what the beams in our own eyes could possibly be if porn distribution is, by comparison, a mote.

  70. JimD on April 12, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    I have no idea. The answer might tell us something about the General Authorities (I’m not sure what), but I don’t think it has any bearing on whether the Marriott position is justifiable.

    It’s not determinative, but it certainly has bearing. Frankly, I have a difficult time understanding how you cannot acknowledge that. Maybe I should take a little break. :-)

  71. R. Gary on April 12, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    RBH (re anonymous blogging):

    Click here http://ndbf.net/r007.htm then follow the solitary link and read this comment. Is that what you call anonymous?

  72. Ray on April 12, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    An obvious question that I hope is rhetorical: Does anyone have any doubt about what “should” be done? Can we, at the very least, agree that stopping the distribution of pornography is the ideal? Then can we agree that finding a way to do so is much more important than arguing about whether or not it can be done?

    Frankly, this is one case where these types of discussions don’t add spit to the actual issue – finding a solution that will work. My only contribution is to express my opinion directly to the source and personally stay elsewhere, explaining why each and every time I do so. (as was expressed in an earlier comment) That will make my point much better than anything I say here.

  73. gst on April 12, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    To JimD (#71):

    There are at least three reasons why I don’t acknowledge that Marriott’s calling by the General Authorities has any bearing on whether I think he made the right ethics call here (each of these assumes that the GAs are aware of the issue, as I presume they are):

    1) I don’t know that they factored in the Marriott’s response to this ethics question when deciding to extend the calling. For all I know, they might have just asked him if he felt that he had resolved it satisfactorily, consistent with his duties as a Priesthood holder, kind of like when the bishop asks me if I’m honest in my dealings with my fellow man. Or they might not have explored it with him at all.

    2) I don’t know if the GA’s calling includes weighing in on ethical questions like this. Should I care what GA’s think about business ethics? Maybe they can be wrong.

    3) Whatever the GAs think about his practice, I don’t think that their calling of Marriott to the 6th Quorum of the Seventy is meant to be a pronouncement on this topic, so I don’t take it as one.

    Also, part of being a zealot is holding myself out as EVEN HOLIER than GAs. It ain’t easy, but I gots to represent.

  74. Adam Greenwood on April 12, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Did the GAs, or did they not, sustain J. Willard Marriott Jr. as an Area Authority Seventy while generally aware of the full smorgasbord of “extras” that his hotels offer?

    I’m pretty sure we all sustained him, as an Area Authority Seventy. I’m not metaphysically certain that he’s not distributing pornography in that capacity–I don’t want to be a zealot, after all–but I’m still pretty sure. What I didn’t do is sustain any of the Marriotts in their capacity in businessmen–at least I don’t think I did–and stop me if I’m being too fanatical here, but I even think that running Marriott and voting the Marriott family stock isn’t a church calling at all.

  75. gst on April 12, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Sorry, my last was directed to JimD at comment #70.

  76. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    RE: 68

    I never suggested that the prophets were zealots – that was a nice straw-man argument though. I said that we bloggers have, at times, come across like zealots. But I guess “quiet conformists” like me, who at least attempt to see the big picture and don’t live in a protective social bubble, are “porn-mongers.” I believe that if a zealot were to post to this blog he/she would somehow suggest that the General Authorities don’t sustain a member of the 70. Or maybe a zealot would pass personal judgments and say something about people they don’t know like: “Nice what his kids have done with his name,” or use 5 isolated quotes to highlight another member’s sins. I just think that we need to be careful and at least attempt to step outside our socialization to see the issue more clearly.

    zealot |ˈzelət|
    noun
    a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals.

  77. AF on April 12, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    74: I don’t raise my hand during GC. I don’t know any GA (except my dad’s first cousin), and I don’t feel comfortable sustaining them without personal knowledge of their character. So, I guess I’m one who didn’t (but, keep in mind, I’m a crazy Internet Mormon!!!).

    In a way, I really hope pulling porn isn’t a breach of the duty of care. However, for the sake of my opinion of Bill Marriott’s character, I hope it IS! It is a sad situation all around…porn is destructive stuff and it has ruined a lot of marriages and degrades God’s children.

  78. Adam Greenwood on April 12, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    But I guess “quiet conformists” like me, who at least attempt to see the big picture and don’t live in a protective social bubble, are “porn-mongers.”

    I’ve always wanted to sell porn flicks out of my garage, but the bubble won’t fit through the door. *sigh* What might have been . . . I guess that’s what I get for being a vocal conformist.

    Update–
    Excellent Marriott discussion here:
    http://mcqesq.wordpress.com/2008/04/14/marriott-hotels/

  79. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    RE: 78

    Also – good and funny. Those social bubbles can really be a pain – they don’t fit anywhere. Cocktail parties, business, even the classroom with all that talk of evolution and the otherwise liberal academic agenda… *sigh*

  80. gst on April 12, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    RBH, I think some of your comment, perhaps the first part about calling the prophets “zealots,” is directed at R. Gary in #67, and not me. (I think a comment might have been deleted somewhere upstream, screwing up the numbering).

