Amazon.com Inc. investors rejected all eleven proposals from shareholders at the company’s annual meeting this week. However, the vote numbers released on Friday show that a significant number of investors want more transparency about the company’s business practices on a number of issues.
The top-performing shareholder proposal was to call for a citizenship and equity review, which received 44% of all votes cast, nearly 160 million. The group of investors who filed the resolution, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, indicated that it would have existed without Amazon
Chief Executive Jeff Bezos’ shares, which, according to the Amazon representative, represent 14% of the company’s voting rights.
“Shareholders sent a loud message to Amazon that they would like the company to do more against racial diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Thomas DiNapoli, Comptroller of New York State, in a statement Friday. “The demand for racial justice is not going away, and neither is Amazon’s shareholders. We will continue to urge Amazon to take an independent look at how racial justice and justice are approached, just as other big corporations have done. “
In its review proposal last year, the New York State Pension Fund cited Amazon’s public commitments to racial justice and said some of its actions contradicted these statements. The fund related to Amazon’s treatment of workers, including black workers, as well as its use of technology that could potentially harm civil rights.
The enormous reach of Amazon was reflected in the sheer number of shareholder resolutions that were on the ballot at the annual general meeting and in the breadth of topics. The CtW Investment Group tabled a proposal calling on the company to report on anti-competitive risk monitoring and citing the numerous investigations that lawmakers, law enforcement and government agencies have launched into Amazon’s practices.
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About 34% of shareholders, with no abstentions or no votes, voted in favor of the resolution on Wednesday, the following day The District of Columbia filed an antitrust lawsuit accusing Amazon of abusing its dominance to artificially keep retail prices high.
“As recent events – such as the DC AG lawsuit – make clear, the risk to the company’s business and reputation is only growing, and shareholders have shown that they want the Board of Directors to know how it is managing these risks monitored by the company. ” Richard Clayton, research director of CtW, told MarketWatch on Friday. He added that the resolution, adjusted for Bezos shares, received 39% of the vote, which Clayton saw as a good sign of an initial resolution that Amazon asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude shareholders from voting.
Shareholder proposals required Amazon to provide more information about the use of Rekognition facial recognition technology, advertising data, lobbying practices, and more. They also asked the company to conduct and report on a civil rights and diversity, equity and inclusion audit. Institutional Shareholder Services, the influential proxy advisory firm, had recommended shareholders vote yes on these and other questions, but none succeeded.
Bezos, who chaired his last shareholders meeting as chief executive on Wednesday, controls the votes of more than 70 million shares, while Amazon only has a hair over half a billion shares outstanding, according to Amazon’s proxy statement. He will step down as CEO on July 5 to become Executive Chairman of the Amazon board of directors.