Shareholders of Alphabet—Google’s holding company—plan to vote Wednesday on a resolution calling for the search-and-advertising giant to study a breakup.
Citing concerns about human rights abuses, anticompetitive practices, privacy breaches, data leaks and illegal location tracking, the proposed resolution urges Alphabet to study ways to make executives more accountable to shareholders.
Activists plan to amplify the message by demonstrating outside at least 15 Google offices around the globe, including, of course, its headquarters in Mountain View.
The declaration describes a company that has become too vast and too complex to rein in as it incurs allegations of human rights violations and other risks that threaten to undermine shareholder value. It cites sexual harassment scandals and the development of “Project Dragonfly,” a censored search engine for China, as proof of a corporate culture out of alignment with shareholder values. Click here to read the full resolution.
The upcoming vote follows months of opposition to Google from within its own ranks.
In November, an open letter from Google employees implored executives to drop Project Dragonfly on ethical grounds. That same month, about 20,000 staffers and contractors—about a fifth of the company’s workforce—staged a walkout after Google offered multi-million-dollar payouts to three male executives accused of sexual misconduct.
Last summer, employees launched a petition citing ethical concerns over Project Maven, a controversial contract to build artificially intelligent spycraft for the Pentagon.
U.K. investment group Hermes and shareholder advisory service I.S.S. are reportedly both backing the resolution pushing for board-level accountability by creating a “societal risk oversight committee.”
Christine Chow, who helms Hermes’ shareholder service EOS, promised to speak in favor of the resolution at Alphabet’s annual general meeting this week. “The establishment of this committee will ensure that the company’s technology and its impact on society is considered and focused on at the very top of the organization,” she said in a news release.
Alphabet filed a statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asking stockholders to vote against the resolution. It argued that the company already devotes “significant resources” to address its impact on society
Among those resources are a billion bucks the company just announced it would invest in expanding the housing stock here in the Bay Area, where 45,000 of its employees live.
In a blog post today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai detailed plans to repurpose $750 million worth of the company’s land to make way for 20,000 new homes. Nonprofits that help the homeless will get $50 million and another $250 million will go toward an investment fund to incentivize developers to build below-market-rate residential units.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo applauded the news, which comes amid fears that the search company’s planned move to downtown will drive up rents and displace residents.
“For several months, we have encouraged Google to make a bold commitment to address our region’s affordable housing challenge,” he said. “We look forward to working with Google to ensure today’s announcement manifests into housing that will benefit thousands of San Jose residents struggling under the burden of high rents.”