    But some of your comment is clearly directed at me. Allow me to crap on just that part of your comment.

    I don’t believe that everyone who agrees with, or is sympathetic to, the Marriott position is a “pornmonger.” I just think that Marriott is one. You know, he sells pornography. As long as you have your dictionary out, look up “monger.”

    I think that the current practice does diminish the brand, which, you will note, is the name. And it is a shame that the inheritors of it now choose to sell Logjammin’ on pay-per-view under its banner.

    Finally, I have no idea what “stepping outside our socialization” means. Who talks like that?

  81. JimD on April 12, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    OK, let me clarify: I’m not saying that Marriott’s status as an AA70 ends the debate.

    But come on, guys. Is it really irrelevant that fifteen Apostles and (presumably) the Man Upstairs have determined that Marriott’s business decisions do not significantly influence either his worthiness or his credibility to serve in a (relatively) highly visible position of church leadership?

  82. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    RE: 77

    Wow you have a long way to go before you can sustain the leadership of the church… I mean with 2000+ stakes you better get started. I suggest the Marriott rewards card – it will save you money with all that world traveling you will be doing. Also, doesn’t the act of sustaining church leaders mean that we submit to GODs will and believe that it is He who continues to call the leadership of the church? Isn’t it a manifestation of faith on our part? I mean when we sustain our leaders we are saying that we are willing to do what they ask and to do what we can to help them in their capacities as leaders? I don’t think that when we sustain someone that we are passing character judgments, to do so is dangerous. In all reality, you can never know someone’s character. I believe that is why we are not supposed to judge and God is. Are you suggesting that you sustain the 12 and 1P because you know them personally? If so I would love to meet you. Maybe you can introduce me.

  83. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    “But come on, guys. Is it really irrelevant that fifteen Apostles and (presumably) the Man Upstairs have determined that Marriott’s business decisions do not significantly influence either his worthiness or his credibility to serve in a (relatively) highly visible position of church leadership?”

    I’d be hesitant to reach the conclusions you do. For all we know, this was a Nephi-Laban situation: “You want me to call WHO to WHAT when he sells WHAT under his name?” Perhaps the calling was for the sole purpose of increased public pressure so that the Marriotts would feel to end this practice (to the extent they can control it). You and I have no idea whether the calling is a stamp of approval or an impetus to change or a test of how the saints will react or something else entirely.

    But I think it dangerous business to assume that just because someone holds a high church position, all of their business decisions have the divine stamp of approval. If the prophet isn’t infallible, the business decisions of an AA70 certainly have no claim to it.

  84. R. Gary on April 12, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Re Julie (#83) – Amen!!!

  85. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    RE:83

    It is also dangerous to believe that God calls leaders to change corporate practices. It sounds like you are trying to make God say what fits your argument, which is not what the person you were quoting said. He said that “the Man Upstairs [has] determined that Marriott’s business decisions do not significantly influence either his WORTHINESS or his CREDIBILITY to serve.” He did not interpret God’s intentions as you do. He was not speaking for God, and I don’t think you should. Also he never said that there was any “divine stamp of approval” on business practices, only on Marriott himself. When it comes to Marriott’s divine stamp of approval, I trust God and the 12 more than the general membership.

  86. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    RE: 80

    -monger
    combining form
    denoting a dealer or trader in a specified commodity : fishmonger | cheesemonger.
    • a person who promotes a specified activity, situation, or feeling, esp. one that is undesirable or discreditable : rumormonger | warmonger. [porn-monger]

  87. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    RBH, it should have been clear from my original comment that I do not necessarily believe that to be the case but rather that I have no more claim for my Nephi-Laban theory than any of you has for your “divine stamp of approval” theory. The point is that we shouldn’t argue backwards from callings to the appropriateness of every action of the called. The jury is out: my theory fits the bill as much (or as little) as any one else’s.

  88. gst on April 12, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Perfect. Thanks.

  89. Ray on April 12, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    RBH, just a friendly word of advice: When you start pissing off those who start out in your court, it’s probably time to dial down the rhetoric and actually read carefully what is being said. Your #85 doesn’t even address what Julie’s #83 says, especially when she said “or something else entirely”.

  90. JimD on April 12, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    Julie, I agree with a lot of what you say. I do believe that some people wind up in particular callings because God has decided it’s time to “sink or swim”.

    Moreover, I’m not assuming that “just because someone holds a high church position, all of their business decisions have the divine stamp of approval.” But I’m saying it might be a reason to judge someone a tad more charitably than we otherwise would.

