Transparency Urged for Apple at Shareholder Meeting Today

(Ping! Zine Web Hosting Magazine) – The National Center for Public Policy Research is urging the tech giant Apple’s investors to vote in favor of the National Center’s shareholder proposal today at the Company’s annual shareholder meeting.

The proposal calls on Apple’s board to increase transparency regarding risks posed, if any, by the company’s extensive alternative energy projects.

Apple fought the National Center at the Securities and Exchange Commission to get the proposal blocked, but the SEC sided with the National Center.

“Apple has undertaken expensive alternative energy investments,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq., “and alternative energy investments can be risky. As our proposal notes, federal, state and/or local policies subsidizing such investments, and upon which company business plans rely, can be repealed or altered. The shareholders deserve to know how much of Apple’s business plan relies on these taxpayer subsidies, and how much shareholders would be hurt if government policies were to change.”

The National Center’s shareholder proposal, says, in part:

The Securities and Exchange Commission has recognized that climate change regulations, policy and legislation pose a business risk to companies. One risk is that federal, state and/or local government policies, adopted in whole or in part due to climate change concerns, that subsidize renewable energy and upon which company business plans rely may be repealed or altered.

These changes in policy may be significant, and may come with little advance notice to the company.

Shareholders request that the Board of Directors authorize the preparation of a report… disclosing the risk to the company posed by possible changes in federal, state or local government policies in the United States relating to climate change and/or renewable energy.

The National Center’s complete shareholder resolution, and Apple’s response to it, can be found on pages 62 and 63 of the company’s proxy statement, which is available for download here.

“If Apple’s ‘green’ projects are a truly sound investment, or if it genuinely does not care about what Tim Cook calls the ‘bloody ROI,’ it won’t matter to Apple whether the government heavily subsidizes alternative energy. Alternatively, if Apple is relying heavily on preferential government policies to make its green investments financially sound, investors have a right to know,” said Danhof. “So do taxpayers.”

At last year’s Apple meeting, Cook became angry when Danhof asked about the company’s green investments. As the National Center explained in a press release following last year’s meeting:

Danhof also asked Apple CEO Tim Cook about the company’s green energy pursuits. Danhof asked whether the company’s environmental investments increased or decreased the company’s bottom line. After initially suggesting that the investments make economic sense, Cook said the company would pursue environmental goals even if there was no economic point at all to the venture. Danhof further asked if the company’s projects would continue to make sense if the federal government stopped heavily subsidizing alternative energy. Cook completely ignored the inquiry and became visibly agitated.

Cook suggested that if investors care only about return on investment, they should divest their shares in Apple. Cook’s outburst was covered in nearly 8,000 media stories, was the subject of at least one graduate school business course and become part of the business press lexicon.

Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to an analyst’s question about why investors should care about the social media giant’s efforts to connect African countries by shooting back that “[i]t matters what kind of investors we have.” CNN Money and other business publications dubbed Zuckerberg’s reaction to be his “Tim Cook moment.”

“Last year, my question about whether Apple’s alternative energy investments served a legitimate business purpose put Tim Cook on a fence. He could continue Apple’s public relations mantra that Apple is all about saving the environment, or he could have said at least some of Apple’s alternative energy efforts are greenwashing on the taxpayer’s dime,” said Danhof. “It is clear why Cook choose to double down on Apple’s public relations campaign. Apple has done a marvelous job of claiming to be a socially conscious company that cares for people and the environment.”

“If Tim Cook was being honest when he said Apple doesn’t operate its business with any concern for ‘bloody’ return on investment, then he should happily say that Apple will invest in alternative energy at all costs. He should say that, even if federal and local governments remove all perks and tax breaks for renewable energy projects, Apple will continue to spend its investors’ money on risky solar and geothermal schemes,” said Danhof. “Until Cook does that, his episodic meltdown last year was nothing more than theater.”

In a break from its tradition of generally accepting all properly-presented shareholder proposals for inclusion in its proxy statement, Apple’s legal team repeatedly petitioned the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this year for the right to omit the National Center’s proposal from its proxy materials altogether. Through multiple rounds of legal back-and-forth, the National Center won the right to have Apple’s shareholders vote on its proposal. To view the full legal exchanges between the National Center and Apple, click here.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market corporate activist group. In 2014, Free Enterprise Project representatives participated in 52 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers rights and many other important public policy issues.

Tomorrow’s Apple meeting will mark the fourth shareholder meeting attended by National Center representatives in 2015.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

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