CalPERS Withholds Votes at Applied Materials Inc

March 16, 2004 (—California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest US public pension fund, will withhold votes for four Applied Materials Inc. directors up for election March 24.

CalPERS, which owns 10 million Applied Materials shares, is withholding it votes in part of its ongoing actions to keep outside auditors independent at companies.   PriceWaterhouseCoopers, auditor for Applied Materials, was used for services such as consulting last year, which CalPERS maintains can be a conflict of interest.

The withheld votes will not prevent the election of the four directors at Applied Materials, a manufacturing equipment producer, but CalPERS hopes it continues to send their message about corporate governance boards, following action taken against Walt Disney Co. and Hewlett Packard (see  Beleaguered Disney Head Tries to Shore Up Support and  CalPERS Withholds HP Board Votes ).

The four audit committee members who are up for election Michael H. Armacost, Deborah A. Coleman, Philip V. Gerdine, and Gerhard H. Parker.