  91. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    As it has been made clear by a number of posts, the “divine stamp of approval” is on the person and the calling, not their business practices. So are you suggesting that Marriott’s calling was not divine, or that he was not called by God? By suggesting that the jury is still out, it seems as though you are saying that his calling might not be divine. All I am saying is that clearly Marriott’s “character” and “worthiness” seem to have God’s approval because, He did call him to serve. Not every Missionary is perfect but their callings are divine nonetheless and God does sustain them despite their imperfection. All I am suggesting is that we should not assassinate Marriott’s character in our zealous pursuit of righteousness. Nobody likes the increasingly mainstream nature of porn, it is disgusting and does destroy self-esteem and souls. It is an exploitation of God’s children – nobody is arguing otherwise. But in our fight against pornography we do not have to drag the names of our WORTHY and DIVINELY CALLED leaders through the mud. I know the Marriotts, they are good people and I know that they are as committed to the gospel as anyone else. They have been a tremendous force for good and to argue otherwise is to be ignorant as to who they are. If this discussion were on the nature of porn then it would be short and conclusive. However, some in this discussion (especially in the context of the first discussion on this topic) have seemed to imply that the Marriotts are not good people. If we were to discuss corporate social responsibility with regard to the Gospel, that would be more positive than to blur the topic with personal attacks. Those who have made such attacks need to look in the mirror and ask how a CHRISTIAN, someone who follows Christ’s example, would react to someone else’s use of free-agency. After all, did he not sit with the sinners? Not to suggest that he condoned sin or what they did but that he did not judge their behavior, he loved them despite their behavior. He taught principle. We should discuss principle and not the character of those who might or might not have violated gospel principles with their behavior. Should we engage in an open discussion of your sins and character? I liked a General Conference talk found here that discussed the personal nature of sin: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=f318118dd536c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=fd21ee9ba42fe010VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1.

  92. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    RBH, since you aren’t responding to what I wrote, I’m not going to respond to what you wrote, except to make it clear that I have not, will not, and do not believe that it is right to ‘assassinate Marriott’s character.’ All I said in the original post was that “If I carried the Marriott name, I’d do whatever I could to end the practice and/or disassociate myself from it.”

  93. AF on April 12, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    82: I’m saying that I don’t raise my hand and sustain the Apostles (I thought I made that clear). Maybe it is a lack of faith in God, but imagine if someone reproved a Nauvoo-era latter day saint for refusing to sustain J.C. Bennett as Assistant to the President of the Church. More than anything, I don’t put much weight in modern-day leaders because when they screw up, I feel deceived and betrayed.

    I only live in one stake, so I’m not sure why I’d need to sustain the 2,000 other SPs (who I usually sustain…if I know them).

  94. Brad Kramer on April 12, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    It is interesting the way that the utility-/profit-maximizing imperatives of corporate capitalism invert the moral logic of the choices at play here. Mr. X tells Mr. Z that the pay-per-view package their company just contracted to distribute includes highly offensive pornographic material. The possibility of profiting off of said distribution, rather than amplifying its evil, serves as a mitigating factor. If distributing porn is immoral, surely profiting off of said distribution is more immoral still. Yet the logic of the corporation produces the reverse effect: the immorality of distributing this smut is actually *counter-balanced* by the profits it generates. Magnificent.

    Much of this discussion has turned on the question of whether or not Brother Marriott’s fiduciary duty requires him to maximize corporate profits by continuing to distribute pornography in his hotel rooms. Let’s bracket that technical legal question a moment and assume that his fiduciary duty — duty of care — does in fact entail such an obligation and that discontinuing the practice of distributing the offensive materials would constitute some kind or another of legal/contractual breach.

    Is anyone here really arguing that upholding fiduciary duty and/or retaining his position as CEO is a greater moral imperative than not profiting off of the distribution of pornography?

  95. AF on April 12, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Brad,

    I won’t make the argument. Honestly, I don’t know how he does it….it takes one helluva ethical contortionist to do what he does.

  96. Brad Kramer on April 12, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Maybe all we’re talking about is an unusually slow ethical learning curve.

  97. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Re #95 and #96: we’re getting a little close to the kind of personal comments that are not productive or appropriate. I’ll delete comments that are anywhere near character assassination–even character noogies aren’t OK. Let’s stick to the issues.

  98. Ray on April 12, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    RBH, one more unsolicited comment from someone who sees and appreciates your sincerity:

    In this medium, a “troll” generally is defined as someone who enters a discussion, disregards what others are saying, and starts throwing bombs at people. Generally, these creatures are attacking the Church (within the Bloggernacle), but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    You sound like a very sincere member who is trying to defend a good man and church leader. I admire that, and I agree with much of what you are saying. The problem is that as this discussion has progressed, you have begun to model a classic troll – attacking people for saying things they didn’t say and twisting the conversation away from the original post’s intent, which was to inform of an upcoming meeting and express hope that it is successful in eliminating porn from many hotels around the world. That’s all that Julie said in the post. There was no personal attack of any kind in her post – or in any of her subsequent comments.

