Emblazoned in large letters projected onto the Palo Alto hotel where Facebook held its annual shareholder meeting May 30 was a simple message: “Fire Zuck.”
The demand, by Fight for the Future, an activist group, went unfulfilled, but it was clear that discontent with the tech giant’s CEO, founder, and chairman of the board of directors has reached new heights: 68% of shareholders who are not Facebook leadership voted for the company to have the roles of chairman and CEO separated, and for Zuckerberg to be ousted as chairman. In 2017, only 51% of that group voted in favor of the the same proposal.
Natasha Lamb, managing partner for the activist investment firm Arjuna, asked Zuckerberg at the meeting whether he would be willing to step down as chairman. He evaded the question. Lamb wrote for Quartz in May that Zuckerberg’s “dominance over the company continues unchecked, as the platform and online content is weaponized to propagate election interference, violence, hate speech, sexual harassment, discriminatory advertising and rampant privacy violations.”
“Facebook’s independent investors agree that it’s time for the company to separate the Board Chair and CEO roles,” Michael Frerichs, treasurer for the state of Illinois, which invests in Facebook, said in a statement. ”Right now, Mr. Zuckerberg is both Board Chair and CEO, serving as his own boss, and clearly it’s not working.”
Independent shareholders don’t have nearly enough votes to actually get rid of Zuckerberg as chairman, since he controls the majority share. Facebook has a dual-class share structure: For “class A” shareholders, one share equals one vote, but for “class B” shareholders, one share is ten votes. The latter class—which includes Zuckerberg and his inner circle—have about 18% of the total shares, according to CNBC, which equates to about 70% of the vote, with Zuckerberg himself holding onto 60%. Facebook published the vote results on June 3.
Another audience member asked Susan Desmond-Hellmann, a Facebook board member, if she’d consider calling a meeting about ousting Zuckerberg.
“The answer is no,” she answered, according to Forbes. “The company and I and the board of directors are comfortable with the current operating arrangement, where Mark is chairman and CEO.”