March 18, 2019

Tim Cook has Another “Tim Cook Moment”; Denigrates Capitalism at Apple Shareholder Meeting

Press Release from National Center for Public Policy Research:

Comments Come After Free-Market Group Proposes Transparency Resolution Aimed at Determining Why Apple is Invested in Alternative Energy and the Risks to Shareholders and Taxpayers

Cook Attacks Profitmaking by For-Profit Companies for Second Year in a Row: Is Cook Ashamed of Profit?

Cupertino, CA/Washington, DC – At today’s annual meeting of Apple investors in Cupertino, California, where the National Center for Public Policy Research introduced a shareholder resolution asking the tech giant for more transparency about the risks associated with its alternative energy investments, Apple CEO Tim Cook seemed to have a message for shareholders who expect for-profit businesses to have profits: You aren’t Apple’s kind of people.

Cook twice made specific comments denigrating “return on investment,” or ROI, essentially doubling-down on a statement he made to the National Center last year, when Cook told the National Center and other shareholders interested in return on investment to get out of Apple stock.

“I was extremely surprised to hear Tim Cook denigrate the role of profit making in business,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who attended the meeting on behalf of the National Center and presented the National Center’s shareholder proposal. “Businesses make profits by offering goods and services that make people’s lives better. People buy them for that reason. There is no shame in earning profit. Mr. Cook seems to think there is.”

“Our proposal highlighted potential risks that Apple’s investors may face. Apple has invested hundreds of millions in alternative energy programs. These programs presently often enjoy significant taxpayer backing, but there is no guarantee that taxpayer subsidies will be permanent. We believe the board of directors should be forthright with shareholders about the extent of Apple’s exposure to risk, should the popularity of causes like global warming wane, and voters and politicians lose interest in subsidizing green energy.”

As prepared for delivery, Danhof introduced the National Center’s proposal stating:

[I]f Apple were to receive no more government handouts for its renewable energy projects, would CEO Tim Cook still put your money where his mouth is and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on alternative energy endeavors?

Rhetoric aside, it seems very unlikely that Apple would abandon its fiduciary duties to its shareholders and engage in such reckless activity. But we don’t know for sure because Apple’s board opposes our proposal. Some of you may recall that Mr. Cook stood on this stage last year and claimed that Apple doesn’t care about “bloody return on investment.” Then why is Apple a publicly traded, for-profit company?

A few facts are clear. Apple is heavily investing in renewable energy projects. Renewable energy projects are heavily subsidized by American taxpayers. These subsidies are not permanent and are anti-competitive. We have legitimate concerns that potential changes in government policies on alternative energy may harm Apple’s investors.

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.

At last year’s Apple shareholder meeting, Cook famously responded to a question from the National Center’s Danhof about alternative energy by essentially stating that those investors who care about “bloody ROI” should divest their Apple stock. This event has even entered the business lexicon, and is known as a “Tim Cook Moment.”

Danhof introduced today’s proposal in the formal part of the shareholder meeting, which was conducted by Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell. Cook’s pointed remarks came, unprovoked, later while Cook was discussing new products and initiatives.

“When Cook introduced Apple’s ResearchKit, Tim Cook had another ‘Tim Cook Moment.’ He played to his progressive followers and said, for those of you looking for ROI, there isn’t one. To this, the liberal lemmings in the room cheered,” said Danhof. “Apparently not satisfied that this was a sufficiently strong and clear statement that he opposes businesses developing and producing products for the purpose of attracting buyers and thus profits, Cook followed up by stating that he wanted to be very clear, Apple didn’t do this for ROI. That just isn’t the lens Apple uses.”

“Last year we called into question Apple’s sincerity concerning alternative energy, and clearly Cook hasn’t gotten over that. But earnest questions remain unanswered,” said Danhof. “Are Apple’s alternative energy investments in Apple’s best financial interest? Cook seems to imply they are not, and if they are not, shareholders deserve to know the amount of risk they are undertaking. But many of these green investments benefit from taxpayer subsidies. Do these subsidies make a difference in making alternative energy attractive to big companies such as Apple? Both shareholders and taxpayers deserve to know the answer to that one. All we seek is transparency, which Mr. Cook opposes. Angrily opposes, apparently.”

“Is Apple investing in green energy because it believes green energy is more important than profit, or is it investing in renewable energy to ‘greenwash’ its image and appease progressive environmentalists? We don’t know the answer but we’d like to.”

“And regardless of whether Apple’s actions are a reflection of its sincere preference for green energy or are a clever way to promote a green image for itself, or even a combination of both, just how much money are American taxpayers providing to subsidize green energy for one of the richest companies in the world? If Apple was a country it would be the 55th wealthiest nation in the world.”

“We are surprised that Tim Cook allowed his anger to show today. It seems an unwise tactic that simply draws attention to the subsidies Apple is getting. But maybe Cook is so liberal, he thinks the public likes subsidizing large corporations.”

Earlier today, the National Center issued a press release highlighting its call for Apple to increase transparency. It can be found 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.