    You are now trafficking in hyperbole and misrepresentation. For example:

    “So are you suggesting that Marriott’s calling was not divine, or that he was not called by God? By suggesting that the jury is still out, it seems as though you are saying that his calling might not be divine.”

    Nobody made that suggestion. “The jury is still out” was**clearly** focused very narrowly on whether the calling was a sign of approval of his business practices – and there is nothing in our scriptures to indicate a calling includes that type of stamp of approval. Joseph Smith was not a great businessman, and his calling as a prophet did not constitute God’s approval of his business practices. Why should the same statement about Bro. Marriott even cross your mind as a denial of the divine origin of his current calling? That is a huge stretch and a very specious assumption. It is trollish.

    Again, you seem sincere and faithful. Please be careful to address only what is being said, not extrapolations that never were intended. Such a course ruins credibility in a hurry.

  99. Brad Kramer on April 12, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    apologies, Julie. Feel free to delete my #96.

  100. Ray on April 12, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Just for the record, I typed #98 before #95 and #96 posted to my computer. They might have changed the way I worded #98, frankly.

  101. rowish on April 12, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Let’s take this discussion in another direction.

    I have another business trip coming up — to Philadelphia, that goes over the last weekend of April. I will need a hotel near downtown (I would prefer it be relatively near City Hall on Broad Street, only so that I can walk around that part of town).

    Normally, I go out of my way to frequent hotels that are part of the HHonors system (I have more points there). I do have a Marriott membership, but I don’t often stay there. However, on this trip, a project manager put me in the Courtyard, but I can change it.

    I do need a place that will provide Internet access; my company will reimburse me for up to about $170 a night.

    Anyone know of a hotel that doesn’t sell porn that I should attempt to frequent? If there isn’t an adequate substitute, then isn’t the question about not supporting said businesses kind of academic? (I’m with Bookslinger in that I’m too cheap to stay at a place like this if it were for me … but this is a business trip and location and amenities are key. I’m in Philly 2-3 times a year, anyway).

  102. rowish on April 12, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Not to feed a troll, but in the name of George P. Lee, we’re not gonna start using church callings to validate people’s personal matters, right?

  103. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    The “Troll” sincerely apologizes for his interpretation of some of the arguments that have been made. I guess it seemed as though there were some arguments that blurred the line between person, calling, and business principles. In RE: 85, I was trying to highlight the differences in the reasoning offered by Jim and Julie, and that difference was important. I was trying to highlight the difference between the calling itself and why the individual was called. It is safe to assume that the call was divine – but we will never know why the calling was made. Jim argued the former, Julie the latter. Also, please help me know what I have misunderstood about some of the other arguments that have been made, it can only help me. Furthermore, I know that I am the voice of dissension and that my arguments will seem louder no matter how I write them. But I refer you to early posts that were directed at me personally which I found personal and reacted to. There have also been exaggerations and “extrapolations” of what I intended to say, so I hope that my credibility is “ruined” insofar as other’s credibility is ruined. (Not that anyone’s credibility should be ruined in the first place) If you look back at what I have said my core argument has remained constant – the corporation is not the person and do not confuse the two. I might step out on a limb here and suggest the core belief that I hold which is driving this argument: Corporations are amoral and subject to the laws of governments and not the laws of religion.

    RE: 92 Julie what did I fail to respond to?

  104. rowish on April 12, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I’m not unsympathetic to the idea that general authorities should have clean backgrounds. But there is enough evidence to the contrary that says that Church leadership doesn’t care about some of those things … so I don’t worry about it. Marriott is not in a position to be sustained by me, so I don’t worry about it.

    I’d still like some guidance on the hotel thing when I’m in Philly. Does anyone have a recommendation?

  105. Julie M. Smith on April 12, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    RBH, 82 and 87 covered it, I think.

  106. Just me on April 12, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Well, I personally recommend Philadelphia’s inexpensively communal Chamounix Mansion House hostel and meeting center ( http://www.hostelz.com/hostel/2450-HI—Philadelphia%2C-Chamounix-Mansion-Hostel ) . . .

  107. Phouchg on April 12, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Marriott offers high-speed internet access. Should they have filtering software to deny access to pornographic websites?

  108. Brad Kramer on April 12, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Come on, Phouchg. They offer pillows but that doesn’t mean they’re responsible of someone smothers a guest to death with one. The proper analogy would be if Marriott *did* heavily filter its internet access but included access to a number of hard porn sites and then turned a profit from the sites for every hit or order originating from the hotel’s ISP.

  109. Brad Kramer on April 12, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Or, more specifically, if it filtered certain porn sites (Marriott Porn Standards) but allowed others and programmed the filtration Standard to kick in only after they’ve ensured “the economics of the system,” to quote from J. W. Marriott’s own letter defending the porn-distribution component of Marriott Corp’s business plan.

