Major Facebook investors want Mark Zuckerberg to step down as chairman

James Martin  CNET

Several investors have joined a proposal to oust Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg as chairman, Wednesday, October 17, USA time.

The proposal to replace Zuckerberg is largely ornamental, given his control of roughly 60 percent of shareholder votes, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The treasurers represent New York City, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, which have public funds invested in Facebook. The proposal was originally filed by investor Trillium Asset Management in June.

This push push for greater independent oversight of Facebook's management comes at a time of heightened criticism of the company's handling of a number of controversies, including Russia's meddling during the 2016 presidential election, the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, the platform's role in fanning violence against the minority Muslim population in Myanmar, and the recently disclosed data breach that affected 30 million users. "We need Facebook's insular boardroom to make a serious commitment to addressing real risks - reputational, regulatory, and the risk to our democracy - that impact the company, its shareowners, and ultimately the hard-earned pensions of thousands of New York City workers". The fund holds 4.7 million shares in Facebook as of the end of the first quarter.

Michael Frerichs, Illinois state treasurer, said that with an independent chairman at Facebook, "there might have been fewer of these problems and less of a drop in share price".

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Business Insider reported the proposal likely will not succeed, however, because Zuckerberg holds more than half the voting power. If the board allows it, stockholders will vote on the matter and will be able to submit their votes right up to the date of the company's annual stockholder's meeting next May.

Rhode Island State Treasurer Seth Magaziner said that the proposal was still worth filing, although the 2017 attempt to remove Zuckerberg ended up being a mostly symbolic challenge, as a way of drawing attention to Facebook's problems and how to solve them.

Investors owning at least $1 billion of Facebook stock have joined a campaign to reduce founder Mark Zuckerberg's influence, charging his "mishandling" of several scandals has made a "mess" of the company.

The new filings come after Facebook revealed in September that hackers stole the personal info of 29 million people.

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