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Protestors gather outside Amazon’s 2019 shareholder meeting. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting will be held exclusively online this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak that is rocking the world and financial markets.

The Seattle event has become a media spectacle and protest opportunity for shareholders and activists in recent years. But this year, the meeting will be entirely virtual.

Amazon will offer a recording of the virtual meeting via its investor relations website. The company expects the event to proceed as it has in previous years, with senior leadership and board directors fielding questions and comments from shareholders.

In some ways, this could increase access to the meeting. For years, Amazon has not offered a live stream or full audio or video of the meeting online, making it accessible only to shareholders who are able to come to the meeting in Seattle. The meeting typically features a recap by Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky, with CEO Jeff Bezos and others taking part in the Q&A.

The meeting is typically held in May. The exact date and details on how to participate will be included in Amazon 2020 proxy statement.

“Due to the continued concerns about COVID19, Amazon will be hosting a virtual annual shareholder meeting this year,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. “Shareholders from around the world will be able to view and participate in the meeting live, regardless of their location.”

Amazon is enlisting Broadridge, a third-party vendor, to facilitate the virtual meeting. Last year, Microsoft worked with Broadridge to host its virtual shareholder meeting.

Online collaboration and communication tools are taking off as thousands of workers turn to telecommuting to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading. Zoom and other productivity companies have seen their stocks spike amid a downturn for the larger market due to the virus outbreak. Pathable, a Seattle company that once made apps for in-person events, pivoted to facilitating virtual ones this month.

Amazon’s annual meeting last year became an opportunity for activism, both inside the Seattle theater where shareholders gathered, and on the street outside. Inside the meeting, a group of Amazon employees pressing the company to take bolder action on climate change wore white shirts and stood up in support of a shareholder resolution on the topic. It was one of 11 activist shareholder resolutions introduced in 2019, all of which were voted down.

Outside the meeting, activists gathered to protest a range of Amazon’s business practices, including issues like climate change, housing and homelessness, better working conditions for security workers and more.

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