  110. Dennis on April 12, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    I’ve enjoyed the comments on this post.

    My two cents: I certainly cannot judge Marriott’s character, nor understand his motivation for sticking with the porn. It certainly is possible that he sees what he is doing as helping a morally corrupt industry be slightly less morally corrupt. I could possibly say the same things about many people who have been slaveholders as well. It’s very easy to condemn them, from our circumstance; however, many likely were good men who were doing their best in a messy world. They, too, might have reasoned that they didn’t start the fire and they’re simply doing their best to stay in the world and help the fire from growing, even if it means getting their hands a little dirty. If not me, then someone else — someone worse.

    I think this reasoning carries some water, and if I were Marriott’s ecclesiastical leader I might not like the fact that the hotel offers porn, but I certainly could not consider him to be in poor standing with the Church. I would understand his situation and see him as a man who is trying to do the best he can in a messy world.

    That being said, there are men and women, some with great power and position, who rise up and take bold stands in rising up the world. We cannot expect them to do it. We cannot consider them to be “bad” if they don’t. But thank heaven for them — we need more of them.

    Unfortunately, Marriott is no Wilberforce.

    And we can’t insist for him to be, nor call him a bad Church member for not being one.

    But if he were a Wilberforce, and he did make a bold stand on this matter, you can bet that every single general authority would breathe a sigh of relief.

  111. Ray on April 12, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    RBH, I tried hard not to call you a troll – but merely point out where the discussion was going and express my respect for your sincerity and faithfulness even as I pointed that out. I hope that came through the words. I really didn’t read you personally as a troll, and I really do respect the point I thought you were trying to make – even if I didn’t agree with it totally.

  112. anon on April 12, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    1) Marriott has said it will not remove the pornography because it would cost it money.

    2) Marriott has not said it would not remove the pornography for fear of litigation.

    3) Under current U.S. law removing the pornography would not be a breach of fiduciary duty. Period.

    4) Anyone who thinks the Marriott corporation is afraid to try something novel because it fears litigation should acquaint themselves further with the company’s history. Looking at the reorg in 1993 that resulted in Marriott International and Host Marriot would be a good place to start. In that instance bond holders felt Marriott’s actions favored shareholders, the largest of which is the Marriott family, at their expense. The actions the corporation took were novel and were obviously going to result in litigation. Marriott International’s 1998 attempt to create two classes of stock that would have entrenched the Marriott family’s voting power is also interesting.

  113. RBH on April 12, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Ray – No problem. It did motivate rowish to call me a Troll, but it didn’t bother me. Similarly I respect those opinions expressed and think that there are some real issues of concern here; and I believe we addressed many of them.

    Dennis – Simply, well said.

  114. Gary on April 12, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Brad (#94): I don’t think you have characterized this issue properly. I don’t think anybody argues that profiting from immoral actions counterbalances the immorality of the action. Instead, I think the issue is whether there are in fact conflicting duties.

    I can imagine a shareholder of Marriott Corp. saying “Look, I invested substantial capital in this company after studying its business model and financial statements. Now you tell me your are going to wipe out a revenue stream that I counted on in making my investment. It was a revenue stream that all investors and analysts have factored into their evaluation of the value of this company. I based my investment decision on that information and on the implicit promise that the management team would behave in a way designed to maximize profits. But the only reason you are going to eliminate that revenue stream is because it offends the moral values of one of the major shareholders. But what about me? I trusted in this management team to continue to pursue its business plan, and now you are violating that trust merely to avoid offending one particular shareholder.”

    Do you think that this kind of complaint is wholly without merit? Suppose you had invested in a hotel chain run by Muslims. Suppose that after you made that investment, they decided that they would no longer sell alcohol, have a call to prayer 5 times per day in the hotel, and not permit women in the hotel to be unaccompanies by men. The stock price plummets. Would you not feel betrayed?

  115. anon on April 13, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Gary,

    Just prior to Marriott’s 1993 reorg, Marriott sold $400 million of bonds into the market. When Marriott announced the reorg the price of those bonds plummeted 30% because of the way the reorg was structured. The bond holders definitely felt betrayed. In fact they went to court over it. This did not deter Marriott from undertaking the reorg.

  116. anon on April 13, 2008 at 12:09 am

    My point is not that Marriott acted well or badly, but that the consequences of their action did not deter them from going forward with an unpopular action.

  117. Latter-day Guy on April 13, 2008 at 12:17 am

    I agree that the Marriott corp. does not need to sell porn on tv. In fact, it’s silly; don’t they provide free wi-fi for that?

  118. rowish on April 13, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Sorry, RBH. Didn’t mean to call you a troll, directly. I actually agree with some of your points, but by the nature of the Bloggernacle, you’re fighting an uphill battle in these parts.

