For or Against? Five Investor Proposals Apple's Board is 'Against' as 2023 Meeting Starts

The most valuable company on the US stock market is holding its virtual annual shareholder meeting at noon ET Friday. Among the various items on the agenda are several shareholder proposals.

A total of five proposals have been put forward by shareholders that will go to a vote at the Meeting. The board voting recommendation is “Against” for all five, according to an outline of the Meeting in a Schedule 14A form submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The first proposal, “Civil Rights and Non-Discrimination Audit Proposal,” requests the company commission an independent third party to run an audit to assess Apple’s civil rights and non-discrimination policies and how these issues impact its business. The proposal hopes to mitigate against the risk Apple may discriminate against employees deemed “non-diverse,” and warns the company must steer clear of immoral and self-defeating policies in regards to “Inclusion & Diversity.” The proposed audit would include input from civil rights and public-interest litigation groups as well as organizations from across the political spectrum.

The company counters this proposal, stating it already has an ongoing Civil Rights Audit and that this proposal “mischaracterizes Apple’s commitment to inclusion and diversity by suggesting that our policies promoting these goals are discriminatory.”

The “Communist China Audit” proposal requests the company issue an annual report on its operations in China. It cites a litany of human rights abuses, including the crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong and forced labor of the Uyghur minority, as well as China’s geopolitical threat to the US, as justification for shareholders having a clearer picture of the company’s activities there.

Apple responds that it already publishes data on revenue earned in China in SEC filings and voluntarily publishes other information on its operations there. It also claims it has a “longstanding commitment to human rights.” Apple states its Supplier Code of Conduct and Supplier Responsibility Standards and Human Rights Policy ensures zero tolerance for forced labor in its supply chain and that none of its suppliers are located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

A third proposal seeks to reform “Board Policy,” suggesting that Apple overly restricts its managers’ communication with investors or other stakeholders. It cited a past example of alleged inconsistency in Apple’s concealment clause policy as evidence of an instance in which investors could not secure a meeting with a Board member to resolve the issue.

Apple characterizes the proposal as “overly prescriptive” and states it will limit the Board’s ability to decide how shareholder engagement is best conducted.

A fourth proposal on “Racial and Gender Pay Groups” recommends Apple report on median pay gaps across race and gender. It states the company only publishes statistically adjusted gaps, but should also do the same for unadjusted gaps, as these highlight the supposed “structural bias” against women and minorities regarding opportunity and remuneration.

Apple contends it has followed a “comprehensive approach” to pay equity and diversity from 2017 onwards. It also claims it has “strong programs and policies in place to foster an inclusive culture and promote representation.”

The final proposal, “Shareholder Proposal,” aims to revise Apple’s proxy access bylaws, which limit shareholder nominees to 20% of directors rounded down to the nearest whole number (which allows for only one nomination per nine board members). Apple describes the proposal as “unnecessary” and claims investors already have a “meaningful opportunity” to nominate directors through its existing bylaws and recently adopted rules mandating universal proxy cards.

The form also revealed CEO Tim Cook’s current pay packet. In 2022, Cook’s total compensation came in just shy of $100 million, at $99,420,097. Apple’s median employee receives an annual pay of $84,493, making the CEO pay ratio 1,177:1.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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