Amazon activist investors lose their grip on the company | Economy | The USA Print

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The annual meeting of shareholders of Amazon has been becoming in recent years an annoying formality for the directors of the giant of electronic commerce and computing in the cloud. For years, demonstrators protested in Seattle outside the venue of the meeting while inside some spokesmen aired their proposals and complaints to the directors. With the pandemic, the boards have become telematics, but the protests continue.

In the one held this Wednesday, the reason for not having been the poor performance of its shares, which have fallen 36% so far this year. Not even a scrupulous evaluation of the work of the new technology boss, Andy Jassy, ​​almost a year after relieving Jeff Bezos. The source of the discomfort is in the 15 resolutions presented by shareholders of the company for improvements in transparency, working conditions and diversity policies, among other issues. The company has rejected that record number of points on the agenda and has won the pulse.

The secretary of the board of directors of Amazon has been announcing during the meeting that all the external proposals were being rejected one by one, although without providing the results of the votes at that time. Traditionally, even in the case of non-consultative votes, a support of 30% or 40% usually leads companies to adopt some type of policy to improve the aspects raised.

At last year’s meeting, a proposal to conduct an audit of racial discrimination garnered support of more than 44% of the votes cast at the meeting. The company has finally commissioned said report from the former United States Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, so a resolution to the same effect had been withdrawn this Wednesday from the agenda.

At this year’s meeting, the proposals on labor matters stood out, after a group of workers at an Amazon distribution center in Staten Island (New York) managed to overcome pressure from the company and unionized for the first time in the bosom of the giant The victory became a national symbol, but a few weeks later Amazon fired half a dozen bosses at that workplace for failing to abort the birth of the union.

A long list of proposals

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Amazon’s labor practices have frequently come under fire. Precisely Angelika Maldonada, leader of the successful union in Staten Island, defended this Wednesday a proposal to examine the company’s position “on the fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining.” “Amazon management has wasted millions of dollars on anti-union consultants and it has backfired,” Maldonada said. “What a waste of time and money. Other successful companies respect the rights of their workers and their freedom of association,” she added. Isaiah Thomas, an Alabama warehouse worker, has called Amazon warehouses “dramatically more dangerous” to work in than other companies’ warehouses, defending a proposal to improve working conditions in those centers.

Christian Smalls, who managed to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, after the vote on April 1.
Christian Smalls, who managed to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, after the vote on April 1.ANDREA RENAULT (AFP)

But there were all kinds of proposals. One related to packaging materials, another on safety conditions at work, another for an audit of salary differences by gender and race, tax information, donations… And a long etcetera. The company’s board reasoned on its website why it was opposed to each of the proposals, or its support for those proposed by the board itself.

Although these points of improvement in management and corporate governance have been defeated, several of them have been supported by pension funds and other large institutional investors. Amazon is a very popular stock in the portfolios of managers who are guided by ESG criteria, which refer to environmental, social and governance issues. These types of investors are more demanding in these matters and labor issues are of concern to many of them.

shareholders too voted a generous compensation package which includes 348 million dollars (about 325 million euros at current exchange rates) in stock incentives for the new CEO, Andy Jassy, ​​and two other directors. Some investors consider that the structure of these remunerations was not aligned with the interests of the company and have not only voted against these salaries, but have also voted against the re-election of the directors who are part of the remuneration committee. Despite this, the board has approved both the salaries and the re-election of all directors.

The shareholders have also voted in favor of the re-election of E&Y as auditors of the group and the split (split) of the shares, whose rise on the stock market has led to them being worth $2,135 each, even after the recent haircut. Now, each share will be divided into 20, with the value of one twentieth. That lower price makes the stock psychologically somewhat more attractive to small investors. Economically, the measure has no real impact, but the announcement was received in March with strong increases in the stock market.

Environmental victory on the Exxon board

Shareholders of Exxon Mobil on Wednesday backed a proposal requiring the company to learn more about the environment, requiring the company to improve its reporting on its emissions and impact on climate change.
Some 52% of shareholders voted in favor of publishing an audited report assessing how the International Energy Agency’s plan to reach global net-zero emissions by 2050 would affect Exxon’s financial statements, the company explained. based in Irving (Texas) at its annual meeting of shareholders. Voting on all other proposals was done in accordance with the recommendations of the board of directors, reports Bloomberg. Last year, the same proposal did not reach the majority, with 49.4% in favor.


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