Calls for Mark Zuckerberg’s power to be reined in continue to grow louder – not that it matters.
That much was clear during Facebook’s annual shareholders meeting on Thursday, where Zuckerberg faced numerous calls for his power to be checked. On the agenda were four shareholder proposals that called for new checks on Zuckerberg’s power:
A proposal calling for more shareholder a power
A proposal calling for an independent board chair (not Zuck)
A proposal which compared Zuckerberg’s control of the company to a “dictatorship,” for shareholder input in elections to the board of directors
A proposal to explore “strategic alternatives,” including breaking up Facebook into separate companies
But going over these initiatives were mostly a symbolic gesture as Facebook’s board, once again, easily voted down all shareholder proposals. As Bloomberg pointed out earlier this week, such proposals are all essentially dead on arrival, since Zuckerberg controls the vast majority of the company’s most powerful shares.
Zuckerberg seemed mostly unfazed by all this. He said addressing the “social issues” facing the company is one of his top priorities.
“This is an important period for the company…we’re fighting to do the right thing every day,” he said.
Still, shareholders in attendance made it clear they want to see Facebook change.
During the meeting’s Q&A period, one questioner asked Facebook’s lead independent director, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, if she was willing to exercise her authority to call a board meeting without Zuckerberg in order to oust the CEO.
She said no. “That’s not the direction we want to take the company or the board,” she said.
Zuck asked to respond directly to calls for him to give up power. He repeats his calls for regulation: “If people were re-writing the rules for how they wanted the internet to work…I don’t think that people overall would want companies to have so much unilateral authority” $FB
— Karissa Bell (@karissabe) May 30, 2019
Another attendee posed a similar question to Zuckerberg, asking if he would respond to people who want him to give up some of his power. Facebook’s founder sidestepped the question by repeating his calls for increased regulation.
“I do acknowledge there are limits to what an individual company should deciding,” he said.
That wasn’t really an answer to the question that was asked, but it was a deft move that allowed the CEO to avoid addressing calls for him to step down or relinquish his control directly.
Most of all, it was a powerful reminder to Zuckerberg’s critics that he’s not going away any time soon.