back to article Google snubs 'dark money' questions at AGM. Shareholder power? Yeah, right

Alphabet shareholders demanding greater shareholder scrutiny and more transparency over its lobbying network were snubbed by Google executives at its AGM yesterday. To drive the point home, Google amended its incorporation documents so that Alphabet, its sole owner, doesn’t need to convene a vote of Alphabet shareholders for …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely you could just ..

    .. Google it?

    Now do you still want to tell me that Google's absolute dominance in the search sphere is all that benign?

    The fun bit is, of course, that most competitors are stupid enough to use Gmail, and so Google knows well in advance of any possible competition and either buys them or finds other ways to address the upstarts. Those of you old enough may have a feeing of deja vu here, as Microsoft was pretty much doing the same thing for many, many years.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In other words...

    We control it, so piss off.

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Power corrupts...

    ..Absolute power absolutely corrupts.

    1. FozzyBear Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Power corrupts...

      The BOFH in me needs to amend that

      Power Corrupts, absolute power is even more fun.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Power corrupts...

        ITYM:

        "Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." (John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy, 1981-1987)

        1. MrDamage

          Re: Power corrupts...

          Power corrupts. Absolute power means wielding the cattleprod.

          1. teebie

            Re: Power corrupts...

            With power comes responsibility. With absolute power comes freedom from responsibility.

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Considering how shareholders (I'm looking at YOU, Carl Icahn) have run companies into the ground looking for the quick payoff, I'm glad to see Google telling 'em to shove off.

    I have no love for Google, and I have a feeling they're going to be headed downhill fast in the next 5-7 years, but let's see how the ride goes.

    Google is dominant in search and phones simply because they make a product that works. I use Bing as well, and it's interesting to see how comparatively poor it is. I've used iPhones and iPads and the difficulty of doing the most basic tasks was amazing, so I own an Android phone. My iPad was so useless, I gave it away. My friend's daughter uses it for a toy, which is about what it is.

    And "the U.S. political system is rigged in favor of the large donors" is just a wordier version of "money talks" - he's just angry that it's not saying what he wants.

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      That's not the public growling - that's the wolves, hounds and vultures. The amount of shares you own has nothing to do with democracy or freedom - it's to do with how rich you are. Whatever you think you own, whatever control you think you'd get, pales compared to them.

      Yeah, let's give the US moneymen control of Google. Actually, no, let's not.

  5. Mikel

    Dark money OMG

    The number two privately held US corporation is in the top five for lobbying? You don't say.

    The way their arch nemesis Microsoft throws political money around they had well better spend even more. If they don't want their products banned, that is.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Dark money OMG

      and it will be money pissed down the drain if Trump gets in.

  6. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Eh?

    "which is the key factor in the political instability we have experienced in the U.S."

    Political instability, meaning what, and over what period? The US seems to me to change its politics at a pace somewhere between glacial and geological. If on the other hand he is referring to the rise (for now) of Donald Trump, I'm not sure how much dark money has to do with that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eh?

      If on the other hand he is referring to the rise (for now) of Donald Trump, I'm not sure how much dark money has to do with that.

      Far be it from us Limeys to tell you what's going on (although you bastards still owe us for some spoiled tea), but the point of dark money is that not only do you still have a vastly powerful and self-interested military-industrial complex, you now have an equally powerful techno-political complex.

      And the rise of Trump in the US, UKIP + Brexit pressures in the UK, far right movements in northern Europe and a resurgence of communism in southern Europe, all of that is linked to the focus of politicians on the media, and serving their paymaster in the MIC and TPC. Look at the world of flyover America? The mom and pop stores have been crushed by the tax dodgers of Amazon. The blue collar manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to China by misguided "free trade" agreements, and the professional and white collar jobs have been outsourced to India.. Real, actual automation is fairly low, but the TPC have used technology to export US (and for that matter UK) jobs en masse.

      And thus the political instability is the increasing threat of change as angry, unrepresented voters realise that the political elite might once have worked in the national interest, but they certainly don't now. Politicians hold power through the legacy strength of slavish affiliation and two party systems addicted to gerrymandering, but the people whose interests they act in are the 0.1%. So the masses are abandoning the established parties, and looking for alternatives. Those alternatives are likely to be "ists" : Populist, nationalist, communist.

      Speaking as a Brit, I haven't voted for a mainstream political party for well over a decade, and I see no immediate prospect that will change. Whilst people with divergent political views might not support the same people I would, I cannot see any logical argument for voting for our (nor your) political establishment,. In a bizarre twist of fate, the outsider Trump is now the clear Republican candidate, but that's actually not much different to the scenario of a weird communist loon leading the British Labour party, but neither have yet established control of "their" party, because the party itself never wanted that outcome.

      When you look at that, and then factor in some grim global macro-economics, things could be very interesting over the next few years. Given a choice, though, I'd rather live in times that won't register in the history books.

      1. Erewhon

        Re: Eh?

        "Look at the world of flyover America? The mom and pop stores have been crushed by the tax dodgers of Amazon. The blue collar manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to China by misguided "free trade" agreements, and the professional and white collar jobs have been outsourced to India"

        THIS

      2. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        Re: Eh?

