Apple’s stock holders have voted in the annual shareholder meeting at Apple Park, with the company getting everything it recommended in every vote presented at the gathering of investors.
Held on Wednesday at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park, Apple’s headquarters, the annual shareholder meeting offers owners of Apple stock an opportunity to make decisions that could affect the future of the company in a number of different ways.
There were six proposals on the docket for 2020’s meeting, covering the election of directors, ratification of Ernst and Young as the independent registered public accounting firm, and the approval of executive compensation. The board nominees include James Bell, Tim Cook, Al Gore, Andrea Jung, Art Levinson, Ron Sugar, and Sue Wagner.
Of the six proposals, there were three shareholder proposals on the list, but the votes went along with Apple’s recommendation to side against their approval across the board.
The fourth proposal, first from shareholders, was the sixth attempt in a row for a proxy access amendment to include a second shareholder-approved nominee to the board. Under Apple’s existing proxy access regulations, access is limited to 20% of immediately serving directors rounded down to the nearest whole number, in this case being one director, but the proposal wanted to change the language to reflect a 20% figure “or 2, whichever is greater.”
Apple recommended shareholders vote against the proposal, deeming the existing method of proxy access as effective for current needs. In the sixth attempt, the proposal failed, scoring 31.1% for, 68.9% against.
The fifth proposal wanted the Board Compensation Committee to prepare a report “assessing the feasibility of integrating sustainability metrics into performance measures, performance goals or vesting conditions that may apply to senior executives under the Company’s compensation incentive plans.” Apple talks about its work in environmental sustainability and human rights repeatedly, with the proposal suggesting typing specific metrics to executive compensation could “reduce reputational, legal, and regulatory risks and improve long-term performance.”
During the meeting shareholder Pat Miguel Tomaino suggested “What this proposal says to senior executives is, put your money where your mouth is.”
Apple recommended a vote against the proposal, due to the existence of programs including the yearly Supplier Responsibility Progress Report and the Environmental Responsibility Report. Using such metrics would also be a redundant measure, as they are already installed as core corporate values.
The proposal was defeated 12.1% to 87.9%.
Proposal 6 wanted a report on Apple’s policies relating to freedom of expression and access to information, “including whether it has publicly committed to respect freedom of expression as a human right.” It refered specifically to Apple’s operations in China, including the 2017 mass removal of VPN apps from the App Store, taking down at least 634 so-called “illegal” apps in 2018, and delisting the New York Times app in 2017, at the request of the Chinese government.
In recommending against the proposal, Apple said it adheres to laws and regulations of countries in which it operates, believing it would not be “in the best interest of our users to simply abandon markets, which would leave consumers with fewer choices and fewer privacy protections.”
The proposal was a closer vote, but still failed, scoring 40.6% for, 59.4% against the measure.
Questions and Answers
As part of the meeting, shareholders have the chance to ask Apple’s leadership questions about its products and services, as well as future plans.
On the subject of Apple TV ‘s free year for buyers of Apple hardware, Cook described the offer as “It’s absolutely crazy that we did this, but we did it.”
A shareholder asked about how Apple decided against buying the reunion of the popular TV show “Friends” for the service. “Apple TV+ is about original programming,” Cook responded. “It wouldn’t feel like Apple at all in doing that. It lacks the innovation and creativity of designing something ourselves.”
Cook underlined the sentiment by stating “We’re going to be focused on original programming.”
When asked about whether Apple will be moving into the field of enterprise-grade healthcare data, Cook didn’t see the company doing that in the future, despite Apple’s previous efforts to disrupt healthcare. “It’s the patient who should own the data,” Cook added.
The often-rumored blood sugar monitor resurfaced in the questions, with one query about whether it would be included in a future Apple Watch. Cook sidestepped the question “because that would get into product road maps.”
The encryption debate also came up in the questions, with Cook asked why Apple hasn’t unlocked the shooter’s iPhones. In his answer, Cook pointedly said “Don’t think for a second that we have something that we’re not giving,” referencing the assistance the company has already provided to investigators.
Cook followed up by reiterating a key argument against an often-made request, namely the creation of backdoors and workarounds to encryption for law enforcement use only. Such requests ignore the fact that it would make encryption weaker in general, or as Cook put it, “you can never have a back door just for the good guys.”