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At Facebook, public funds join push to remove Mark Zuckerberg as chairman

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Four major U.S. public funds that hold shares in Facebook Inc on Wednesday proposed removing Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg as chairman following several high-profile scandals and said they hoped to gain backing from larger asset managers.

State treasurers from Illinois, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, co-filed the proposal. They oversee money including pension funds and joined activist and original filer Trillium Asset Management.

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A similar shareholder proposal seeking an independent chair was defeated in 2017 at Facebook, where Zuckerberg’s majority control makes outsider resolutions effectively symbolic.

Rhode Island State Treasurer Seth Magaziner said that the latest proposal was still worth filing as a way of drawing attention to Facebook’s problems and how to solve them.

“This will allow us to force a conversation at the annual meeting, and from now until then in the court of public opinion,” Magaziner said in a telephone interview.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.

At least three of the four public funds supported the 2017 resolution as well. The current proposal, meant for Facebook’s annual shareholder meeting in May 2019, asks the board to create an independent board chair to improve oversight, a common practice at other companies.

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It cites controversies that have hurt the reputation of the world’s largest social media network, including the unauthorized sharing of user information, the proliferation of fake news, and foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs said in an interview that, while an independent chair might not have prevented all the issues, “there might have been fewer of these problems and less of a drop in share price” at the company.

Shares of Facebook have had a rocky year, under pressure from revelations about the privacy and operational issues as well as concerns over slowing revenue growth. They closed Wednesday at $159.42, 10 percent lower than at the start of the year and well off a closing high of $217.50 reached on July 25.

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The 2017 resolution received the support of a slim majority of outside investors, according to the public fund leaders’ calculations. Magaziner and Frerichs said they planned to talk with larger Facebook investors in coming months to seek their support.

Among funds that are Facebook’s largest investors, the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund and Fidelity Contrafund voted against the 2017 proposal, securities filings show, while the American Funds Growth Fund of America supported it.

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American Funds representatives did not reply to requests for comment on Wednesday. Spokespeople for Fidelity and Vanguard declined to comment. Contrafund manager Will Danoff was supportive of Facebook’s response to problems in an investor note in August.

In opposing the 2017 proposal, Facebook said an independent chair could “cause uncertainty, confusion, and inefficiency in board and management function and relations.”

Zuckerberg has about 60 percent voting rights, according to a company filing in April.

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The New York City Pension Funds owned about 4.5 million Facebook shares as of July 31, while Trillium held 53,000 shares.

The Pennsylvania Treasury held 38,737 shares and the Illinois Treasury owned 190,712 shares as of August. Rhode Island funds hold 168,230 Facebook shares, a spokesman said.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru and Ross Kerber; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Rosalba O’Brien


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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GOP lawmaker goes on extended rant about Schiff to duck Tapper questions about Trump intimidating witnesses

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On Sunday morning House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Mike Murphy (R-OH) attempted to blow off questions by CNN's Jake Tapper over whether President Donald Trump was trying to intimidate former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch with a tweet during her testimony, choosing instead to attack committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) for wanting to impeach the president.

Following a long interview where the State of the Union host had to correct the Ohio Republican's assertions multiple times -- with Tapper once flatly stating "That's not true" -- the CNN host asked about Trump's tweets that were immediately characterized as witness intimidation.

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Chris Wallace crushes GOP Whip Steve Scalise’s twisted defense of Trump: ‘We’re not talking about the whistleblower’

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House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) struggled on Sunday to defend President Donald Trump's alleged attempt to bribe the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

During an interview on FOX News Sunday, Wallace grilled Scalise about reports that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was overheard saying Trump only cared about things that benefit him like an investigation into Biden.

Wallace pointed out that Trump "never mentions the word corruption" in either of his telephone calls with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky but he did mention Joe Biden and his son.

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We’re watching the same impeachment hearings, but seeing vastly different TV shows

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Are we watching the same show?” Let me tell you, critics love this timeworn retort from readers or other media types who disagree with something they’ve said or written about a favorite episode or series.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Opinions are singular and can be based on observation, structural minutiae, or simple gut feeling. They’re neither right nor wrong, unless some element of that opinion is related to a false premise. Or, and this seems to be more likely to be the case now than ever, unless the person declaring that your opinion is incorrect – not debatable, simply wrong – is utterly convinced they, themselves, are right. Nothing can persuade them otherwise.

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