Today’s Apple meeting marks 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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Tim Cook to Apple Investors: Drop Dead

Apple CEO Tim Cook tells Investors Who Care More About Return on Investment than Climate Change: Your Money is No Longer Welcome

As Board Member Al Gore Cheers the Tech Giant’s Dedication to Environmental Activism, Investors Left to Wonder Just How Much Shareholder Value is Being Destroyed in Efforts to Combat “Climate Change”

Free-Market Activist Presents Shareholder Resolution to Computer Giant Apple Calling for Transparency on Environmental Issues; Company Balks

Cupertino, CA / Washington DC – At today’s annual meeting of Apple shareholders in Cupertino, California, Apple CEO Tim Cook informed investors that are primarily concerned with making reasonable economic returns that their money is no longer welcome.

The message came in response to the National Center for Public Policy Research’s shareholder resolution asking the tech giant to be transparent about its environmental activism and a question from the National Center about the company’s environmental initiatives.

“Mr. Cook made it very clear to me that if I, or any other investor, was more concerned with return on investment than reducing carbon dioxide emissions, my investment is no longer welcome at Apple,” said Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project.

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.

Danhof went on to ask if Cook was willing to amend Apple’s corporate documents to indicate that the company would not pursue environmental initiatives that have some sort of reasonable return on investment – similar to the concession the National Center recently received from General Electric. This question was greeted by boos and hisses from the Al gore contingency in the room.

“Here’s the bottom line: Apple is as obsessed with the theory of so-called climate change as its board member Al Gore is,” said Danhof. “The company’s CEO fervently wants investors who care more about return on investments than reducing CO2 emissions to no longer invest in Apple. Maybe they should take him up on that advice.”

“Although the National Center’s proposal did not receive the required votes to pass, millions of Apple shareholders now know that the company is involved with organizations that don’t appear to have the best interest of Apple’s investors in mind,” said Danhof. “Too often investors look at short-term returns and are unaware of corporate policy decisions that may affect long-term financial prospects. After today’s meeting, investors can be certain that Apple is wasting untold amounts of shareholder money to combat so-called climate change. The only remaining question is: how much?”

The National Center’s shareholder resolution noted that “[s]ome trade associations and business organizations have expanded beyond the promotion of traditional business goals and are lobbying business executives to pursue objectives with primarily social benefits. This may affect Company profitability and shareholder value. The Company’s involvement and acquiescence in these endeavors lacks transparency, and publicly-available information about the Company’s trade association memberships and related activities is minimal. An annual report to shareholders will help protect shareholder value.”

Apple’s full 2014 proxy statement is available here. The National Center’s proposal, “Report on Company Membership and Involvement with Certain Trade Associations and Business Organizations,” appears on page 60.

The National Center filed the resolution, in part, because of Apple’s membership in the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), one of the country’s largest trade associations. In its 2013 “Retail Sustainability Report,” RILA states: “Companies will often develop individual or industry voluntary programs to reduce the need for government regulations. If a retail company minimizes its waste generation, energy and fuel usage, land-use footprint, and other environmental impacts, and strives to improve the labor conditions of the workers across its product supply chains, it will have a competitive advantage when regulations are developed.”

“This shows that rather than fighting increased government regulation, RILA is cooperating with Washington, D.C.’s stranglehold on American business in a misguided effort to stop so-called climate change,” said Danhof. “That is not an appropriate role for a trade association.”

For even more information on RILA, read “The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA): A Cartel that Threatens Innovation and Competitiveness,” by National Center Senior Fellow Dr. Bonner Cohen.

Rather than opting for transparency, Apple opposed the National Center’s resolution,” noted Danhof. “Apple’s actions, from hiring of President Obama’s former head of the Environmental Protection Agency Lisa Jackson, to its investments in supposedly 100 percent renewable data centers, to Cook’s antics at today’s meeting, appear to be geared more towards combating so-called climate change rather than developing new and innovative phones and computers.”

After Danhof presented the proposal, a representative of CalPERS rose to object and stated that climate change should be one of corporate America’s primary concerns, and after she called carbon dioxide emissions a “mortal danger,” Apple board member and former vice president Al Gore turned around and loudly clapped and cheered.

“If Apple wants to follow Al Gore and his chimera of climate change, it does so at its own peril,” said Danhof. “Sustainability and the free market can work in concert, but not if Al Gore is directing corporate behavior.”

“Tim Cook, like every other American, is entitled to his own political views and to be an activist of any legal sort he likes on his own time,” said Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “And if Tim Cook, private citizen, does not care that over 95 percent of all climate models have over-forecast the extent of predicted global warming, and wishes to use those faulty models to lobby for government policies that raise prices, kill jobs and retard economic growth and extended lifespans in the Third World, he has a right to lobby as he likes. But as the CEO of a publicly-held corporation, Tim Cook has a responsibility to, consistent with the law, to make money for his investors. If he’d rather be CEO of the Sierra Club or Greenpeace, he should apply.”

“As in the past, Cook took but a handful of questions from the many shareholders present who were eager to ask a question at the one meeting a year in which shareholder questions are taken,” added Ridenour, “leaving many disappointed. Environmentalism may be a byword at Apple, but transparency surely is not.”

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is a leading free-market corporate activist group. In 2013, Free Enterprise Project representatives attended 33 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and many more important public policy issues. Today’s Apple meeting was the National Center’s third attendance at a shareholder meeting so far in 2014.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is an Apple shareholder, as are National Center executives.

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.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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