ILLINOIS (IRN) — Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs is joining a number of other state treasurers in calling for Facebook CEO and Board Chairman Mark Zuckerberg to relinquish some of his control at the social media company.
Frerichs and the other treasurers co-filed a shareholder proposal asking the company’s board of directors to make the role of board chair an independent position, meaning Zuckerberg would step down as board chairman, but continue in his role as CEO.
“Separate the CEO and the chairman of the board,” Frerichs told Fox Business host Neil Cavuto. “Have a truly independent board of directors with a truly independent chairman and we think they may have been able to avoid some of the bad news over the last year and a half.”
Frerichs has also called upon drug companies to do the same thing over the distribution of addictive painkillers.
Mark Glennon, founder of the online financial watchdog Wirepoints, discovered from public records requests that Frerichs doesn’t manage any direct holdings of Facebook.
“It came back a bunch of mutual funds that aren’t his, rather in the college savings accounts,” Glennon said. “He’s just playing games here, grandstanding on social justice warrior issues.”
The philosophy of leveraging financial ownership of companies via socially responsible investing, or SRI, is becoming more common but with mixed reactions when public money is being used.
In California, the head of a state-run $360 billion pension fund was voted out over complaints that her efforts to divest from politically unpopular holdings – tobacco companies – cost pensioners billions of dollars in lost growth.
Others say the stewards of public investments are in a unique position to take the societal impact of such investments into account.
“You have this broader view of ‘what’s going to affect citizens? What’s going to affect taxpayers, now and in the future?’” said Ohio State University professor Paul Rose. He gave the example of steering more equity toward socially responsible investments, like renewable energy over fossil fuels to reduce negative side effects.
The treasurers’ proposal will be put to a vote at Facebook’s annual shareholder meeting in May 2019.