        I did not write, nor do I think, that the US political situation is satisfactory. I did say that the pace of political change in the US seems to me to be quite slow, with governing coalitions often having a lifespan around a third of a century--which means that it is about the time you'd expect the coalition identified with Reagan to be falling apart. The Republican Party seems to have no ideas beyond being even more like Reagan. The Democratic Party thinks that another Clinton is just what we need. Perhaps things will change as we Boomers disappear.

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Eh?

          > The Republican Party seems to have no ideas beyond being even more like Reagan.

          Nah, Reagan would be way too liberal for today's GOP.

          1. hplasm Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Eh?

            Nancy Reagan, perhaps?

  7. energystar
    Headmaster

    It's the system...

    No need to blame everything on Google. Big Actors have to do Politics as if little States were.

    Personal worry is not about Big Actors doing Politics [as should], but on Small Actors and Consumers|Users|Citizens rising both hands and leaving all the Game to them.

    Also worried about the hypersensitivity of Civil and Public Institutions to the tilting Mass of Power.

  8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    " “I think we have no way of knowing exactly what's true, I mean that’s been reported and we definitely have made visits to the White House,” said Schmidt. "

    Anyone else reminded of Donald Rumsfeld here?

  9. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Go

    Good for them

    So, Google is massively-successful operation, with tremendous profitability and interests in a broad spectrum of industries . . . and activist shareholders think that this situation will be somehow improved by opening decision-making up to a committee of useless seat-warmers? I daresay I would love to hear the logic underlying that statement. More companies could probably do with a similar decision-making structure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good for them

      More companies could probably do with a similar decision-making structure.

      Are you a Google auto-shill? Entrenched management are a proven destroyer of shareholder value. There's hundreds of years of experience that tell this story, and it is a real disappointment to read that "Alphabet" are choosing to flush themselves down the be-skidded pan in this way.

      Activist investors are not nice people, they're only in it for a buck. But their modus operandi and core skill is to realise where management are holding that buck back from the rightful owner. If Page and Brin don't want to work in shareholder's interests, that's fine. But don't list your company, and then piss on the new owners.

      If the SEC had any balls, they'd stamp on all of this sort of management entrenchment. And Page and Brin could be forced to give shareholders their money back. THEN the pointy headed gits would be entitled to do what they want.

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Good for them

        "Are you a Google auto-shill?" No.

        "Entrenched management are a proven destroyer of shareholder value." Incompetent management of any stripe is a proven destroyer of shareholder value. I point you to the oft-cited example of Steven Elop. Alphabet's current management have at least demonstrated that they can produce effective results, and they've done so by often bucking the conventional wisdom.

        "Activist investors..." There are different types of activist investors; some want a quick buck, while others want to drive long-term profitability. In both cases, there's usually some pain involved, but sometimes that pain leads to long-term viability, and sometimes it leads to cutting the patient up for parts. Page and Brin had to play ball by listing Google publicly, but I don't think it was their first choice, for exactly the reasons mentioned in the article, so they're choosing to play by the letter of the law rather than the spirit. If you look back to the time when Google went public, part of the reason for doing so was that they had so much money in the bank, they practically counted as one, so they had to either spend money or go public.

        "If the SEC had any balls, they'd stamp on all of this sort of management entrenchment." Why? In what conceivable way does it benefit the public to have the government tell private corporations how to run themselves, as long as they're behaving lawfully? You know what companies are run the way you advise? Large banks. HP. IBM. They're just paragons of effectiveness and efficiency, aren't they?

        1. John Lilburne Silver badge

          Re: Good for them

          "they've done so by often bucking the conventional wisdom."

          What like obeying laws rather than disregarding them and seeing who has the money to stop them? being prepared to spend 100s of millions to circumvent that laws that honest people abide by is not 'bucking conventional wisdom' its is quasi-criminal activity.

      2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Coat

    So he talks about cow farts?

    “but the fact of the matter is 10 per cent of global warming comes from beef and beef byproducts and the fact that cattle exist.

    Maybe someone should address the bullshit instead of the farts.

    Icon ---> it's a raincoat as I don't want what's flying from Schmidt to stain my clothes.

    1. cd

      Re: So he talks about cow farts?

      You were so close to coining a new word...bullschmidt

      Fake Steve didn't call him Squirrel Boy for nothing.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: So he talks about cow farts?

        I blew it. You win the Internet. I like that term and from henceforth shall use it as needed.

  11. Youngone Silver badge

    And?

    The US political system is set up for corporations and industry groups to purchase the policies they want.

    The days of government by the people, for the people are long gone if they ever existed and Goolge know this.

    They're just using the system the way it is designed to be used.

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    Shareholder benefit has been a myth for decades

    The old canard about corporations having responsibility to shareholders is true only to the extent it applies to the majority shareholders.

    That's usually the board of directors and the large institutional/financial investors. Everyone else can eat cake.

  13. ratfox Silver badge

    You were warned

    To be fair, the Google founders have said openly from the beginning that they would always keep control of the company. I remember around the time of the IPO a finance guy unhappy about this and saying that Google stock would get punished by the market. They seem to have been doing fine.

  14. SoloSK71

    Not such a surprise after all

    I am still trying to figure out where the 'do no evil' went

  15. Bob Dole (tm)
    Mushroom

    What "suspicion" ??

    “These activities contribute to the public’s worst suspicion,” said Passof, “that the U.S. political system is rigged in favor of the large donors which is the key factor in the political instability we have experienced in the U.S.”

    I don't think the public suspects that the US political system is rigged, I think they damn well know it is.

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