Apple is said to be "pushing back" on multiple shareholder proposals that deal with issues like Apple's greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and human rights, discovered in letters the Cupertino company sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission in November (via Reuters). At least four proposals were argued as relating to "ordinary business," with Apple further stating that they are "not necessary" due to the company's day-to-day focus on those issues.
Apple's letters state that this means the proposals can be left off of the proxy it is expected to publish in early 2018, ahead of its annual shareholders meeting where these proposals would be heard. Apple says these are areas it "routinely reviews" and therefore they do not represent "significant policy issues" that it classifies as requiring a shareholder vote.
Still, some activists argue that the move by Apple "could sharply restrict investor rights," with the company using a newly enacted guidance put in place by the SEC on November 1 in its attempt to block the proposals.
While companies routinely seek permission to skip shareholder proposals, Apple’s application of the new SEC guidance shows how it could be used to ignore many investor proposals by claiming boards routinely review those areas, said Sanford Lewis, a Massachusetts attorney representing Apple shareholders who had filed two of the resolutions.
Were the SEC to side with Apple, “this would be an incredibly dangerous precedent that would essentially say a great many proposals could be omitted,” Lewis said.
Apple's letter is reported as specifically citing the new SEC guidance. Some of the four shareholder proposals include calls for Apple to establish a "human rights committee" that could focus on tackling topics like censorship within the company, as well as asking for further reporting by Apple on its ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and other environmental pledges.
Apple's letters to the SEC offered details as to why the shareholder proposals and resolutions are unnecessary. This included references to recent updates in its 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report, where the company pledged to end mining and switch to 100 percent recycled material for its products.
In the case of the measure on greenhouse gas emissions, filed by Jantz Management of Boston, for instance, Apple argues it already has taken many steps to improve the sustainability of its operations such as switching to greener materials and helping suppliers use more renewable energy.
Apple's 2017 shareholders meeting was held on February 28, with that date being confirmed on January 6, so we'll likely know more about the 2018 meeting early in the new year.
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