Ralph Nader has penned an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook urging him to suspend his company’s plan to to spend US$100 Billion on stock buybacks. Mr. Nader wants Apple to spend that money on other, progressive causes, or at the least put it to a shareholder vote.
In a mixed-message argument, he also said Apple should use the money for dividends, as they benefit shareholders more than buybacks. Buybacks, he said, instead benefit “executive compensation metrics.” The last point relates to any bonuses predicated on rising share prices.
Mr. Nader’s open letter is printed in full on page 2 of this article. It’s also available on his website.
Apple Is a Target
Apple is often the target of both left and right wing activists looking to use Apple’s success and wealth to advance their causes. Right-wingers have frequently targeted Apple board member and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore for vague and sundry environmental issues relating to Apple. The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) led a brief campaign to force Apple to disclose the costs of being more sustainable, a practice that group deems a mortal sin.
Left-wing groups have targeted Apple for environmental and labor issues, often holding Apple to a standard no other company comes close to meeting, and one where Apple often takes the lead. Green Peace has frequently criticized Apple (and praised Apple, too), and monologuist Mike Daisy led a one-man campaign against Apple for labor issues that was eventually derailed by the fact that he wasn’t using facts. New York-based China Labor Watch has also targeted Apple’s supply chain for criticism.
Activist shareholders from across the spectrum have targeted these and other issues in shareholder resolutions, but those shareholders have by and large backed Apple, with few exceptions.
Ralph Nader, AAPL Shareholder
Enter Ralph Nader, an AAPL shareholder (like me, for full disclosure). Rather than buying back shares, Ralph Nader wants Apple to…really, it’s irrelevant. None of the scattered and mixed-message causes are the real point of his letter. What Mr. Nader really wants is to bring attention to his belief that the concentration of wealth into ever-fewer hands is bad and to protest tax cuts for the rich and insanely rich corporations like Apple.
While his open letter does play lip service to some progressive causes he believes in (worker pay, the environment, corporate contributions to local communities, and youth tech addiction), it’s real point is criticize the Trump tax cuts using Apple’s share buybacks as a focal point. It’s real point is to criticize the way those
If you agree with Mr. Nader, you’re likely to think this open letter is spot on. If you don’t, you’re likely to treat it with disdain. Either way, Apple’s shareholders are highly unlikely to disagree with Apple’s decision to buyback shares. I’d be shocked if even $100 billion going straight to a one-time dividend would get more than 20% of shareholder approval if Apple’s management opposed the measure.
And whatever the case, Tim Cook will not heed this letter, nor will he be asked to by shareholders or Apple’s board of directors.
Next: Ralph Nader Open Letter to Tim Cook – May 2018