Fri, Oct 19, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Four public investment funds join call for independent chairman at Facebook


Four public investment fund officials on Wednesday joined a call to install an independent chairman at Facebook Inc, saying that the move would improve governance and accountability at the world’s biggest social network.

The state treasurers of Illinois, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, as well as the New York City comptroller — all of whom hold Facebook shares — endorsed the proposal made earlier this year by Trillium Asset Management to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive now held by Mark Zuckerberg.

Trillium made the proposal in June, saying that Facebook needs independent oversight following scandals over the hijacking of personal data on tens of millions of users, manipulation of the platform by foreign actors and the propagation of inflammatory rhetoric sparking violence in Myanmar, among other issues.

“Facebook plays an outsized role in our society and our economy. They have a social and financial responsibility to be transparent — that’s why we’re demanding independence and accountability in the company’s boardroom,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement released by Trillium.

“We need to see more accountability of Mark Zuckerberg to the board of directors to restore investor confidence and protect shareholder value,” Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs added in the same statement.

Zuckerberg owns an estimated 17 percent of Facebook equity, but a dual share class gives him a majority of voting shares, making it difficult to oppose him.

Trillium, formed as a fund focused on socially responsible investing, said that an independent chair would bring Facebook into line with recommendations of corporate governance experts and it would make the proposal at the annual shareholders’ meeting in May next year.

Google, Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc, Oracle Corp and Twitter Inc have separate CEO and chair roles, as do a large number of other publicly traded firms, Trillium said.

Facebook declined to comment on the proposal, but said it has a lead independent director.

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