At an annual general meeting shareholders argued that “Bezos shouldn’t be his own boss”.
Due to the fact that Amazon counts shareholder abstentions as votes, and Jeff Bezos owns 16.37% of Amazon shares, SumOfUs, the international consumer group, estimates that approximately 40% of independent shareholders in fact supported the resolution.
Separating the roles of chair and CEO is the norm in Europe, and in the US some 51% of boards on stock market index S&P 500 split the chair and CEO roles, however it is not unusual for firms to combine them.
SumOfUs argues that an independent chair of the board would be better able to oversee the executives of the company, improve corporate governance and set a more accountable, pro-shareholder agenda.
Lisa Lindsley, capital markets advisor for SumOfUs, who presented the proposal at the AGM, said: “There is a clear conflict of interest when Amazon’s board of directors, which is responsible for overseeing Jeff Bezos and representing shareholders, is chaired by Jeff Bezos.
“Today, Amazon’s shareholders sent a clear signal that an independent board chair is a necessary first step to putting the Amazon’s board on the path to effective representation in the interest of all shareholders.”
Salma Mirza, campaigns director at SumOfUs, who took place in protest outside the AGM, added: “As both CEO and board chair, Jeff Bezos’ leadership at Amazon has hurt our communities.
“Whether it’s by profiting from the pain of victims of gun violence and streaming NRATV on its platform or being one of the last major advertisers for Breitbart, to paying employees so little that they literally can’t put food on the table, to fighting taxes that pay for affordable housing and houselessness programs, to the race-to-the-bottom competition for HQ2, or spewing pollution that harms our health and damages our climate.
“Amazon’s profits come at the expense of our communities, and that’s because of a lack of accountability up at the top. The lesson is simple: Jeff Bezos shouldn’t be his own boss.”