It has been a lucrative yet controversial year for Amazon thus far, and if those two adjectives were already frequently used to describe the company, they deserve extra emphasis in 2020. While the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged businesses large and small across the world, Amazon saw some of its busiest months thanks to a surge in online essential shopping. Meanwhile, incidents of Amazon workers falling sick of COVID-19 were discovered at warehouses across the U.S. every few days during the height of the outbreak, drawing serious questions over what Amazon was doing (or not doing) to protect workers and the true scope of the infection within the company.
At its annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, the e-commerce giant’s board of directors, chaired by CEO Jeff Bezos, will be pressed to answer these questions in detail and disclose other pandemic-related information that it has been reluctant to make public.
Typically, these events would feature a general year-in-review by Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky followed by a Q&A session where Bezos and a few other key executives take questions from shareholders. Amazon’s groundbreaking first-quarter results, the pandemic’s impact on the company’s future strategies and growing controversy over workplace safety, among other things, will be key items of discussion.
Last month, Amazon reported a record quarterly revenue of $75.5 billion, beating Wall Street estimates, and a net income of $2.5 billion, or $5.01 per share. In 2020 so far, Amazon shares have jumped 27 percent while the S&P 500 Index is still down 8 percent even after the latest reopening rally.
Last Thursday, hundreds of Amazon shareholders gathered at a “warmup” event online to hear investors, as well as current and fired Amazon warehouse employees, speak out about their concerns. About 260 Amazon shareholders attended the meeting, per CNBC.
The event was organized by CtW Investment Group, an advisory firm working with some of America’s largest pension funds that collectively own nearly 1 million Amazon shares. Last month, CtW and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund, a pension fund overseen by the Teamsters labor union, put forward a proposal urging Amazon’s board to prepare a report on the steps the company has taken to ensure workplace safety.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, dozens of Amazon warehouses have confirmed COVID-19 cases. It’s estimated based on media reports that at least 130 workers in the U.S. have contracted the virus, but Amazon has yet to disclose the exact numbers of employees who have tested positive or died.
“If you’re an investor, you’re getting the news from the news. You’re not getting it from the company,” Louis Malizia, an assistant director of the Teamsters’ capital strategies department, told CNBC in an interview last week. “It’s not assuring that the company is not providing better statistics to investors.”
In past years, Amazon’s annual shareholders meeting in Seattle has been a recurring opportunity for investors and activists to stage protests against the company on a wide range of issues from worker pay to climate change. But this year, due to the pandemic, Amazon has moved the meeting online. The event will only be streamed to registered Amazon shareholders. But a replay of the meeting will be posted on Amazon’s investor relations website and accessible to the public.
Correction: This article is updated with new information about the shareholders meeting’s replay in the last paragraph.