  119. Gary on April 13, 2008 at 12:27 am

    anon: Yes, I am aware of the deal you refer to but I don’t know what that has to do with anything. Whether they acted correctly or not in that transaction has no real bearing on this issue.

  120. Bookslinger on April 13, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Rowish: (#101),
    have you looked at CleanHotels.com for a downtown Philadelphia hotel?

    Most of them look over $170/night though. There are some within your budget limit, like Travelodge, but the last Travelodge I saw was nasty.

    On the subject of Courtyard by Marriot, one of those in Phila is listed on CleanHotels.com, but I can’t tell from the address if its in the area you want.

  121. RBH on April 13, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Rowish – no harm done. I understand it was an uphill battle and did not want to detract from the discussion but add to it.

  122. Matthew on April 13, 2008 at 12:58 am

    Late in on the discussion here, but I don’t really think that (as was suggested somewhere here) Marriott’s actions are defensible here on the basis that the shareholders are owed fiduciary duties which include maximizing profit opportunities at every turn. The business judgment rule operates everywhere to protect officers and directors who act in good faith even if it turns out they were wrong. If placing a Book of Mormon in every drawer can be justified there is no argument with a straight face that removing porn could not be. On the other hand, should we expect every LDS restaurant owner to refrain from serving alcohol? To me this is simply a matter of conscience for the Marriotts since the porn industry is measured in the billions and what Marriott Hotels do or don’t do matters little in the grand scheme to anyone but them personally (whoever “they” are at this point in time, and maybe they aren’t LDS).

  123. AF on April 13, 2008 at 1:06 am

    112:

    Of course, their experiences in the past may make them litigation averse (especially since a claim of entrenchment is a pretty serious claim (breach of the duty of loyalty…ouch!). And can you tell me a corporation that ever says, “we will not take action x because we’re afraid of getting sued”???).

    Of course, U.S. law wouldn’t govern, but the state in which Marriott is incorporated. That is a pretty bold statement, since neither you nor I can possibly know how removal of porn would affect the value of Marriott’s stock, which would be the the reason for the breach and not the act of removing the porn itself. In the In re Walt Disney Corp. litigation, remember, there was an extensive lawsuit over a cushy compensation and severance package (I guess cushy might understate the nature of the compensation package). Would you also say that simply overcompensating an individual is not a breach of fiduciary duties acc. to “U.S. law. Period.”?

  124. AF on April 13, 2008 at 1:08 am

    116: So why are they dragging their feet on this difficult decision, since it is all about money and they’re not afraid to take a hit??? You’re starting to argue against yourself, which is fine by me.

  125. AF on April 13, 2008 at 1:10 am

    122: But the Marriott Corp. doesn’t lose anything by dropping the BOM in the drawer. You’re right that SHs would have an uphill battle to overcome BJR presumptions, but they’re not iron clad.

  126. Matthew on April 13, 2008 at 1:23 am

    125. I don’t disagree with you in principle. The court room is the biggest casino in the world as I tell people nearly every day. That said, I am fairly confident in my assessment that a successful derivative suit by the shareholders over this issue could only occur in the ivory tower. With that in mind, I don’t see it as a serious impediment to getting porn out of the hotels. I would be shocked if it were.

  127. blt on April 13, 2008 at 4:01 am

    Matthew (122),
    “To me this is simply a matter of conscience for the Marriotts since the porn industry is measured in the billions and what Marriott Hotels do or don’t do matters little in the grand scheme to anyone but them personally (whoever “they” are at this point in time, and maybe they aren’t LDS).”
    I don’t know why it should matter even a little bit the degree to which we participate in evil. However, according to the New York Times in 2000, Marriott makes about 200 million annually on porn sales. Fortune put US sales at around 10 billion and Forbes puts worldwide profits at 56 billion.
    If that number seems too small for us to consider in the precious digital space that RBH is protecting from the zealots, consider this: A Utah County public defender cited Provo Marriott’s 3,448 adult pay-per-view movie rentals in 1998 alone as evidence of acceptable community standards.
    I know that you essentially argued both sides in your post, so I don’t want to sound confrontational. However, if I have to listen to an pornography talk every conference, I think that it’s not too much to ask our leaders not to sell the stuff.

  128. blt on April 13, 2008 at 4:20 am

    Dennis (110),
    “They, too, might have reasoned that they didn’t start the fire and they’re simply doing their best to stay in the world and help the fire from growing, even if it means getting their hands a little dirty. If not me, then someone else — someone worse.”
    Maybe LDS actors, directors and production companies should start making porno themselves.
    Also, Wilberforce was not Wilberforce because he refused to buy or sell slaves.

  129. Matt Evans on April 13, 2008 at 5:02 am

    Wilberforce was not Wilberforce because he refused to buy or sell slaves.

    !!!!

    Delicious, blt.

