Conflict of Interest Shareholder Proposal Presented to Google
Google's Green Energy Investments Scrutinized
Washington, D.C. - Today, at Google's annual shareholder meeting in Mountain View, California, the National Center for Public Policy Research challenged CEO Larry Page over the perception that there may be a conflict of interest between the company and a member of its board of directors.
On behalf of the National Center for Public Policy Research, General Counsel Justin Danhof presented a Conflict of Interest Report shareholder proposal. Danhof asked Page to disclose board member investments that conflict with the company's finances and to report any incidents of board member activity that breached Google's Code of Conduct Policy.
"Today, shareholders were told how Google Board Member John Doerr's personal investments, coupled with Google's new green energy outlays, raise questions of conflict and impropriety," said Danhof.
Doerr is a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm that is heavily invested in alternative energy. Doerr's firm and Google have both invested large sums in the same small geothermal company, AltaRock.
"Even though our proposal did not pass, our call for transparency received a rousing ovation from the shareholders in attendance. Google executives heard loud and clear that shareholders want to know more about what is motivating the company's alternative energy investments," said Danhof.
At the meeting, Google executives made repeated claims that they spent little shareholder money on "so-called speculative" investments.
"Google's explanation dodges the issue. If Google and Doerr have nothing to hide, why did they fight our shareholder proposal?" said Danhof. "Shareholders should be outraged at Google's shroud of secrecy. Without transparency, it appears either that Doerr is pulling the strings on Google's alternative energy spending, or that Google is using shareholder money to boot Doerr's investments. Each scenario is a losing proposition for Google investors" said Danhof.
Google has been spending millions of shareholder dollars in the volatile alternative energy markets. Reuters reported in October 2010 that Google invested an undisclosed amount in a $5 billion offshore wind energy project to be built in the Atlantic Ocean.
"Google is a technology and Internet company. By focusing on its core business it has created great shareholder value. Alternative energy markets are speculative and rely on government subsidies. Google shareholders shouldn't be at the mercy of Washington politicians who may well decide to limit or reduce green energy subsidies in the future," said Danhof.
"Nothing truly worthwhile hides in the dark. I hope today's meeting serves as a wake-up call to Google's leadership that its members are responsible to the company's true owners – the shareholders."
Video of Justin Danhof presenting the proposal at the Google shareholder meeting can be found at http://youtu.be/PzS4scfUXy4
Video of Google shareholder Sheldon Erlich commenting on the National Center proposal is available at http://youtu.be/l2BSu20clOI
Additional information is available at http://www.nationalcenter.org/PR-Google_060211.html
The National Center For Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market, non-profit think-tank established in 1982. Its 2010 revenues were over $12 million. It is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters, receiving less than one percent of its revenue from corporate sources. Contributions to it are tax-deductible.