What's Up With Apple: Shareholders Meeting and Another Investigation

Tuesday’s meeting of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) shareholders was so tame that hardly anyone noticed that it happened. All eight members of Apple’s board were re-elected for another one-year term (seven are independent), Ernst & Young was reappointed as the company’s auditing firm and an advisory vote on executive compensation (say-on-pay) was approved. Two shareholder proposals, related to director nominations and executive compensation, were rejected.

According to the January filing notifying shareholders of the meeting, the company reported that CEO Tim Cook was paid $14.8 million in total compensation last year, while Apple’s median compensation for all employees was $57,783, a ratio of 256 to 1. In 2019, the average CEO compensation package for America’s top 350 companies was $21.3 million, according to a report from the Economic Policy institute, or about 320-times the pay of an average worker.

Cook told shareholders that Apple would increase its dividend but did not specify when. The company has paid a quarterly dividend of 20.5 cents per share in each of the past two quarters and a total of $14 billion over the past four quarters.

The company is also a serial acquirer, according to Cook. Apple has bought nearly 100 smaller companies over the past six years and makes an acquisition every three to four weeks.

Apple is also the subject of another U.S. Department of Justice investigation, according to a report in The Information. The probe results from complaints by app developers over Apple’s quick sign-in option.

Apple requires apps that allow people to sign in with credentials stored at Google or Facebook (the familiar “Sign in with Google” or “Sign in with Facebook” buttons) to include a “Sign in with Apple” button. By using one of these options, people are able to hide personal details like name and email address from the app.

While Apple claims that its sign-in button is a “pro-privacy” option, investigators “are examining how Apple uses the sign-in button and other App Store rules to make it more difficult for users to switch to a rival device maker, according to the two people, who have met regularly with the Justice Department over the past 18 months,” according to The Information’s report.

The complaints are not unlike those lodged by Epic Games and Spotify related to Apple’s firm control of the apps in its App Store and the hefty commissions the company charges developers. Apple also restricts location and other types of device tracking on developers that the company itself is not required to follow.