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Investors criticize Norfolk Southern

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — As environmental and economic remediation continues in East Palestine in the wake of last year’s Norfolk Southern train derailment, a group of investors led by Ohio-based Ancora Holdings Group, which holds a $1 billion stake in the railroad, continued to level criticism at the NS board of directors and amp up calls to replace CEO Alan Shaw.

The group issued a statement on Thursday in response to the Federal Railroad Administration’s recent statement that Norfolk Southern’s path to “immediate and long-term success is through a relentless focus on safety” and President Joe Biden’s trip to the village last week in which the president called the derailment “an act of greed that was 100 percent preventable.”

“We agree with the Federal Railroad Administration’s statement that Norfolk Southern’s path to “immediate and long-term success is through a relentless focus on safety.” We also share the agency’s concerns regarding “backsliding” at the company,” Ancora’s statement read. “Despite making reactionary safety commitments following the preventable derailment in East Palestine in 2023, Norfolk Southern’s board and management team have overseen multiple derailments and the tragic death of an engineer in 2024. This is one of the primary reasons why our proposed management team and slate of director candidates, which includes former policymakers with relevant expertise, continue to follow Biden’s calls to hold Norfolk Southern accountable.”

In the statement, the group accused the NS Board of presiding over “yet another failure of oversight by allowing Shaw to allocate millions of dollars to wide-ranging lobbying and public relations efforts, which now appear to be geared toward saving his role as one of the railroad industry’s highest-paid executives.”

Last week, the investor group announced its nomination of eight for election to the NS board of directors at the 2024 shareholders meeting. The nominations included transportation network leader Jim Barber Jr. as chief executive officer and lifelong railroad operator Jamie Boychuk as chief operating officer. Former Gov. John Kasich was also among the nominees.

As an Ohio company, Ancora said its concern transcends the railroad’s profit potential.

In Thursday’s statement, Ancora said “the employees and partners of Ancora, which is an Ohio-based asset manager that serves the needs of individuals, families, pension funds and other institutions, have loved ones and family who have been directly impacted by the tragedy in East Palestine, ­ meaning this campaign is about much more than financial returns to Ancora.”

Since last year’s derailment, Shaw has directed Norfolk Southern’s “making it right” campaign — an initiative to remedy the impacts the rail disaster caused. To date, those contributions have exceeded $104 million dollars. The contributions have included $21 million in direct assistance to area households, $25 million to renovate the city park, another $25 million to build and fund a first responder regional training center in East Palestine and $4.2 million to protect the municipal drinking water.

Shaw himself has made ongoing trips to the village to oversee efforts and made a personal contribution of nearly $500,000 to establish the Bulldog Legacy Scholarship which is awarded to East Palestine seniors annually.

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