Microsoft adds board member, rejects employee board seat at annual shareholders’ meeting

Kip Kniskern

Satya Nadella, Microsoft SEO

This morning, Microsoft held its first ever all-virtual shareholder’s meeting, with shareholders and interested parties logging in via the web or Microsoft Teams to a webcast. Aside from the new format, the company nearly unanimously elected board members, with one new member, Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK. Two longtime Microsoft board members, Helmut Panke and Charles Noski, have stepped down. The shareholders rejected two proposals, one to explore putting an employee on the board (it received less than 5% of votes cast), and another to report on median gender pay gap, receiving less than 30% of votes cast.

Microsoft President Brad Smith addressed an issue regarding its investment in AnyVision, an Israeli facial recognition technology firm it invested some $74 million in this year. Microsoft made the investment with the understanding that the company would adhere to Microsoft’s policies on facial recognition. Microsoft has retained former US Attorney General Eric Holder to look into complaints that AnyVision technology is being used in the West Bank to surveil Palestinians, an apparent violation of Microsoft’s terms. Smith said that if AnyVision were found to be in violation, they would pull out of the agreement.

The company continues to fire on all cylinders, with CFO Amy Hood noting major gains in Azure, in Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365, and in Xbox. Chairman of the Board John Thompson defended CEO Satya Nadella’s pay in a question and answer period, noting Nadella’s efforts to not only increase earnings but change the culture at the company.