Shareholders at Facebook and other big tech companies largely followed management’s recommendations, though in many cases, founders personally control so much of the vote that opposition is largely symbolic. Still, shifts in the strength of opposition can reveal what other investors think about a company:
• Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s C.O.O., received far fewer “votes withheld” — effectively, votes against her re-election to the board — than she did last year; 10 percent of votes were withheld last year, versus only 1 percent this year. Last year, advisory and advocacy groups urged shareholders to withhold votes for Ms. Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, in an effort to push for an independent board chairman. In March, the company appointed Robert Kimmitt, a former top Treasury Department official, as lead independent director, making the issue moot.
• Amazon also disclosed far fewer broker nonvotes than in 2019 as well. Surprisingly, Jeff Bezos received nearly twice as many votes against his re-election to the board this year than he did last year — though we are talking about 2 percent of votes against or abstaining this year, versus 1 percent last year.
• Apple held its annual meeting in-person at its office in Cupertino, Calif., in late February, a few weeks before the pandemic shut the world down. Broker nonvotes were down by nearly a quarter at the meeting versus last year.
It’s hard to draw firm conclusions from this year’s crop of annual meetings, given how different this spring has been. But with many companies having held virtual meetings without any meaningful drop in participation — if anything, it’s been the opposite — holding in-person events may become the exception, not the norm.
Crisis programs under scrutiny
• Harvard economists found that major government relief programs exclude many companies with big debt loads, The Times’s Jeanna Smialek reports.
• The Fed’s Main Street lending initiative to help midsize companies is “too late and not enough,” some of the intended recipients told Politico.
• ProPublica published an investigation into Justin Muzinich, the Treasury Department official managing the department’s economic aid measures who still retains ties to his family’s investment firm, which has benefited from the bailout.