Amazon shareholders have submitted a shareholder resolution calling on the company to separate the role of CEO and chair of the board.
The shareholders represented by SumOfUs, an international consumer group, want Amazon’s current billionaire CEO and founder Jeff Bezos to step down as chair of the board. Their request comes just weeks ahead of Amazon’s annual general meeting of shareholders on 30 May.
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 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.
Proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis has also previously come out in support of shareholder resolutions calling for the separation of the roles of CEO and board chair.
Lisa Lindsley, capital markets advisor for SumOfUs, said: “There is a clear conflict of interest when a corporation’s board of directors, which is responsible for overseeing the CEO and representing shareholders, is chaired by that same CEO.
“An independent board chair is a necessary first step to put Amazon’s board on the path to effective representation of the interests of all shareholders. Independent board leadership would be particularly useful at Amazon in providing more robust oversight regarding the company’s association with right-wing organizations including NRATV and Breitbart.
“In addition, Amazon has faced increased criticism for workforce exploitation, tax avoidance, and monopolistic practices. Independent board leadership would result in improved policies and practices to mitigate these risks.”