  130. Eric Boysen on April 13, 2008 at 7:47 am

    I guess my head is in the sand, but when I think Marriott I just want to remember the funny little man (JWM Sr.) who wiggled his ears for the ammusement of a dozen odd children riding on a train back in ’74. Sigh!

  131. L on April 13, 2008 at 8:24 am

    The truth is CEOs and Directors of Boards have a moral obligation to make to make money for their shareholders.

  132. Julie M. Smith on April 13, 2008 at 8:47 am

    All:

    We’re getting to that point where we are repeating ourselves as if the previous 100 comments haven’t happened. (L, did you read the comments before you posted #131?) If you have anything new to say, please say it, because otherwise I’ll probably need to close comments soon as the light to heat ratio worsens.

  133. Gary on April 13, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Technical legal discussions about fiduciary duties and the business judgment rule are interesting, but not the real point. Let’s debate moral principles, not legal principles. My question is simply this:

    “After taking investors’ money based on a certain business model that includes pay per view porn, is there a moral obligation owed to those investors not to deprive them of that revenue stream which they counted on, for the sole reason that it violates the moral principles of the majority shareholder?”

    If your answer to that question is yes, then you must at least recognize that there are now two conflicting moral principles at issue here. If your answer is no, then I would be interested to understand why. See my example in #114

  134. Adam Greenwood on April 13, 2008 at 10:45 am

    That’s an argument for not making any changes to the enterprise, Gary. Under that reasoning, a corporation could never switch any part of their business model without betraying their moral duty to their investors. That doesn’t sound right. After all, even if you, the CEO, believe the company will be better off after making some change, surely there’s at least one investor who thinks the old way is better.

    Where you go wrong is to think that there’s a clear separation between legal and moral duties here. I don’t think there is. Most stock purchases in large, publicly-traded corporations don’t work on the model where the CEO has made some kind of personal representations to specific investors that he might be morally obliged to keep. In fact, in most cases Marriott stock will be owned by people who bought their stock from someone other than Marriott so its not like the corporation directly is benefiting from their investment anyway. So, realistically, the only moral obligations Marriott owes its shareholders are its legal, fiduciary obligations. To the extent a public campaign to pressure Marriott to drop its porn operations actually succeeds, the campaign will have been visible enough for long enough that investors will have notice of the possibility of the change.

  135. Adam Greenwood on April 13, 2008 at 10:49 am

    And thinking about your Muslim example of requiring guests to pray five times a day or whatever– I think the fundamental mistake you are making is to treat Mormon’s opposition to pornography as if it was as alien to American mores and tradition as Muslim prayer practices are. This simply isn’t so. In fact, that may be another reason to object to what the Marriotts are doing. They are embracing and promoting the marginalization of a part of our faith that need not be marginalized.

  136. bbell on April 13, 2008 at 11:36 am

    My position on this has not changed

    I feel that the Marriotts are off seeking filthy lucre and publicly defending their position contrary to the teachings of the church.

    Lets say I owned a video store. Lets also say that there was an area behind a curtain where I rented porn.

    Just for fun lets say a local reporter caught wind of my activities, knew I was LDS, interviewed me and published a story in the local paper about it where I defended my business practices.

    We could have a BCC “you make the call” What does the local B and SP do?

    A. ignore it
    B. Call me in for interviews and buy my justifications and tell me to carry on.
    C. Call me in and tell me to stop and ask to see my TR as the conversation starts and depending on how the conversation goes I may walk out without the TR.

  137. Trish on April 13, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Filthy lucre sounds a little harsh — but funny.

    The Marriotts could invest in areas that build up the communities they serve in lieu of offering porn. Most decent people outside the LDS church would agree that porn clutters and corrupts the mind. Last time I checked, it is still not appropiate to sit in public place with a Hustler mag. That person would be called a pervert. Porn exploits the readers and participants. How does this support and build up the communitities the Marriott companies serve?

    Is Porn in line with Marriott’s core values?

    “The core values established by the Marriott family over 80 years ago have served our company well and will continue to guide our growth into the future.”

    Do the Marriott’s have a say in how their Name will be used and what the company offers to sell? Mmm

    “Marriott’s fundamental beliefs are enduring and the keys to its continued success. It’s the Marriott experience. We do whatever it takes to provide our associates with the utmost opportunities and our customers with superior service.”

    The Corporation’s business decision to offer porn is what the controversy is about.

    Their business choices can either build up the company’s image or destroy it. What if people stopped looking at or buying porn? The company would probably make the decision to stop offering a service that wasn’t selling.

    Hiding behind the banner of “serving the best interests of our shareholders” just doesn’t work anymore. That is just a rationalization for doing what you want to make money.

    With a little creativity, I bet the Marriotts could come up with some way to make up for the money that would be lost from future porn sales.

  138. Trish on April 13, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Filthy lucre sounds a little harsh — but funny.

