General Motors on Tuesday received mixed reactions to its first virtual annual shareholder meeting amid the company's efforts to cut costs and increase participation in the event.
The roughly hourlong meeting was praised for allowing easier access for shareholders to attend, but condemned as cowardice and depriving shareholders of in-person contact with board members.
One shareholder suggested a hybrid meeting that allows in-person attendance and virtual questioning. GM CEO Mary Barra said the company would evaluate the comments and suggestion.
At the beginning of the meeting, Barra said GM was excited about the virtual format and thought it would enhance shareholder communication with the board.
The GM board of directors, according to the company's annual proxy filing, decided on the virtual meeting to cut costs and enhance attendance by providing more convenient access to shareholders.
A GM spokeswoman said the virtual meeting achieved the company’s mission of increasing attendance, but she declined to disclose the number of people who registered for the event as shareholders. She said 125 people logged into the meeting, including shareholders and people who registered as “guests,” which also could include additional shareholders.
Attendance at previous in-person meetings has averaged less than 35 shareholders over the past five years, according to GM. That number does not include noninvestors such as media and others who may also have attended the event in the past who would have had to register as “guests” this year.
More than 1.4 billion shares representing 90 percent of GM's common stock outstanding were present at the meeting by proxy -- up from 85 percent during last year's meeting.