I heard on Marketplace tonight that Mark Zuckerberg owns 58% of the voting rights in Facebook (not a majority of the shares, but he owns many Class B shares, which have 10 votes apiece compared to 1 vote for Class A shares).
I've read that situations like this are not uncommon. 20% of public companies have dual-class share structures with different amounts of voting rights, and company insiders get the ones with more rights. I'm not sure how often it amounts to a single investor like Zuckerberg, though.
Why does the government and/or SEC allow a single investor to own a controlling interest in the company? Doesn't it make the whole idea of shareholder voting a sham? From Vox.com regarding today's Facebook shareholder meeting:
Multiple proposals that would have put a check on the 35-year-old executive’s influence at Facebook were voted down at the company’s annual stockholder meeting on Thursday. They didn’t really have a chance in the first place: Facebook’s board had recommended shareholders vote against all of them, and because of the way the social media giant’s shareholder structure is set up, Zuckerberg’s vote is essentially the only one that matters.
And of course he’s not going to vote to take power away from himself.
The people submitting these proposals know that they're doomed, so these are obviously just symbolic gestures. The votes for these proposals only serve as a kind of straw poll that the management might take note of, they have no real meaning.
Why even bother having shareholder voting in this case, when the result is a foregone conclusion? If the company wants to make the CEO a dictator, they could just make all public shares non-voting, couldn't they?