    The Marriotts could invest in areas that build up the communities they serve in lieu of offering porn. Most decent people outside the LDS church would agree that porn clutters and corrupts the mind. Last time I checked, it is still not appropiate to sit in public place with a Hustler mag. That person would be called a pervert. Porn exploits the readers and participants. How does this support and build up the communitities the Marriott companies serve?

    Is Porn in line with Marriott’s core values?

    “The core values established by the Marriott family over 80 years ago have served our company well and will continue to guide our growth into the future.”

    Do the Marriott’s have a say in how their Name will be used and what the company offers to sell? Mmm

    “Marriott’s fundamental beliefs are enduring and the keys to its continued success. It’s the Marriott experience. We do whatever it takes to provide our associates with the utmost opportunities and our customers with superior service.”

    The Corporation’s business decision to offer porn is what the controversy is about.

    Their business choices can either build up the company’s image or destroy it. What if people stopped looking at or buying porn? The company would probably make the decision to stop offering a service that wasn’t selling.

    Hiding behind the banner of “serving the best interests of our shareholders” just doesn’t work anymore. That is just a rationalization for doing what you want to make money.

    With a little creativity, I bet the Marriotts could come up with some way to make up for the money that would be lost from future porn sales.

  139. Trish on April 13, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Sorry I don’t know why that posted twice?

  140. Brad Kramer on April 13, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Gary,
    Read the relevant quotations from #24. It’s impossible to argue with a straight face that profiting off of the distribution is not in direct violation of the teachings of the Church — not just teachings declaring pornography itself immoral but teachings declaring the distribution of pornography immoral. Instead you have to argue that the “conflicting duty” of making money no matter the social cost or moral implications, uh, counterbalances against this moral duty. Marriott is not just some CEO who happens to also be LDS when he worships. He has made his moral, upstanding, Mormon identity an integral component of his professional identity and brand as the figurehead of MarriottCorp. Even if you want to use the more innocuous language of “conflicting duties” to characterize this situation, I’ll repeat the question (sorry Julie to repeat myself) with which I closed comment #94:

    Are you *seriously* arguing that the professional imperative to make money for the company or even to remain CEO of MC is sufficiently strong to outweigh his moral imperative not just as a Mormon but as an extremely public, well-known Mormon and *Church Leader* to not sell this smut? I am making no judgments as to Elder Marriott’s overall character — I understand that none of us are perfect and that righteousness and worthiness are complicated questions; but this is indefensible. Period.

  141. Brad Kramer on April 13, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    “Well, Bishop, yes — I have made a habit of watching pornographic movies recreationally during my business trips. But in my defense, I only stay at Marriott hotels. That means that 1) all the porn I watch lives up to the Marriott Porn Standards, and 2) there’s a fair chance that some of the revenue my habit has generated for the company made its way into the construction of the temple just built Kiev.”

    “Well, Elder Marriott, I am aware that technically watching pornography is not in harmony with accepting a full-time position on BYU’s faculty, but…”

  142. Brad Kramer on April 13, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    If I accepted a position as CEO of a publicly traded company that runs brothels in Nevada, would my fiduciary duty to the company’s shareholders shield me from judgments of the morality of the nature of my business enterprise?

  143. L on April 13, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Actually Julie M. Smith, I was commenting on the post, which is in fact the purpose of a comment section. So no, I did not read all of the 131 comments. Eventually it gets boring to read comments of people who are ignorant about the functioning of society.

  144. Steve Evans on April 13, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Even if, arguendo, there were some nutbar caselaw suggesting a fiduciary duty for corporate hotel chains to provide porn, Marriott should resign rather than perform such a task. It’s not like he’s an indentured porn-mongerer.

    Julie, refreshing to see that, a year later, there are so many novel approaches to the Marriott issue! What exactly have we learned in that time?

  145. Brad Kramer on April 13, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    “Eventually it gets boring to read comments of people who are ignorant about the functioning of society.”

    And your basis for this claim is, uh, *not* reading our comments?

    Seriously, though, thanks for enlightening us knuckle-draggers on the finer points corporate law and fiduciary duty.

  146. L on April 13, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    No, that was my reasoning for not reading all 131 comments, but thanks for paying attention.

  147. Brad Kramer on April 13, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Well, the enlightenment was appreciated nonetheless. I can’t say how helpful it was for someone to finally get us all back on track by suggesting that “CEOs and Directors of Boards have a moral obligation to make to make money for their shareholders.” I think I can speak for us all in saying that I feel just a bit less ignorant about the functioning of society.

  148. L on April 13, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Sorry for commenting in the comment section of a blog about my opinion on the topic at hand. I suppose I’m the ignorant one for misinterpreting the word comment.

  149. Julie M. Smith on April 13, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    OK then. If anyone has anything new to say, email me and I’ll consider re-opening comments.